Best Practices Exist for a Reason, Part 2: Landing Pages

In my last post, I gave some specific and proven best practices for the creation of successful emails. In this post, I’ll talk about Landing Pages—because now that you’ve been able to lure your target into opening your email and clicking on the embedded link(s), you want to continue to drive that prospect to your desired outcome.

In my last post, I gave some specific and proven best practices for the creation of successful emails. In this post, I’ll talk about Landing Pages—because now that you’ve been able to lure your target into opening your email and clicking on the embedded link(s), you want to continue to drive that prospect to your desired outcome.

Whether your email offer is more information, a video, an e-book, a survey or a whitepaper, don’t send your prospect down a black hole by linking them to your website. Instead, create a specific digital destination (a landing page) for your campaign so you can not only quantify site visitors and their actions on the site, but it also reassures prospects that they’ve arrived at the right destination.

Based on lots of testing with our own clients and best practices from sites like Marketing Experiments, Marketing Sherpa, KISSmetrics, HubSpot and more, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Your LP Headline Should Match Your Email Headline: While this may not seem like rocket science, prospects can get easily confused. You have less than a second to help them take the next step, so why create confusion with a brand new headline that is seemingly unrelated to the email they opened, read and clicked?
  • Place the CTA ABOVE the Fold: Especially now that we’ve entered the world of responsive design, it’s critical that your call-to-action is near the top of your page so that those viewing on even the smallest screens can clearly take the next step. And, make sure it’s the most obvious thing on the page because—after all—it’s the action you want them to take!
  • Make Buttons Highly Obvious and Actionable: Whether it’s using a color that contrasts to the rest of your page, uses language that makes it clear what you want/what they’ll get when they click, or are sized big enough to be obvious and legible, don’t hide your action buttons where they might get missed. Instead of buttons that say “Click here” try “Get me my..”
  • Have a Single Purpose With a Single-Focused Message: Think about why the prospect clicked on the email, and what their expectations are for when they arrive on your page. Don’t clutter it up with extraneous copy points or additional “stuff.” In fact, remove other types of navigation from the page as it can unnecessarily distract the visitor from taking the desired next step.
  • Be Authentic and Transparent With Real Testimonials: While you can—and should—edit quotes, make sure they’re attributable to someone even if it’s “Carolyn G., Business owner” or “C. Goodman, California.” Make sure they’re pithy and don’t ramble. These days, “social proof” (using quotes from Facebook posts or Tweets), adds social credibility. Plus people are influenced based on reviews by others.
  • Use Bullet Points for Copy: People skim, and won’t spend any time reading long paragraphs of text. Make sure your copy is crisp—short, sharp and to the point.
  • Include a Phone Number: This helps overcome buyer insecurity that they may be dealing with a company based overseas. Plus, they may have questions before completing an order, so it’s best to provide an easy-to-find phone number to help.
  • Keep Your Forms Simple: If you don’t need to collect certain data, then don’t ask/collect it. As a rule-of-thumb, shorter forms tend to work better. Personally, I’m always annoyed that certain forms ask me for personal information that is seemingly irrelevant to my purchase. As a result, I’m often untruthful in the information I provide in that field because I consider it none of their business.
  • Radio Buttons or Drop Down Menus? The right answer is to test it yourself because different tests for different customers yield different results. Marketing Experiments provides some great case studies on this topic. In one experiment, radio buttons generated a 15% lift over a drop down menu.

In summary, if all of these marketers have already done all the testing for you, why wouldn’t you at least consider these insights and apply them to your own landing page efforts? Tell me. I’m all ears.

My Inbox Knows the Season Better Than the Weather

The famous poet Percy Shelley once wrote, “O wind, if winter comes, can spring and a million emails using flower puns and references to April showers be far behind?”  I’m pretty sure that was the quote anyway. Or it should have been

The famous poet Percy Shelley once wrote, “O wind, if winter comes, can spring and a million emails using flower puns and references to April showers be far behind?” I’m pretty sure that was the quote anyway. Or it should have been.

Ladies and gents, break out your Vivaldi, Spring is officially here! Though the weather here in Philly hasn’t quite gotten the memo, my inbox makes it unmistakably clear. As is the case for any distinct time of year or holiday season, marketers love to use springtime as inspiration for subject lines and creative. Some of them we’ve all seen and used before, but some are as colorful and refreshing as the season itself.

I took a quick peek through my own inbox as well as the trusty Who’s Mailing What! database to find a few stand-out spring-themed promotions. Check out my bouquet of fresh spring pickings, in no particular order. (You can see images of the emails themselves in the media player at right.)

From: Brighton Collectables
Subj.: Adorable Spring Charms
Why I like it: The subject’s straight-forward enough, we get exactly what it says on the tin. Once I opened, it’s the cutesy rhyme and clean but eye-catching pastel “Easter egg” design that had me chirping. In the original email, the egg basket charm actually opened and closed as well.

From: ZOYA
Subj.: Fill Your Easter Basket With ZOYA
Why I like it: Another spin on the “fill your Easter basket” idea, this is another email I just really like the look of. This is definitely my kind of Easter basket, and just looking at the colorful display would tempt any polish fan to stock up on spring shades. And of course, a good coupon code is always hard to resist.

From: FeelGoodStore.Com
Subj.: Never fear a puddle again
Why I like it: This one’s approach to the spring theme is a little more subtle (much like the approach of spring itself if you live in the northeast. Ha.) The creative is simple and nice enough, but it’s the subject line that really made the grade. In the half a second it takes to skim over a subject line, I was certainly intrigued enough to open, wondering why puddles no longer pose any threat to me.

From: IKEA
Subj.: We’ve got #SPRINGFEVER for smart style!
Why I like it: Always love a good hashtag in a subject line, first of all. Second, IKEA knows we have spring cleaning on the mind and they’re taking full advantage. An email like this one, including links to ideas and tips for affordable springtime organization and rejuvenation, could easily spur a reader into action.

From: DogVacay
Subj.: Going on Spring Break? Get $10 Off Pet Sitting.
Why I like it: Here’s another subject line that I think works because it serves as a reminder and an action item—Oh, I did forget to make arrangements for Fluffy next week, good thing I’ve got this link and discount offer right here! The playful, sunny imagery and large, bright CTA button tie it all up with a bowwow.

Honorable Mentions

From: Rejuvenation Lighting & House Parts
Subj.: SAVE 20% ON WINDOWS AND WALLS + 6 ways to spring for green
This email followed up its 20% offer with six green product suggestions such as a green lamp, throw pillow, and tumbler to help get you in the spirit of spring and get you using the offer code. While something of an afterthought in a long subject line, it was an effective way to let the reader “window shop” before diving in.

From: OnlineShoes
Subj.: We can see spring, and it looks amazing
The email itself is a fairly basic design, a pair of sandals and a simple call to action. I’m a fan of this subject line though—catchy, conversational, and got me curious enough to want to take a look at the “sights of spring” inside.

From: Appleseed’s
Subj.: We’re Bringing Spring – Shop Top Styles!
Two rhymes for the price of one! It might be a little bit of a tongue twister, but it’s also short, punchy, and every bit as cheerful and perky as the season. An effective attention-grabber.

Here’s hoping you found a few blossoms of inspiration in some of these, and also that spring is springing a little more dutifully for you than it is for me. Feel free to let me know in the comments if you have any good examples to share! And I promise not to desecrate any more classic British poetry in my next entry.

3 Steps to an Effective LinkedIn Profile for Sales Reps

Tired of getting so few leads from your LinkedIn profile, investing in LinkedIn Sales Navigator or needing to generate leads with email faster? You’ll need more than a pretty photo on your profile. You need a summary section that creates urges in prospects—provoking them to connect, email or call.

Tired of getting so few leads from your LinkedIn profile, investing in LinkedIn Sales Navigator or needing to generate leads with email faster? You’ll need more than a pretty photo on your profile. You need a summary section that creates urges in prospects—provoking them to connect, email or call.

Make sure prospects viewing your LinkedIn profile take an action and are producing leads for you. But first, ne sure your or your team’s profile is structured to:

  1. Create an urge for what customers’ want most in the Headline space;
  2. Spark buyers’ curiosity about what you can do for them in the Summary;
  3. Direct that curiosity—give them an irresistible reason to act.

These steps are the low-hanging fruit. Don’t just know them, do them. Every word, video, Powerpoint, PDF whitepaper and link on your profile can help buyers develop an irresistible urge to solve their problems or reach a goal—through you. But only if you take a minute to design it to. The best place to start is your Professional Headline.

Fire up your browser. Compare your profile against the checklist below. Check off each one as you implement these proven, effective steps.

STEP 1: Create an Urge to Read via Your Headline
Like it or not, headlines control our world. If you’re not getting to the point and sparking curiosity in a matter of seconds you’re not going anywhere. Just like an effective cold call or elevator pitch.

Use your profile’s Professional Headline space to display information that creates an urge to discover whatever is most important to them. Don’t list your title or job position. Make sure your professional headline presents:

  • what you do,
  • who you do it for and, if possible, and
  • elude to how you do it that creates distinction.

If possible, hint at why buyers should choose you. Make your why clear but not totally complete. Leave off the details. This creates an urge to scroll down to the next section: Your profile’s Summary.

For example, turnaround and acquisition expert, Carter Pennington, says he “maximizes shareholder value of troubled companies.” Mando Villareal names his target market and says he helps them “reduce cost increase efficiency & automate deliverables.”

In both cases, structuring words this way helps prospects wonder, “I wonder how he does that?” It creates an urge to scroll down and learn more about the seller.

Wondering where to start yourself? Use what you already know is most important to your prospective buyer. Don’t be clever. Instead, push your prospects’ buttons.

Trent Smith is a “Trusted advisor to attorneys who want to grow their practice.” He knows there isn’t an attorney on the planet who doesn’t want to grow their practice. In a moment, I’ll show you how Trent exploits this urge in various sections of his profile.

Remember: Use your Professional Headline space to create an urge to discover more about what makes you someone worth paying attention to. Be bold. Grab your prospect, fast.

STEP 2: Ditch the Resume, Go for a Reaction
Your LinkedIn profile is a tool to get prospects curious about what you can do for (not sell) them. Because once they’re curious, they’re more likely to react—to act. Since your Summary section is often “above the fold” (is seen before anything else) it’s the best place to start sparking reactions.

The idea is to quickly make statements that cause customers to become excited, unsure, eager or even a bit scared. This is different than reciting information about yourself, resume style. Showing customers, “I have a better way,” telling them you have short-cuts they desire or making a bold claim helps you:

  • prove to be worth listening to (grabs the prospect) and
  • position yourself to make a big claim.

Every B-to-B seller has a big claim that plays on the desire of buyers—no matter what you’re selling. It’s believable, credible and needed. So use it. Your LinkedIn profile is a great place to

  • set up the claim
  • make it and
  • create an urge to act on the reaction your claim creates.

For example, Gerry Blaum makes the claim he’ll save Fortune 1000 clients $500,000 in health care over-spending and connect them with better service providers. If he cannot he’ll give clients his fee back. He says, “we only get paid when we save money for our clients.”

Gerry makes his claim in dramatic form. To keep it believable and credible, he reveals how he gets paid. This encourages HR executives at some of the world’s largest companies to wonder, “how, exactly, does Gerry accomplish this?”

Be careful to balance. You don’t want to make a claim that is unbelievable. Or a promise that gives away too much, too fast. Only make claims that sound believable and help buyers develop hunger for all the details. You’re going for a reaction, or an irritation—not total satisfaction.

The idea is to scratch the buyers’ itch-stopping short of offering full relief.

To more fully relieve their itch (or help them reach a goal) they need to take an action. This is just one way to effectively spark connections, email conversations or phone calls with prospects. Shoot me an email or comment below and I’ll share more examples.

STEP 3: Make a Direct or Subtle Call to Action
Give ’em what they want. Whether you’re a job-seeker, marketer or sales rep, your LinkedIn profile should contain “exit points.” Spots where a call to action should be placed—driving prospects away from your profile, toward your landing page, telephone or email inbox.

Toward shortcuts, tips, advice, pain relief, clarity on a fuzzy (yet important) issue or confirmation of nagging fears—whatever they want most.

Make sure you use calls to action to the fullest. Here are quick tips on how to make effective LinkedIn profile calls to action.

You cannot use HTML or links in the Summary section. But you can place calls to action inside it. Creating clearly identifiable sub-sections and headlines gives you the chance to make calls to action.

Look at how Gerry Blaum executes it. It’s easy to scan with the eye, grabbing the essence of each “chunk” of copy.

Stick to the basics. In a few words, use sub-sections inside the Summary to describe:

  • What you do & who you do it for
  • Why the prospect should care (how you do it differently than everyone else)
  • How & WHY customers should contact you (email, Facebook, Twitter, phone, Web site, etc.)

Give ’em what they want. Prove to them, quickly, you’ve got what they want.

Use trigger words to encourage action. Use phrases like:

  • Get all the details
  • Call me, email me
  • Discover fresh tips
  • See examples here
  • Start here (this one is very powerful believe it or not!)

Although you cannot use HTML here, readers will take advantage of links your provide.

Your target audience will visit your Web URL by cutting & pasting or right-clicking. In some Web browsers (like Chrome) users can jump to your Web site by highlighting the URL, right-clicking and immediately visiting your site.

Trent Smith uses his Contact and Summary sections to speak directly to prospects:

If you want visitors to say, “Wow! I’ve got to talk to this attorney right now!” then get website strategies for attracting clients at: http://www.JangoStudios.com

Of course, there are subtle, indirect approaches that are also effective. Choosing the specific approach often depends on your target market, type of decision-maker(s), sales cycles, complexity of what you’re selling etc. For example, Challenger sellers will need to take a much different, educational approach.

If you’re interested in taking first steps on everything I’ve presented today this free video training will get you started in just 12 minutes. Otherwise let’s chat in comments below!

Be Warned of the “Professional Plaintiff”

A client recently received the ultimate “shakedown” letter—claiming violation of the California CAN-SPAM law as a result of getting eight emails, demanding $80,000 in statute-mandated damages, yet willing to settle for $2400. Unfortunately, this has become a cottage industry. The California law has a private right of action that has been taken advantage of by a few noteworthy legal vigilantes. Their actions have created a template for the “shakedown.”

[Editor’s Note: Gary Hennerberg is traveling this week, but attorney Peter Hoppenfeld has stepped in to supply this week’s blog.]

A client recently received the ultimate “shakedown” letter—claiming violation of the California CAN-SPAM law as a result of getting eight emails, demanding $80,000 in statute-mandated damages, yet willing to settle for $2400.

Unfortunately, this has become a cottage industry. The California law has a private right of action that has been taken advantage of by a few noteworthy legal vigilantes. Their actions have created a template for the “shakedown.”

To add insult to injury, the “professional” victim opted-in herself for each of the lists that she claims issued a spam email. I’m fairly sure that she probably has a cyber-ambulance chasing attorney ready to pounce on a contingency basis.

What do you do?

The American Corporate Counsel Association has issued a white paper that is very helpful. Seems like the SPAM demand toolkit left out one key defense—if your ISP has reasonable processes in place to prevent spamming, the statutory damages in California are reduced from $1000 to $100 per occurrence.

Quoting my letter:

First, it is clear that you are following a textbook (albeit outdated) approach of a “professional plaintiff” under the California anti-spam law. Attached is a copy of a White Paper prepared by the Association of Corporate Counsel that clearly rebuts each and every point that you have raised in an attempt to coerce my client to pay you monies.

We are in possession of proof that you opted into a number of email lists as proof that these emails are not unsolicited. Even if unsolicited, all of my client’s emails contain compliant opt-out links and you have not elected to take advantage of that option.

The element of the California law that you conveniently ignored is Section 17529.8 which reduces the potential statutory damages to $100 per occurrence. Please note:

” … working with reputable email service providers (ESPs), advertisers can be more confident that recipients did opt-into receive commercial email. ESPs generally maintain or can produce evidence of each opt-in, in the form of IP address from which the consumer opted-in, date/time stamp of opt-in, and other information. {NOTE: ALL IN OUR POSSESSION.}

While plaintiffs may contest the veracity of such evidence in a proceeding, once the evidence is produced, the burden to show it is inaccurate generally shifts to the plaintiff [NOTE: WE ARE UNAWARE OF ATTORNEYS WHO WILL TAKE A MATTER ON CONTINGENCY WHEN THERE ARE BURDENS OF PROOF SUCH AT THIS.}

More importantly, statutory damages under the Code of $1,000 for each spam are reduced to $100 for each spam, when there is evidence that a defendant established and implemented practices and procedures reasonably designed to effectively prevent spamming. {NOTE: SUCH PRACTICES AND PROCEDURES ARE IN PLACE.}

Accordingly, we deem your demand a “shake down” and a nuisance, and to save time and expense offer you the sum of $800 in full and final settlement of this matter. No monies will be provided to you unless you agree in writing: that no Spam violation took place; to maintain the terms of this arrangement confidential; and to agree to a penalty of $10,000 if it is determined that in the future you are engaged in any attempt to assist others to assert this type of claim against my client.

The matter settled, but the complainer remained indignant. Unbelievable.

Key takeaways:

  • Have a complete understanding of the CAN-SPAM laws.
  • Use an identifiable “from” email, a non-deceptive subject line, include a physical address, provide for an opt-out link and remove people who opt-out within 10 days.
  • Even more importantly, if affiliates are mailing for you, make sure they “scrub” their lists against your Suppression list.

Good Luck All. It’s a jungle out there.

Peter Hoppenfeld is an attorney and adviser in the representation of direct marketers, speakers, authors, information marketers, “thought leaders,” entrepreneurs and domestic and international training companies and their founders. Reach him at peterhoppenfeld.com.

5 Ancient Storytelling Methods Copywriters Can Use Today

What does Ancient Greek and Shakespearean storytelling have to do with direct marketing today? Perhaps more than you realize. Today we dissect a proven five-step process that has been used for centuries to hold the reader to the end of a story. Direct marketers can use this timeless framework to write compelling copy for

What does Ancient Greek and Shakespearean storytelling have to do with direct marketing today? Perhaps more than you realize. Today we dissect a proven five-step process that has been used for centuries to hold the reader to the end of a story. Direct marketers can use this timeless framework to write compelling copy for storytelling that engages and sells.

Marketers clamor to have their messages go viral. We want our customers to become advocates and evangelists for us. We want them to “like,” comment, and share our messages for us. A mention on the evening news can skyrocket the number of views on a video into the tens of millions, all for a “feel good” moment.

How do you reach a goal to reach the masses? Most likely through effective storytelling, since it’s not too likely your hard-hitting sales message is going to be shared or talked about.

This column was inspired by an article in the Harvard Business Review titled “The Irresistible Power of Storytelling as a Strategic Business Tool.” It reveals how a five-step process in Freytag’s Pyramid has been a successful storytelling framework going back centuries.

Personally, I think storytelling can be used by direct marketers today as part of the “for good movement” that has permeated into our culture, largely fueled by social media. Your challenge is how to engage through story, and effectively monetize these efforts better than your competitors.

To illustrate this point, I turn to an analysis that I completed for an organization that balances “for good movement” messaging with selling. In this case, the “for good movement” messages drive interest and traffic from videos of performance and behind-the-scenes stories. We see the interest build and go viral in the likes, comments and shares of certain types of social media messaging. More importantly, it translates into more web traffic. And more web traffic has translated into more event and product sales. The numbers don’t lie.

A few illustrations:

  • An informal video—recorded on an iPad and put on YouTube—where the organization performs for a boy wounded in a school shooting is posted on Facebook and Twitter, yet is watched thousands of times in just a few days. Nothing was sold here—just the feel good story.
  • A behind-the-scenes interview is watched by thousands so fans get something they don’t hear elsewhere. The video closes with a subtle reminder of an upcoming performance. Again, nothing sold here—just insider information shared.
  • A static post overtly selling an upcoming event doesn’t get much traction for likes, comments or shares. That doesn’t mean it was a failure. It simply says that people don’t want to be sold. They want to choose to buy. And in this case, they choose to buy in bigger numbers when a series of stories have lead up to the event.

People want to be part of a movement, and when they can experience an event, they are ready and willing to buy. When there is product available for sale, demand has already been generated because the customer is ready to buy before you ask them to buy.

With that distinction in selling style, it’s vital that you don’t forget to strategically weave into your “for good” messaging a way to monetize the effort. That doesn’t mean that you add an intrusive sales pitch in the message. It means that you naturally lead your customers and prospects through a planned sequence, timed in a way that takes the individual to the ultimate goal: purchase.

Using your imagination, you can see how the five-step process of Freytag’s Pyramid applies to direct marketing copywriting and story:

  1. Exposition
    The exposition is the portion of a story that introduces important background information to the audience; for example, information about the setting, events occurring before the main plot, characters’ back stories, etc. Exposition can be conveyed through dialogues, flashbacks, character’s thoughts, background details, in-universe media or the narrator telling a back-story.
  2. Rising Action
    In the rising action, a series of related incidents build toward the point of greatest interest. The rising action of a story is the series of events that begin immediately after the exposition (introduction) of the story and builds up to the climax. These events are generally the most important parts of the story since the entire plot depends on them to set up the climax, and ultimately the satisfactory resolution of the story itself.
  3. Climax
    The climax is the turning point, which changes the protagonist’s fate. If the story is a comedy, things will have gone badly for the protagonist up to this point; now, the plot will begin to unfold in his or her favor, often requiring the protagonist to draw on hidden inner strengths. If the story is a tragedy, the opposite state of affairs will ensue, with things going from good to bad for the protagonist, often revealing the protagonist’s hidden weaknesses.
  4. Falling Action
    During the falling action, the conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist unravels, with the protagonist winning or losing against the antagonist. The falling action may contain a moment of final suspense, in which the final outcome of the conflict is in doubt.
  5. Denouement
    The dénouement comprises events from the end of the falling action to the actual ending scene of the drama or narrative. Conflicts are resolved, creating normality for the characters and a sense of catharsis, or release of tension and anxiety, for the reader.

I wrap-up with an insightful quote from author Maya Angelou that succinctly sums up why storytelling in copywriting is so important:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Feeling good is what effective copy in storytelling, and the “for good movement,” leads to. And leading people to feel good is how you move them to respond.

The No. 1 Most Overlooked Video Content Marketing Strategy

Is your video content marketing strategy producing leads? Most B-to-B marketers are generating views, clicks, shares and likes, but netting few leads. Don’t be one of them. Generating leads and sales with video isn’t difficult if you get back to basics. The trick is publishing videos that create self-confidence in your viewers. This is a faster, easier way to create engaging discussion—and ultimately trust in you.

Is your video content marketing strategy producing leads? Most B-to-B marketers are generating views, clicks, shares and likes, but netting few leads. Don’t be one of them. Generating leads and sales with video isn’t difficult if you get back to basics. The trick is publishing videos that create self-confidence in your viewers. This is a faster, easier way to create engaging discussion—and ultimately trust in you.

What Does Confidence Have to Do With It?
Don’t let any gurus convince you that “social selling” is somehow mystical, new or different.

In video marketing, trust is rarely earned by what you say in videos or how you say it. Trust is earned by what your videos DO for prospects that gets them confident in themselves as buyers.

For example, have you ever watched and taken action on a short video? Maybe it was a direct TV infomercial where you saw a product demo. You probably didn’t need what was being sold, but you took action anyway. Why?

Confidence.

Even if it’s purely novel, after watching a product demo humans are “hard wired” to react. But only if we witness a transfer of confidence—from seller to buyer. Or from “the converted” to the skeptic.

If written, shot, edited and distributed correctly, videos of various lengths can produce leads consistently. These exceptional videos succeed because they do one thing better than others.

Why Confidence Works So Well
You might think going viral is the key, but it’s not. Videos that create leads work because they demonstrate raw, credible, believable confidence in action.

Videos that generate leads tap into skepticism, fear, annoyance and ambition—and put it to work for the seller. Again, think in terms of infomercials: from kitchen gadgets (skepticism) to fear (financial and medical) or ambition (college, weight loss).

Effective video “brings to life” the benefits of the emotional end goal of everyone on planet earth: confidence. No, not the functional benefits of the product, the emotional end benefit in its most raw state.

Where to Start: How to Create Confidence
Effective videos grab attention. They have a title that is simply irresistible and relates to a fear, ambition, goal or problem. Effective titles make a promise. An effective video content marketing strategy delivers that promise in a way that either:

  1. transfers confidence from someone on camera to the viewer or
  2. manufactures confidence by giving tips, actionable advice or “better ways.”

The best way to get started is a video treatment—a rough concept of how your video will flow. The easiest kind of video to produce is one that increases the success rate of prospects.

Right now, think about something you know that most customers don’t. What danger, risk or hidden opportunity do you know about that they don’t, right now. What would really move prospects’ needles if you had 60 seconds to tell them? Jot down your ideas.

Create a video treatment that demonstrates a better way, shows steps to solve a problem or provokes an emotional reaction (fear, excitement) in the viewer. Don’t be shy.

For example, ask a question customers need answered in a way that might scare viewers a bit. Then answer it in a way that leaves them wanting more details.

When and How to Make a Call to Action
The goal of your B-to-B video content marketing strategy is to get prospects so confident in themselves they take action. Everything else is wasting time. Forget about trying to influence prospects. Get viewers to act.

If you followed the above formula, you’re on track. Now we need to nudge viewers with a call to action. This nudge capitalizes on the momentary confidence you just created or transferred to the viewer.

At this point, customers should be starting to feel a sense of trust in your words. You’ve proven yourself to be bold, have something to say, ask the tough questions or give out “tough love” advice. Will they trust you enough to buy from you? Maybe, maybe not.

Prospects will, however, be willing to trade their contact information in exchange for more of that confidence you just gave them.

They’ll be more willing to become a lead. All they need is that call to action. Make it easy for prospects to act on that impulse you just created.

Effective Video Content Marketing Makes Prospects Crave More
Content that creates leads makes prospects think, “Gosh, I wonder what else the author of this article knows that I need to know!” or “Wow, I see the opportunity more clearly now; how can I get access to more of this kind of thinking?”

Maybe your offer will be to teach customers a new skill or go deeper into solving a problem for them. You might offer a multi-part video tutorial, ebook or stream of email tips that guide and motivate prospects each week.

There are a handful of options. The idea is to use a call to action to get viewers off your video and onto a lead nurturing process.

Remember: Trust is earned by what your videos do for prospects that gets them confident in themselves. If you follow these simple guidelines you’ll be making videos that sell for you. You’ll have an effective video content marketing strategy.

Good luck!

A LinkedIn Profile Call to Action

LinkedIn profile pages contain areas where a call to action should be placed, such as the publications and summary sections. Are you linking out to landing pages that generate leads? Let’s make sure you are using calls to action to the fullest—to generate more response from prospects. Here are some tips on the best spots to place effective LinkedIn profile calls to action.

LinkedIn profile pages contain areas where a call to action should be placed, such as the publications and summary sections. Are you linking out to landing pages that generate leads? Let’s make sure you are using calls to action to the fullest—to generate more response from prospects. Here are some tips on the best spots to place effective LinkedIn profile calls to action.

Where to Place a LinkedIn Call to Action
You can make a call to action anywhere in your LinkedIn profile. Literally. But there are areas that will get more response than others. The publication section and multimedia (sub-section) of my profile summary generates most of my leads. Your main choices are:

  • Publications
  • Projects
  • Summary
  • Multimedia (video, images, presentations) sub-sections
  • Activity and Volunteering/Causes

Publications: Not Just for Authors
Yes, if you have a book, paper or any kind of written document, this section is ripe for a call to action. Content marketers: This section is for you.

However, you don’t need to be an author to take advantage of the publications section. You can drive traffic to any kind of landing page or product page. There are no restrictions on what a “publication” can be.

All you need is a crisp, clear call to action using text. I also use text symbols to catch the eye.

But what landing page do you need to send prospects to? For example, I have books and written publications for sale on my website AND available free. I use the publication section of my profile to link to my book at Amazon (to drive sales) … but I also link to my free Chapter 1 download page that generates more lucrative business leads.

I also send prospects to landing pages with lead generation offers and sales pages for my most popular LinkedIn sales training and coaching products. The publications section is a flexible space to make your LinkedIn profile call to action.

Your Turn
Do you give away free trials, eBooks or “free tastes” of a product or service in exchange for a name and email address? Do you have lead generation landing pages for free publications or tutorials? How about product pages?

The publications section allows you to create a call to action right in a big, bold hyperlink (Title) along with a short description of what can be expected at the other side of the link.

How to Do it in 7 Quick Steps
To add a publication with call to action:

  1. Click on Edit Profile and look in the right hand column. You’ll see a “Recommended for You” section featuring a handful of optional sections, including Publications. Click it.
  2. Use the “Name” field for your LinkedIn profile call to action. Use symbols to call attention to your call to action. You may also use capital letters.
  3. Select Occupation (your most relevant job position).
  4. Select Date (the current date is fine or add the date your publication was published).
  5. Publication URL: Place the URL of your landing page here!
  6. Author: Select yourself.
  7. Description: Use this space to place more specific trigger words—words that speak to exactly what your target prospect wants more than anything else. Entice them to click!

Examples of calls to action from my profile include: “free online training … make your blog sell for you” and “how to make social media sell for you.”

Always Use ‘Trigger Words’
Always use good copywriting tactics. This part is critical to success. Trigger words encourage prospects to take action—drive them to your best content marketing landing pages. Use phrases like:

  • Get all the details
  • Call me, email me
  • Discover fresh tips
  • See examples here
  • Start here (this one is very powerful believe it or not!)

Remember: You can make a call to action anywhere in your LinkedIn profile. However, there will be spots that get better response.

Do you have good, pithy, action-oriented video content? Do they make calls to action using, for example, YouTube annotations embedded in video? Us the Multimedia sub-section of you or your sales team’s profile. Get on the stick. Make your LinkedIn profile call to action today. Good luck and let me know how it goes for you!

Content Marketing and Copywriting in Tandem

What differentiates the content marketing writing style from direct response sales copy? We hear a lot about content marketing these days, and, at first glance, it seems to be a distinctly different approach than direct response sales copy. But is it really all that different? Shouldn’t there be a plan to move the reader to action with the ultimate result of

What differentiates the content marketing writing style from direct response sales copy? We hear a lot about content marketing these days, and, at first glance, it seems to be a distinctly different approach than direct response sales copy. But, is it really all that different? Shouldn’t there be a plan to move the reader to action with the ultimate result of monetizing the marketing effort? As direct marketers, most of us would agree that getting the reader to buy should be the ultimate objective of any kind of marketing. But each of these skills—content marketing and direct response sales copywriting—can lead from one to the other.

Today we share five recommendations to strengthen both. Before we do that, let’s define each:

  • Direct response copywriting is all about leading the reader to action. It might be a sale on the spot, but it could also be lead generation, or perhaps an action as simple as getting someone to opt-in to a series of emails. Likely media used: direct mail, email, landing pages, video sales letters, print ads and direct response broadcast.
  • Content marketing, on the other hand, is about writing and freely delivering content of value to the reader. It builds trust, confidence and leads into selling from a softer angle. It may not get a sale on the spot, but it should have the reader predisposed to buy when the opportunity is presented. Likely media used: blogs, articles, online press releases, social media, white papers and video.

Content marketing should inform, build trust and credibility with the prospective buyer, so that when harder-hitting, persuasive direct response sales copy with a call-to-action is presented, the response rate is higher. In other words, when both approaches are used in tandem, the sum can be greater than the parts.

Copywriter Chris Marlow suggests, “the term ‘content’ should be reserved for writing that does not have the express purpose of getting a lead or sale.” But she adds that, “sometimes you need ‘content’ to get the lead or make the sale.”

Whether you’re using content marketing or direct response copywriting, here are five recommendations to make both approaches stronger and logically flow from one to the other. Inspiration for this list comes from American Writers and Artists (where I teach a copywriting course), copywriting clients and personal experience:

  1. It all starts with the headline and lead. Use proven direct mail formulas like the four-Legged Stool (Big Idea, Promise, Credibility, Proven Track Record), or the four U’s (Useful, Unique, Urgency, Ultra-Specific), or any one of many other direct response copywriting formulas. The headline formula often works better when you fit your main idea within eight words or fewer. Using a proven direct response letter writing formula can make all the difference in your success.
  2. What’s the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt)? Get the attention of the reader and quickly demonstrate you understand their pain. Most everyone has on their minds fear, uncertainty, and doubt in their personal lives, relationships, finances, career, retirement or health.
  3. Is the message confusing, unbelievable, boring or awkward? Review the copy with a small inner circle of people. Reading copy aloud with someone listening and evaluating it is a must. If it’s confusing, unbelievable, boring or awkward, you’ll hear it when voiced. I was again reminded of the importance of this step after logging several hours by phone when reading a long-form letter aloud with a client so we could both hear it. The extra investment of time strengthened the story, benefits, false close and call-to-action items for the right flow to build the sales message.
  4. Gather a small group to review copy and the lead. Ask each person to assign a numerical ranking (1-10 scale) on whether they’d keep reading or not. If less than 80 percent of the responders wouldn’t read beyond the headline and lead, then the writer needs to fix the headline and lead, or start over.
  5. Is it clear? When your customer or prospect reads your copy (whether using content marketing writing style or direct response copywriting), has the issue been laid out clearly? Was a complex message simplified? Did the message build rapport and trust? Does the copy naturally flow so that the prospect concludes that your product solves the issue? And check the call-to-action. Is there one? Keep in mind that if you’re using introductory content writing, the CTA may be only to opt-in, subscribe or click a link to request or read more in a series.

Bottom line: what are you asking the prospect to do? Is it advancing the prospect along in a planned spaced-repetition contact strategy that leads to your ultimate desired action: a sale?

Whether your copy style is content marketing that is conditioning the reader to make a future purchase, or direct response selling asking for an action on the spot, what you write ultimately needs to justify its existence with a strategy that leads to monetization.

5 Tips to Create SMS Messages That Convert

When it comes to mobile marketing, there are many ways to drive your customers to take action. Whether that means visiting your website, visiting your store, contacting you, making an appointment or redeeming an offer, there is almost no better way than using SMS marketing … when done right.

When it comes to mobile marketing, there are many ways to drive your customers to take action. Whether that means visiting your website, visiting your store, contacting you, making an appointment or redeeming an offer, there is almost no better way than using SMS marketing … when done right.

You see, when you look at the top marketers who are using mobile, almost every single one uses SMS/Text messaging.

Do you think there is a reason for that?

Of course there is.

SMS gives marketers the widest reach among their customer base and offers the most effective communication channel when trying to drive immediate action.

Look at Starbucks, Macy’s, jcpenney, Lane Bryant, Crate and Barrel … They all leverage SMS as a key part of their mobile strategy.

Even Coca-Cola, the largest brand in the world, has been quoted saying it spends 70 percent of its mobile budget on SMS.

No matter how you slice it, SMS is the workhorse for many businesses when it comes to a comprehensive mobile strategy that leads to results.

The great thing about SMS is that businesses large and small can use it very effectively to drive action. Most of us want that action to be sales, and that’s when SMS can shine. At the end of the day, it’s super affordable when looking at the ROI it can generate, fairly easy to get started and very trackable.

In order to have SMS perform like a workhorse and drive the results you want, you should follow these five tips:

1. Utilize time-sensitivity in your messaging. Listen, more than 97 percent of SMS messages are read within 15 minutes. We both know your email isn’t competing with that. Because SMS is immediate, you need to make sure your messaging accounts for that and offers real value based on that immediacy. SMS is meant to be used like email or even push notifications. If you’re promoting an event that’s on Saturday, the SMS message better not go out the Monday before. It will be forgotten. You can always include a link or a promo code that can be redeemed for enhanced tracking and conversion reporting.

2. A clear call to action is mandatory. As a consumer, if you just broke through all the clutter to tell me something, you better not be delivering more noise. Make sure your messaging is clear and your recipients know exactly what action you want them to take. I’ve seen too many text messages trying to share too much info. Keep it brief. Keep it simple. Keep it clear.

3. Focus on driving customer lifetime value, not one-off engagements. SMS should be a part of your overall contact strategy. Like I said earlier, it shouldn’t be used the way you use email or push notifications. BUT, it should complement those forms of messaging. If you just try to send one-off messages vs. creating a contact strategy with SMS, you’ll be limiting just how successful you can be with SMS.

4. Know your crowd. Speak their language. When using SMS, you have limited characters to work with. Understand how consumers text, the language they use and use that to your advantage when composing your messages. If you’re too proper, it won’t come as natural for your consumer to engage. You language should fit within the text messaging environment.

5. Not everyone sleeps till 10 a.m. Oh wait, is that just me on the weekends? Not only is your call to action important, but the time at which you send your messages can be critical. Understand your customers’ time of day when delivering messages and always respect their time and time zone. I’d say never send before 8 a.m. (questionably, 9 a.m.) and never later than 6 or 7 p.m. Now, depending on your situation, it may warrant an earlier time or a later time. If I’m getting a flight reminder for a 6 a.m. flight, I better get that reminder with enough time in advance.

Start subscribing to how other businesses use SMS, especially the brands I mentioned earlier. Start recognizing what types of messages are sent when and what the call to action is. Ask yourself how you think they’d be measuring success of each message.

It will start to paint a picture for you in your own business so that when you start capitalizing on the power of SMS, these five tips are already natural for you.

What are some of the messages that you’ve found to be powerful?

What Is the Best Day to Send Emails?

Somewhere, in the world just on the other side of the rainbow, there is a magical day for sending emails. The messages sent to customers and prospects on that day get more responses and generate more revenue than any other email. There is only one problem for marketers—catching a leprechaun is easier than identifying that day

Somewhere, in the world just on the other side of the rainbow, there is a magical day for sending emails. The messages sent to customers and prospects on that day get more responses and generate more revenue than any other email. There is only one problem for marketers—catching a leprechaun is easier than identifying that day.

I know that finding that special day is important to marketers because they consistently ask me, “What is the best day to send emails?” For some consultants, this is a perfect segue into a sales pitch. Finding the best time to send emails is a project that can take months of testing. For me, the question is extremely challenging because I am not an “it depends” consultant. I am a teacher who happens to consult. Showing clients how to solve marketing problems is what I do best. My clients operate in continuous improvement mode. We work together to identify what works best and then dig deeper to improve on that.

The real answer to the question is this: The best day to send an email is the day that the recipient is most likely to act. This is not the answer people want to hear. They want a day of the week, not a response that generates more questions than answers:

  • How do we know when a person is ready to act?
  • What action should the recipient take?
  • Can’t you just tell us what our competition is doing?
  • Aren’t there best practices for choosing the day to send emails?
  • Why is this so hard?

If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it! Since it is and they don’t, doing it well gives your company a competitive edge.

How Do We Know When a Person Is Ready to Act?
People act when they have a need, real or perceived. Timing emails to match when people are most likely to act requires behavior analysis. Reviewing historical data to see what prospects and customers do before they buy gives insight into action patterns. Once the patterns have been identified, test copy and timing to find the most effective messages and delivery.

Well-crafted emails create perceived needs. Reading copy that speaks directly to the individual motivates even the toughest prospect to complete the next step. Invest in good copywriters and designers who can create messages that appeal to multiple senses. Timing becomes less important when the needs are clearly defined.

What Action Should the Recipient Take?
Most emails are blasted out to customers and prospects in hopes of generating some revenue. Products or coupons are posted in a gallery to be sent to everyone on the list. This shotgun approach gets sales so marketers keep doing it until subscribers die from email fatigue. The only actions for the recipient are to buy or not buy.

Buying action doesn’t create customer loyalty. A good email marketing strategy is designed to get people involved enough to be loyal. It includes actions like asking, learning and sharing. The ownership established by participating in a marketing program that include more than “click to buy” increases lifespan and lifetime value. Test emails that include call to actions beyond buying to see what works best for your business.

Can’t You Just Tell Us What Our Competition Is Doing?
Implementing a marketing strategy based on your competition’s activity is risky. What if your competitors aren’t testing to find the best methods? Ignoring your competitors’ activity is equally risky. What are they telling your customers and prospects? Monitor what your competitors are doing by subscribing to their emails, watching online reviews, and shopping their business (when being a secret shopper is feasible).

When people are ready to buy, email timing can determine who gets the sale. If your company is sending emails once a week and your competitors are sending them five times, then they are more likely to be in the front of the line when the buying decision is made. Find the right balance between what you know works and what your competitors are doing to keep your business in the forefront.

Aren’t There Best Practices for Choosing the Day to Send Emails?
There are always best practices. The top three have to work together to get the best results. They are:

  1. Analyze behavior to find the factors that move people into the sales funnel.
  2. Test different strategies to find the best message and delivery time.
  3. Monitor competitors for content and delivery to insure that your strategy is competitive.

In addition to monitoring specific companies, services like the Who’s Mailing What! email archive provide additional insight. Last month the email activity by day and industry was:

Mon

Tues

Wed

Thur

Fri

Sat

Sun

Total

Retail

15%

15%

15%

15%

18%

10%

12%

100%

B-to-B

17%

21%

20%

21%

17%

3%

2%

100%

Non-Profit Fundraising

15%

19%

13%

23%

23%

5%

3%

100%

Financial Services/ Investments

4%

9%

30%

4%

48%

0%

4%

100%

Travel

13%

21%

17%

21%

20%

6%

2%

100%

Insurance

24%

10%

19%

0%

48%

0%

0%

100%

Looking at this gives you an idea of when your customers and prospects are receiving competitive messages. You can use this information to create tests that will go head to head with the competition or you choose send times when the competition is less likely to be present.

The magical send day remains elusive, but hopefully this post helps you find the best strategy for your business. Investing the time and effort required to understand more about the things that make people buy from your business is guaranteed to deliver a good return. The more you know, the better you can serve and the less likely they will shop elsewhere.