Search Needs Computational Linguistics to Solve Its Problems

The increased use of mobile devices means search must learn to answer questions posed in natural language. Research and tech development at Google on natural language processing is filtering into the search results. So SEOs need to step beyond the keyword into computational linguistics.

As users have become increasingly dependent on their digital devices, they expect to search on them using more natural language to shape the queries. Search is deeply embedded in the fabric of our lives, and we expect more from it than previously.

We spend hours on our mobile devices every day and have devices that rely on natural language processing in our homes to turn the television on or entertain us. Every search is a quest, and users are constantly looking for and expect answers.

The terrain and contours of most e-commerce quests are reasonably easy to interpret, and SEOs have carefully developed methods for identifying keywords and concepts that apply to the most important quests that buyers/searchers will undertake for the products on offer.

Does this extend far enough? Not hardly.

We must stay with our consumers and develop an understanding of the challenges of search and how they are being addressed by those who build and operate search technology.

What’s Going On?

Each day, Google processes billions of searches and has publicly noted that 15% of those queries were previously unseen. This means that Google has no history of what the most relevant pages are to deliver for the query. These queries represent unfamiliar terrain, and Google has built ways to navigate this space.

What Needs to Happen?

The increased use of mobile devices that encourage the use of natural language means search must learn to answer questions posed in natural language. Current research and technology development at Google on natural language processing is filtering into the search results. SEOs need to step beyond the keyword into — are you ready — the arcane science of computational linguistics.

Computational linguistics is an interdisciplinary field that studies language from a computational perspective. Computational linguists build statistical or rule-based models and approaches to linguistic problems, such as natural language and search. The huge computational power available today has opened the door for rapid advances in the last five years. It is time for SEOs to integrate some of these learnings into their SEO practice.

Improving Natural Language Search

In October 2019, Google announced that it would be launching worldwide the BERT algorithm. BERT, short for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, is a neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) pre-training. Training and tuning are very important steps in developing working search algorithms. (For more on the science, see this Google blog.)

Google expects this improved model to impact 10% of all searches. It will be particularly helpful for improving queries written or spoken in natural, conversational language.

Some savvy searchers search in keyword-ese, putting long strings of disconnected words together in their queries. By keyword stuffing their query, they hope to get better results.

My own research has shown that the most frequent queries are multiple nouns strung together with an occasional adjective for refinement — long (adjective) house (noun) coat (noun). This is a simple example, but queries that are questions are much more difficult to parse. BERT will go a long way toward eliminating the need to use keyword-ese.

BERT is not to be confused with Google’s improved AI-based system of neural matching that is used to understand how words and concepts relate to one another, a super-synonym system. Combine BERT with the other advances, and we can surely expect better quality results.

Search, as a Study, Is Not Static

SEOs need to learn as much as they can about these technologies. Although it seems — at first blush — that we cannot optimize for it, we can create better content that reacts better to the new technology, watch our performance metrics to see how much and if we are improving, and then make more changes as needed. Now, isn’t that optimizing?

Brands Take Stands: How Nike Just Did It Better Than Ever

Nike just did it. Other brands are doing it. And overall, social media just got a bit more political, as brands take stands. The “2018 Edelman Earned Brand” study was just released that shows nearly 65% of consumers around the world now buy on belief, or buy from brands that have similar beliefs as they do, about morals, values, social issues and politics.

Nike just did it. Other brands are doing it. And overall, social media just got a bit more political, as brands take stands.

The “2018 Edelman Earned Brand” study (opens as a PDF) was just released that shows nearly 65% of consumers around the world now buy on belief, or buy from brands that have similar beliefs as they do, about morals, values, social issues and politics. These consumers state that they will choose, switch or boycott a brand accordingly. And important to note, the number of customers saying this is how they choose and align loyalty went up 13% from 2017. While this was a global study, the increase in just the U.S. was 12% points, year-over-year.

Referring to these customers as “Belief-Driven” buyers, Edelman’s research points out that they are the majority of buyers in all marketers and across all age groups surveyed in this recent global survey. And surprisingly, the biggest increase in belief-driven purchasing choices is among the 55 years and older group. Just FYI, the increase in Millennials was 9%, in GenX, 14% and Baby Boomers, 55%.

Yet when Nike took a recent stand by featuring Colin Kaepernick in a new ad, social media lit up with videos and photos of consumers burning their expensive Nike shoes, and posts about how Nike “Just Blew It.” For a minute, Nike’s stock value dropped. Note: for a minute. Days after the fury and flurry died down in the media waves, the stock value soared 4% to an all-time high, and online sales the weekend the ad hit shot up 31%. Hard to believe when following all of the hate posts on Facebook and Twitter.

So what does all of this mean?

Psychologically, here are some insights about human behavior:

  • When someone pushes our buttons and make us angry, we react. Sometimes we erupt and kick the wall and tell the world what just happened to us in impassioned conversations online and offline. And then, in a few hours, we calm down and sometimes we start to see both sides of an issue and relax our position. But most importantly, we forget about it and focus on the next situation that pushes a button deep inside us. Think about it. Are you still boycotting a brand that made you upset 10 years ago? And do you even remember why it did?
  • Popularity and familiarity trump us all. Donald Trump always said any headline is a good headline, as people forget the bad deeds but they don’t forget your name. His name “awareness” certainly seems to have helped build his brand in many ways. And it’s true for how we vote and purchase. We go with what is familiar to us, even if we have some concerns. You hear it all of the time, “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.”
  • Consumers view brands as not just manufacturers of goods and providers of services, but as “movements.” Tom’s Shoes started this new genre of commerce with his movement to give away a pair of shoes for every shoe purchased. This promise enables him to sell shoes that cost $9 to manufacture for around $70 or more, and built his revenue to more than $20 million in just three years.

Consumers care about products and they care about your movement and they want you to take a stand and tell them about it. According to Edelman’s report, 60% of the 8,000 consumers worldwide responding to this survey believe that brands should make it easier for consumers to see what their values and positions are when they are about to make a position, even at the point of sale. Whole Foods grocers is a good example of this. Throughout their stores, they have information about recycling, how to reduce your carbon imprint; they have environmentally friendly bags, products, and engage customers in educational events that build their whole healthy self and preserve their world at the same time. It’s a movement, not just a store.

The time is coming for brands to take a stand. Social issues and political issues have become mainstream among all generations. Consumers are taking a stand about gun control, government issues and social issues; and so, too, are their kids. Look at the data above from Edelman’s 2018 brand report. You’re damned if you do (for a day or two per Nike’s stock value changes), and you’re damned if you don’t. And you’re likely damned a lot longer if you don’t take a stand, as the data shows us consumers will purchase from those that have their same values. So if you don’t’ have values and communicate those values, you end up on the neutral line and today, that just won’t cut it.

Determine the values that best reflect your brand. Are they socially, environmentally or politically oriented? What are the values your brand aligns with, what is your stand? How will you communicate your stand and, most importantly, how will you engage your customer and partner communities with these values?

In real estate? How are you supporting homeless programs in your community?

Women’s clothing retail shop? How are you empowering underprivileged women to rise above?

You get it. Now go get on it!

Why Your Social Selling Index Means Nothing

You and your sales force are selling socially. You’ve got a LinkedIn Sales Navigator seat. Browser is fired up. You’re sharing valuable insights and racking up Social Selling Index points … showing the world you can use LinkedIn. Full stop: Are you helping buyers buy?

LinkedIn Logos Social Selling IndexYou and your sales force are selling socially. You’ve got a LinkedIn Sales Navigator seat. Browser is fired up. You’re sharing valuable insights and racking up Social Selling Index points … showing the world you can use LinkedIn.

Full stop: Are you helping buyers buy? Helping buyers buy is where the action is.

Yet the buying decision process is only partially solution-driven. I learned this from Sharon Drew Morgen, creator of the Buying Facilitation method. I have yet to find a social selling training program teaching us how to deal with these facts.

  • Selling doesn’t cause buying.
  • Buying involves systemic change and (when there’s no other option) solution choice.
  • Using solution data (content, research) as the main skill to make a sale restricts possibility, netting objections from clients who don’t know how to hear the seller’s point.
  • Buyers buy according to their buying patterns, not selling patterns.
  • Pushing solution data too early causes objections, regardless of need.

Morgen teaches us buyers are buyers until they recognize how to solve a problem with maximum buy-in and minimum fallout to the status quo.

Until buyers are certain they can’t solve a problem themselves with their own resources, they can’t recognize what is needed to buy.

“They will resist/object when having seemingly pointless content shoved at them,” says Morgen.

So what’ your role as a seller? To help buyers understand and manage change. Specifically, to know the full extent of internal challenges. Until you help them understand these challenges they remain unable to understand content details effectively.

“They object when pushed,” says Morgen.

Facilitating Decisions Is Not Social Selling

Is your team applying communications techniques to help buyers buy? In other words, are they able to identify and facilitate change for each stage of customers’ buying process that does not include purchase consideration?

Closing more accounts has everything to do with creating interest … nothing to do with creating interaction on LinkedIn.

Creating interest is a communications skill, not a social media or LinkedIn skill.

“There is an entirely different goal, focus, solution, thought process, skill set, necessary,” to facilitate and enable change before any purchase is considered, says Ms. Morgen.

Pushing content to prospects, commenting, updating, sharing wisdom. These tactics work well to generate interaction, not so well to create early-stage client conversations. Interest.

Teach Sellers to Facilitate

Social selling focuses mainly on pushing content and sharing knowledge, mostly out of context to buyers. It rarely works. Because it limits outreach to clients who already recognize a purchase is the only way to resolve a problem.

At best this is 5 percent of the market, which often throw objections at your advance.

However, “You get no resistance when facilitating prospects through their own steps to congruent change,” says Morgen.

“But you’ll need to take a different, additional, path through a different lens. You’ll need to understand the change management issues within your industry. And no, you cannot use your current sales skill to accomplish this,” says Morgan.

Indeed, you can continue pushing content and getting objections, or you can add a new function to your outreach. A part that connects with the right customers sooner. One that allows you to enter their decision path, join them as a trusted advisor and facilitate clients who can buy through to buying.

“Just recognize the sales model doesn’t do the facilitation portion as it’s solution-placement based,” says Morgen.

My bottom line for you: Social selling is, in practice, social marketing. Look around. Witness teams of sellers pushing content onto LinkedIn. All trying to stay in front of potential clients, convince them of sellers’ thought leadership and pushing insights. But in the end social selling proves worthless compared to helping buyers get ready to buy.

Do you agree? What is your experience?

 

4 B2B Marketing Lessons From Michael Brenner

I listened to Michael Brenner recently give a keynote talk on B2B marketing at the MeritDirect Coop client conference, and picked up scads of great insights, tips and strategic wisdom I’d like to share.

B2B MarketingI listened to Michael Brenner recently give a keynote talk on B2B marketing at the MeritDirect Coop client conference, and picked up scads of great insights, tips and strategic wisdom I’d like to share.

One of Brenner’s many career accomplishments was his early recognition of the value of Web communities as a way to attract, engage and establish a relationship of trust with customers and prospects. He successfully pioneered a strategic web portal for SAP on the subject of business innovation that took the concept of thought leadership to the next level.

These days, Brenner is a speaker and consultant on content marketing, with many lessons to share. Among them:

1. Find Out What Your Buyers Are Looking For, and Give It to Them

Seems pretty simple, but most marketers begin with their products instead. Brenner’s approach becomes the essence of a successful content marketing strategy. Use the plethora of free tools to identify customer needs — Google search autofill, BuzzSumo and Google Trends being obvious ones — and then develop content that answers those issues.

“The buyer journey doesn’t start with a search for a product,” says Brenner. “It’s about a problem or a question.”

2. Focus on Customer Success in B2B Marketing

If you offer information that helps your customers and prospects succeed in their businesses, your B2B marketing is on the right track.

Brenner offered the example of the consulting giant Capgemini, which moved away from a marketing program featuring a famous golfer to an informative web portal Content Loop, which attracted a million visitors, drove $1 million in sales, and cost 0.1 percent of the golfer campaign budget. Later, Capgemini added a box introducing in-house subject matter experts—a move that was credited with $24 million in incremental revenue credited to the site.

3. Own Your Category

As traditional trade publications decline, companies have an opportunity to step in and deliver the information and connection that business buyers crave. Notable B2B marketing examples: Adobe created CMO.com. American Express’s OPEN Forum, which is the firm’s single most productive lead generator for merchant services. Boston Consulting Group’s BCGPerspectives.

A consumer example: L’Oreal owns the e-commerce portal makeup.com, where it even sells competitors’ products alongside its own.

4. Take Advantage of Underleveraged Internal Resources

Your employees have ten times the number of connections on Facebook and LinkedIn that your company has. You can’t force them to share content, but you can encourage them to do so voluntarily.

Furthermore, employees are often experts in their fields. Help them tell their stories and share their experience and advice with customers. Encourage them to build their personal brands, expand their networks and propel their careers forward.

Brenner shared an example from LinkedIn itself, where three employees do eight posts a day, reaching 63 million connections and driving 167,000 clicks.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Direct, Data-driven Marketing Increase Brand Equity

I may be a ripe heretical candidate to be barbecued at the stake by my more conservative direct marketing colleagues, but I’ve come to the conclusion that communications which enhance brand equity should be accounted for as such, and that this value must be part of and added to the data-driven marketing equation.

Opening Keynote - Dinosaurs & Cowboys: Direct Marketing Secrets Every Marketer Needs To Know Whether You Are Selling Online, Offline or Both
Direct marketing may be an older technique, but it’s relevant and adds to brand equity
Check out even more about personalization and artificial intelligence with FUSE Enterprise.

Back when direct marketing was a tribal affair and its warriors and their acolytes were constantly on the field of battle against the trendy “mad men,” it was a heresy to even consider that any marketing action that didn’t have a measurable call to action was anything but pure waste. The image purveyors had a monopoly on all of the glamor and all of the money. And they could laugh off that eternal question attributed to Lord Leverhulme: “I know half of my advertising expenditure is being wasted, but no one can tell me which half.”

Long before we had computers to churn all of the numbers, our DM tribe boasted that we could exactly determine whether the advertiser was getting his money’s worth by dividing the total advertising expenditure in each medium, or even each specific ad, by the number of measurable sales generated. When a campaign was running, the first place to stop when one got to the office in the morning was the mailroom, because that’s where the orders were.

Until the last decade of the 20th century, the concept of valuing “brand equity” didn’t exist. If you owned Coca Cola or Nescafe, what the brand was ‘worth’ was measured almost totally by the sales and profits generated in the marketplace. In 2006, “The Journal of Consumer Marketing” published an important academic article, “Measuring Customer‐Based Brand Equity” which made a compelling argument that “brand equity positively influences financial performance.” Even the most hidebound direct marketing professionals had to recognize this reality, even if they found it convenient to ignore it in their own work.
Recently, working on a project to present the results of a broad multi-media campaign to a company with the recommendation that it be expanded, one of the factors arguing for that expansion was an analysis of the return on the marketing investment (ROMI). The combined press media and digital campaign invited the reader/viewer to an attractive homepage, which both told the advertiser’s story and offered the next step in the journey — registration to receive a free series of ‘content’ publications and videos.

Peter's media response analytsis
(Note: In Brazil, where this article was written, in the templates, commas denote decimal points and ‘.’denote the commas used to separate thousands.)

Using the standard media response template, it was easy enough to put costs against each of the site visitors and registrants. For the advertiser’s $60,000, he received 5,300 visitors; and of these, 2,060 people registered to receive the additional content. Although it had been established by the client that the lifetime value of a purchaser would average $250.00, because there was no direct sale of the product (although one could have been promoted with an incentive coupon, etc.), the problem was how to show the advertiser what he had gotten for his money.

To value the campaign, we had to start with the concept that only a percentage of the registrants would be “buyers.” So we built a simple “sensitivities” table, ranging possible conversion percentages Peter's blog post chartand established the sum of all of the costs that would be necessary to effect the conversion, had the client wished to promote a direct conversion. Looking at the number of likely sales from the sensitivities table, even being conservative and saying that only 40 percent or 824 would become buyers, the cost per sale at $54.88 would be acceptable: a lower cost would be better.
There is an old saying that: “The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next.” If it were a direct marketing heresy in the past to ascribe any value to the frequency a consumer came in contact with a brand message if this could not be traced to a measurable sale, perhaps we ought to revisit this and, in our new digital age, this might be transformed into orthodoxy. That said, how can we reasonably and fairly determine the added brand value: What price should we put on each head?

Another Peter blog post chart

Economics teaches that the value of something is what a willing buyer is prepared to pay for it. If the willing buyer is prepared to pay $5 per thousand to send out email messages, then is it really a heresy to say that these communications have a positive value in conveying the brand message — adding to the brand equity — to the analytically selected audience? Note that in the campaign results summary above, we have valued the 20 million brand impressions at $60,000, almost the entire amount the advertiser paid for the campaign. Adding this to the hypothetical $206,000 of revenue earned from sales means that the ROMI is 3.9 times.

I may be a ripe heretical candidate to be barbecued at the stake by my more conservative direct marketing colleagues, but I’ve come to the conclusion that communications which enhance brand equity should be accounted for as such, and that this value must be part of and added to the data-driven marketing equation.

Learn even more about the convergence of technology and branded content at the FUSE Enterprise summit. Artificial intelligence and personalization will be featured among many other techniques and technologies.

Why LinkedIn Connection Requests Aren’t Working for Sellers

“Hold on, Molander. I request LinkedIn connections when regularly approaching buyers cold — and they accept.” But then? Usually crickets. Right?

“Hold on, Molander. I request LinkedIn connections when regularly approaching buyers cold — and they accept.”

But then?

Usually crickets. Right?

True: Connections may earn sellers the ability to message (for free) in the near-term. But it’s a matter of time before my students see erosion in post-connection response rates.

Prospects (in all categories) are burning out on sellers’ LinkedIn pitches. Some industry segments experience fatigue faster than others. How about yours?

Why Are They Connecting and (then) Ignoring Me?

It’s easy to have a positive impression when a prospect accepts LinkedIn connection request. In fact, it’s logical to think, “aah, great!” But what, exactly, is on buyers’ minds when they accept? Why did they accept?

Curiosity?

Out of an urge to grow their networks by increasing their connection numbers?

Because they’re in the market for what you’re selling and waiting for you?

Until you’re on speaking terms, there’s no way of knowing.

Thus, many of my students are confused: “Why am I being invited to connect — only to be ignored?”

3 Factors You’re Forced to Consider

Most sellers’ post-connection messages fail to start conversations. Here’s what I’ve learned is causing this:

  1. LinkedIn: LinkedIn’s system is (over time) discouraging personalized invitations from being read. Thus, sending “false positives” to sellers.
  2. Saturation: Most sellers use Connection requests as their first “cold” touch. But requesting a Connection (by itself) is increasingly signaling “I’m a sales person looking to spam your inbox.”
  3. Context: Being connected on LinkedIn is (over time) becoming a highly personal thing. It’s increasingly being seen as a privilege.

In essence, LinkedIn is combining with sellers’ behavior for a one-two punch.

False Positives

You may interpret acceptance of a Connection request as an invitation to start a discussion — but the other side doesn’t. Why is that?

Short answer: The personal message within your invitation is often not seen.

Remember all the agonizing over the personalized content inside your Connection request? It’s squandered.

LinkedIn has, over time, updated its user interface. These changes are great for LinkedIn’s network growth but not helpful for the quality of your communications.

LinkedIn continues to make it:

  • easier for any connection request to be blindly accepted (in general);
  • more difficult to see who sent a personalized request and read it.

In many cases, your request to start a conversation has, actually, never been seen. Worse, it’s not your fault.

You’re Just Part of the Spammers

Most sellers using LinkedIn at the free or paid level use Connection requests as their first “cold” touch when approaching prospects. Problem is, sending a Connection request is increasingly (as time marches on) signaling, “I’m a salesy spammer.”

As sellers rush into social selling most are taking the lazy route: Spamming marketing messages. I’m talking about sending mass marketing, non-personalized messages to prospects via LinkedIn.

This has trained prospects to accept fewer Connection requests in general! If this practice hasn’t trained them (past tense) in your business sector yet, it will.

Bet on it.

Because this is how a majority of sellers use LinkedIn. They’re sending poorly-written, unsolicited sales pitches. Even if you know better, you risk getting caught-up in that crowd when requesting a Connection as your first point of contact.

Beware.

Against my advice, most sellers still ask for Connections first for a number of reasons.

  1. Cost: You want to message the prospect directly at no cost. You don’t want to pay for InMail.
  2. Saving InMail credits: If you hold a Premium/Navigator account, you would rather not risk losing the InMail credit. InMail messages cost money and are subject to monthly use limits.
  3. Connecting seems like the most logical thing to do on LinkedIn. That said, LinkedIn’s policy tends to confuse users: Connect only if you know the other person yet use it for sales prospecting.

Bottom line: Asking to connect with a prospect is becoming less-and-less effective because it is a tactic used by low-quality sales practitioners.

Stranger Danger: Customers Are Camouflaged

Being connected on LinkedIn is, increasingly, becoming a highly personal thing. Perhaps for you too. But especially among decision-makers who are being bombarded by social sellers. We are trying to help customers … but we are strangers no less.

How to Identify the Most Profitable Google AdWords Keywords

You probably already know that identifying profitable keywords is one of the most important steps in creating a successful Google AdWords campaign. When you actually start trying to think of keywords, though, you might feel overwhelmed.

The 5 Steps to Profit with Google AdWordsYou probably already know that identifying profitable keywords is one of the most important steps in creating a successful Google AdWords campaign. When you actually start trying to think of keywords, though, you might feel overwhelmed.

For example, you might sell Android phones. How many different two- or three-word phrases can you think of to describe your phones? Should you focus on different brands, specific models, or features? Does the word “Android” need to appear in every keyword phrase?

To answer these questions about your specific product or service, you need to understand what shoppers are searching for. Here are five ways to identify the most profitable Google AdWords keywords.

1. Think Like a Buyer
Online shoppers can be loosely divided into three groups, or three separate points in the shopping cycle.

Browsers are looking for general information. They are just setting out on their buying journey, or might even be doing research for a non-purchasing reason such as a school paper. It is nearly impossible to figure out their motivations for a particular search. You can identify browsers by their very general one- or two-word searches, such as “Android phones.”

Shoppers are interested in making a purchase at some point, but not yet. They are researching different products, comparing features and prices, and reading reviews. They tend to make their searches a little more specific, such as “Samsung Galaxy phones,” often with a word such as “features” or “reviews” appended.

Buyers are ready to make an imminent purchase. They have committed to a particular product or service, but they want to get the best deal. Their searches tend to be highly specific, such as “Samsung Galaxy S6 price” or “buy Samsung Galaxy S6.” When they find the item they want at the right price, they will complete the transaction.

To give your campaign the best chance for success, it is best to focus on the buyers. They are the easiest to convert into sales, giving you the most bang for your advertising bucks.

If you are unsure exactly what keyword phrases your buyers might choose, step back and pretend you are in the market for your specific product or service. How would you find it online? What words and phrases would you use when you are ready to buy?

2. Perform Customer Surveys
One of the best ways to figure out how to reach new buyers is to talk to those who have already bought. Send out an email survey or call your most recent purchasers. Find out how those customers reached your website. Ask them to try to recall the specific keywords they used, as well as the general keywords they tend to use in similar searches. You will likely pick up a few new ideas, even if your customers do not have perfect memories of how they found you.

3. Poll Your Staff
Assuming you have a well-trained staff, your employees can be a valuable source of keyword information. They are intimately familiar with your product or service, but have the benefit of being one step removed. If the item is “your baby,” it can be tough to step outside of your own deep knowledge and view it as an outsider might. Ask your staff how they would search for the product or service in question. Family and friends can also provide suggestions, especially if they have a reasonably good understanding of what you sell.

4. Scope Out Your Competitors
Make a list of your biggest competitors and spend some time poking around their websites. Every seller has his or her own unique approach, and you might discover some phrases or expressions that you had not yet thought about. Be careful not to steal anything trademarked or copyrighted, but general ideas and search terms are fair game.

5. Use Keyword Tools
Google’s free Keyword Planner is a tremendous resource. Simply input keyword phrases that you are considering, and Google will suggest a long list of similar keyword phrases, along with their average monthly search volumes and associated AdWords costs.

To dig even deeper, why not take a look at what is working and not working for your competitors? SpyFu is a particularly useful tool that lets you view AdWords keywords, ad variations, and landing pages that a chosen competitor has used in the past. This gives you a good idea of what works and what does not, and helps you decide which keyword phrases are worth your investment.

When trying to find the most profitable AdWords keywords, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  Following these five tips helps you narrow your focus and decide where to begin, and then your own testing and tracking will show you what changes you need to make.

Want more AdWords tips?  I created a simple checklist that walks you through specific actions you can take to get cheaper clicks and convert more clicks into leads and customers. Click here to get my Google AdWords Checklist

My Best Tips for Writing Response-Generating Emails

When writing sales emails don’t forget to get readers curious—create questions in their minds. It’s the best way to get more response. Today, I’ll show you a simple, effective way to write email that gets customers asking you questions. Philippe Le Baron, a sales productivity coach, has cracked the nut. He figured out how to make customers respond to him in sales emails. He writes to make customers curious about him—in a way they cannot resist acting on. The result: Prospects respond to him more often. Customers reply to get clarity on thoughts his emails provoke.

When writing sales emails don’t forget to get readers curious—create questions in their minds. It’s the best way to get more response. Today, I’ll show you a simple, effective way to write email that gets customers asking you questions.

A Quick B-to-B Example
Philippe Le Baron, a sales productivity coach, has cracked the nut. He figured out how to make customers respond to him in sales emails. He writes to make customers curious about him—in a way they cannot resist acting on. The result: Prospects respond to him more often. Customers reply to get clarity on thoughts his emails provoke.

In LinkedIn InMail or regular email always remember: Plant seeds in your prospects’ minds. Then, create an urge to find out more details using what customers really want as bait.

Get them asking more questions that lead them toward what you sell.

Where to Start
Let’s say you have a LinkedIn Group or e-newsletter where sales prospects subscribe and receive your updates.

You’re probably presenting tips, tricks, answers and shortcuts. But are you writing in ways that create more questions in the minds of buyers? This is the part most sellers forget. They rely too much on formal call to action.

Make sure you create an urge in readers. Speak to them in ways that provoke them … get them to hit reply and ask for details about the thought you just sparked.

Quick example: Philippe Le Baron has a LinkedIn group called Sales Productivity 2.0. His group is filled with prospects who receive occasional updates from him via LinkedIn email. Recently, Le Baron sent an email to prospects.

Follow his simple template by:

  • Making an offer specific to buyers’ seasonal needs.
  • Being useful by giving simple “next steps” to act on the need.
  • Creating curiosity by being action-oriented yet incomplete.

Step 1: Make a Sympathetic Offer
Philippe is making offers specific to seasonal objectives of his prospects. His email starts with, “Here are 3 easy ways to measure your sales management efforts better in 2014.”

Philippe then explains why most of his customers tend to fail. He makes it clear quickly. In essence he communicates, “I understand what you are struggling with.”

He continues with “Improving the impact of your effectiveness as a sales manager can be very tricky, that’s why most sales managers …” Here, Philippe bullet-points his buyers’ pain. He takes special care to include how it feels to fail. This opens the door to talk about his cure … a prescription for improvement.

Step 2: Tell Them ‘You CAN,’ Then Show Them How
Next, Philippe quickly gives prospective buyers what they want: Three simple steps that sound easy to act on. He gives this advice following the Golden Rule of copywriting: Help your customers believe they can; get them confident in themselves.

Tell them they can do it, then immediately arm them with weapons to succeed. Show them how. In his email, Philippe writes:

“Improving the effectiveness of sales managers is actually much simpler than most people think: you only need to focus on 3 very specific things…

  1. the duration of your weekly 4cast meeting
  2. the specific sales management productivity metrics you measure
  3. the coaching questions you ask once you’ve adopted the right ‘Lion Tamer’ mindset”

Philippe’s use of the phrases “much simpler than most people think” and “3 very specific things” help create curiosity.

Other words and phrases that create curiosity include:

  • Unusual
  • Odd
  • Simple technique
  • Different
  • One small thing
  • Surprising

Step 3: Get Them Intensely Curious
Philippe plants seeds. He creates a call to action without actually making the call. He creates intense, irresistible curiosity about himself.

Philippe’s three tips create more questions in customers’ minds. Questions that he knows buyers will have a deep, burning urge to get answered.

These include:

  • What is a 4cast meeting? Is that like a forecast meeting?
  • What are the best productivity metrics? Am I measuring the right ones?
  • What do you mean “Lion Tamer” mindset? That sounds like something I should know about if I want to succeed.

These questions pop into the heads of readers by design. Philippe is getting customers to respond more often because he is prompting them to ask these questions—questions that ultimately relate to what he sells.

Yet the prospect isn’t being “sold to” at all. That’s the beauty of these social media copywriting tips. Prospects are conversing with Philippe. They’re warming up as leads.

All based on the structure of his email message—the words he uses and the timing of those words.

Try This 3-Step Process
Customers want email messages, blog posts, YouTube videos and social media updates that help them:

  1. believe there is a better way
  2. realize they just found it (through you!) and
  3. ACT on that realization—to get what they want (giving you a lead)

That’s why Philippe uses the technique across all digital media to drive more leads his way (not just email).

Philippe writes in a way that customers cannot resist. They become curious and cannot help but reach out and contact him. Why? To get clarity on the thoughts his messages are provoking in their minds.

Good luck applying these tips for writing effective emails in your business!