Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

How to write strong sales copy for your website

If you don’t currently have a sales pitch, or you’re trying to improve it, here’s a quick outline of how to put one together for your website.

The first thing I do when writing is start with an outline and I highly recommend it. Use an outline (or mind map) to just jot-down all your ideas and thoughts on the subject. It doesn’t have to make sense or flow smoothly. Not everything in your outline will make the final draft and a few things that weren’t in your outline will get added. From there, here are the steps to creating great copy.

Like catching this Yellowstone National Park geyser in action, finding quality sales copy is rare.

  1. Define your target customer. How old are they? What do they wear? Where do the shop? What do they drive? What motivates them? What do they absolutely love? What do they absolutely hate?
  2. Define what would you like the customer to do once hearing/seeing/reading your pitch. What’s the goal? Enter their email… Purchase a product… Contact you…
  3. Utilize the 4.5 Points of Marketing. Problem, Solution, Why us?, Why now?, Risk-Free
  4. Consider possible responses and questions. Don’t create a FAQ… With a FAQ you can’t control the dialogue. Step the reader through the 4.5 points of marketing while addressing all of their questions as they go along.
  5. Offer third-party testimonials and reference third-party resources. Those testimonials can be written or video. Include them along the side of your page so they’re viewable the whole time. Also, be careful when referencing third-party web pages. Generally you’re better to site the resource without a direct-link because you don’t really want someone leaving your web page to check out the resource and then never come back. However, in some instances it does make sense to provide the link; so use common sense.
  6. Pretend you’re sitting next to someone talking to them. Once you have that vision, take your outline and start writing sentences in the Conversational Marketing style as if you’re talking face-to-face.
  7. Highlight key points for the readers who will just skim. Also use numbered and bulleted lists as well as paragraph breaks, graphics, charts, and pictures to highlight important details that you don’t want the reader to miss.
  8. Test and Measure to determine which copy is most effective. In other words, have multiple landing pages and track your analytics to determine which page is achieving your goal from step 2 most often per visitor.
  9. Sign your letter, postcard, website, or marketing piece. People don’t buy from businesses. They buy from people. If you’re a small business use that personal touch to highlight how you’re different and therefore BETTER than dealing with a large faceless corporation.
  10. Include your most important part in the P.S. Whether you’re creating a newspaper ad, direct-mail postcard, writing an email, or direct-mail letter, studies have shown that people read the headline first; then they read the sub-heading; next they check out the pictures; and finally they read the P.S. or whatever is at the bottom of your ad.

Don’t forget to tell the truth! Which one are you more likely to believe and therefore respond to?

Everything must go!” OR “Our purchasing department made a mistake and ordered too much inventory so we need to clear out some stock.” Just don’t be that furniture company down the road that’s been having the “Going out of business! Must liquidate everything!” sale for the past 3 years. That’s not honest or ethical.

While we’re on the topic of ethics, your marketing should always be honest and up front. Don’t bait-and-switch… Don’t stretch the truth… Don’t tell little fibs that no one will ever notice… In the short term people will notice it and be put off… In the long run it’s toxic. It’s like a cancer lead by the marketing (or sales) department that keeps getting worse but that no one notices until it’s too late. It will eventually catch up with you and ultimately it’s never the most profitable way to run a business of any size.

To your success in writing sales copy, Bryan

P.S. My last 2 blogs were a bit long so I figured I’d shorten this one for you. My next blog on your Marketing Manual might exceed my 1,000 word limit, so consider yourself warned.

How to create the PERFECT website for a Service Business

Make everything about the consumer.

This blog is primarily targeted at service based businesses, however this can certainly work for niche Internet products as well. Once you get to the level of large e-commerce sites the rules for a PERFECT website will be a bit different. Even though quite a few would still apply.

Most importantly, your website needs a goal. The goal can be to sell a product through an immediate online transaction or get the customer to contact you via a web form or phone number. A secondary goal for all websites should be to collect the visitor’s email address to stay in touch and build a relationship. For some websites capturing that email may even be the primary goal.

Your website needs to address the 4.5 Points of Marketing.

  1. Is this your Problem? Did you know this problem also results in these other problems? This isn’t your problem? You’re on the wrong website, then. This can be relatively short and sweet. Don’t assume your customers know exactly what their problem might be.
  2. Here’s the perfect Solution! It will make your life easier, save you money, and make your love life better and here’s why. Most websites sorta start here. They often focus on a product instead of the actual solution (i.e. benefit).
  3. We’re the best company for providing the perfect solution. We’ve been around forever, have a unique business model, are experts at this solution, have a history of top-level support, you can get in touch with us 24 hours per day, and here are a BUNCH of testimonials from happy customers.
  4. Now is the time to ask us to provide the solution to your problem. If you wait any longer your competitors will take more market share, your wife will be frustrated, your kids will rebel, and your dog will pee on the carpet. Do you really want to wait for all that to happen before doing what you already know is the best option?
  5. Make the offer Risk-Free. Look, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain so take a minute and shoot us an email and we’ll get you on track to eternal happiness and bliss. If after talking with us you don’t agree that we can do that for you, no hard feelings.

Your website shouldn’t be more than 2 menus deep. If it’s more then that your customer is working too hard and you can’t lead them where you want them to go.

Your website should be cross-linked. In other words, on every page where you reference a widget, the viewer should be able to click on the word widget and be taken to the full product page.

For further explanation on any of those points, please reference my blog, Internet Marketing for Small Business – Your Website.

So now that you understand the rules of the game, what exactly does a website like that look like? Firstly the content of your website should be written in the vernacular of your target audience. You MUST talk like they talk. As they sit there at their laptop reading your words, in their head it should sound as if they are talking to themselves. I call this Conversational Marketing.

Highlight the important bits for skimmers. Whether it’s bold, underlining, ALL CAPS, or different colors, make the important points jump out.

Include a call-to-action and way for them to contact you on every page.

Capture their email address in exchange for some of your expertise and then build a relationship with an auto-responder email campaign. For instance, if you’re a plumber, you might say, “Input your email for a free report on the top 7 ways to get the best rates from your plumber”. Once they have that you can send them one email every other day for the next 2 weeks explaining why you’re business is the perfect one to solve their problems.

Make it personal. Sign off on every page as if you were writing a personal letter to the person reading. As a small business owner you can do that even though large organizations cannot. Use that to your advantage.

Constantly update your content. In the internet world, inactive=dead. Since I didn’t have time to write a new blog about my business on a regular basis I simply monitored industry news and then would post links to the articles. That links page drove more traffic then any other page on my site besides my landing page.

Utilize videos to engage your visitors. Whether from testimonials or your sales pitch, adding videos and text allows your readers to choose their preferred method of communication.

Provide great content and too many details. When people see a TV commercial or a magazine ad about a product that interests them what do they do next? They visit the company’s website. Why do they do that instead of just calling or going to the business? Because they want more information… So give it to them. In person you, of course, can ramble on and say too much… On a website, however, you cannot. Give the features, benefits, specs, warranties, side-by-side comparison with competitors and anything else they might ask. Of course no one is going to read all of it. You just need it there because each person is going to read some of it and, quite frankly, you don’t know which part they’re going to read.

So if you put all of this together what do you get? Here are a few examples from some top internet marketers:

Bullseye Marketing – This business is selling a service that requires a custom quote so their goal is to get you to contact them. Notice how they start with the problem and then engage you by making you click Next to get to the solution. Granted, their interface can use some improvement.

Perry Marshall’s Personal Coaching – I’ve been following Perry’s stuff for years and he’s one of the top guys out there at turning visitors to money.

Eating for Energy – Good example of a website with the goal of simply getting your email address and nothing else.

Front Sight Offer – I highly recommend signing up for his Free Gun reports via email just to get an idea of what building a relationship via an auto-pilot is all about. Even if you don’t want anything to do with a firearm, you can learn a lot from his email marketing. Just keep in mind he is talking to “gun nuts.”

Target Focus Training – This site does a great job of hitting the 4.5 points of marketing. Notice how they start with the problem? Did you know the problem was that bad?

Wait a second… I’ve never even heard of any of those companies, how do you know they have good websites? Because they can make money and sell a service without ever talking with or interacting directly with a single customer (with the exception of Bullseye Marketing since their web page is just about selling the appointment). Can you say that about your service business?

Here’s the bottom line. If you’re a huge international organization with $10-$100 million to spend on your web presence with the goal of increased “branding”, then copy from the mainstream websites of Fortune 500 companies. If instead you’re a small business who needs to market your business online to generate immediate and measurable income,if you follow even half of these suggestions you’ll be way ahead of your competition.

If you disagree, leave some feedback and we’ll hash it out.

Keep in mind that in the grand scheme of marketing, your website is the end game. It’s a lead-generator. You can only gauge it’s success if it matches your entire marketing plan. Everything from your Vision as a company, the USP for this revenue stream, target market, branding and positioning goal, budget, ROI, method of testing and measurement must all be established so when your website is finished, you’ll know if it is working or not. In other words, it needs to fit properly into your Marketing Manual.

To your website creation success, Bryan

Conversational Marketing – Set your Small Business apart from your Competition!

Imagine for a moment that your business has to sell its product or services without ever interacting directly with the prospect…

No phone calls.

No visits to the showroom.

No personal emails.

Would your business survive? More importantly, if you constrained your sales process to that requirement, how might your marketing be different? Think about it for a minute… Would any of your marketing in its current form still be effective?

Online marketers have to sell to a prospect without ever seeing, talking to, or even interacting with that potential customer; in my opinion, they’re the best marketers out there. Now, what if you do have the opportunity to sit down with your prospects? If you can master the elements that great online marketers use AND you have the benefit of dealing with someone one-on-one, your sales process is going to be way ahead of your competition.

With that in mind, I’ve noticed Internet marketers, more than anyone else, use a technique I’ve dubbed “Conversational Marketing.” In essence, you write your marketing piece as if you were sitting down right next to the person talking. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing an email, a direct mail piece, or creating a website, conversational marketing strikes a deeper cord with your audience.

So first off, why is conversational marketing better than “normal” marketing?

  1. It’s easier to read
  2. It encourages people to keep reading
  3. It’s designed to lead someone to a desired result Step-by-Step
  4. It builds trust and rapport
  5. It’s actually easier to write and create

So how do we start using Conversational Marketing in everything our customers will ever see? Let’s assume you’re working on a business website… The simplest way  to use Conversational Marketing is to take your current face-to-face sales pitch and put it in writing. That’s it. Whatever closes the highest percentage of deals needs to be in writing on your website and ideally in a video as well. Keep in mind, that if you really do need a face-to-face meeting to provide a custom solution to your customer, then the sales pitch on your website is going to be your best pitch for them contacting you NOT your sales pitch for them actually purchasing a solution. That will still have to be face-to-face.

Probably the most important aspect of effective Conversational Marketing is defining your target customer. In other words, what is the customer sitting on the other end of the computer, direct mail piece, yellow page ad, TV, Radio, Newspaper or other medium like? You need a picture of your buyer in your head. For instance, Trader Joe’s defines their target customer as an “unemployed college professor who drives a very, very used Volvo.” Did you get a picture of that in your head? Does each revenue stream in your business have such a crisp picture of your target customer? To take this one step further, your goal is to be able to write in a way that it sounds to the reader like he’s talking to himself. Does that make sense?

Consider the following common marketing examples and tell me which sounds more like the way you talk?

Act now!” OR “Make the commitment now and get this problem off of your plate.

But wait, there’s more.” OR “By now I hope you can see that we’ve offered some great deals for you. However, there are a few more things we’d like to share.

We have the best deals in town.” OR “You already know other people offer a “similar” service. For instance, Joe’s will charge you X which doesn’t even include A,B, or C.

Our customer service is excellent.” OR “Here’s an idea of what some of our customers think of our service. <insert testimonials>

Are you starting to get the picture? The “common” marketing words are so hackneyed that we all instantly recognize them and immediately close-off. We know each phrase translates to – someone is trying to sell me something. And we don’t want anyone to sell us anything. We want to CHOOSE the best option for ourselves.

At this point you’re saying… That’s fine and good, BUT I don’t have room for all of that on a direct-mail postcard, 30 second radio ad, 60 second TV spot, Yellow Page ad, or any other form or marketing besides a direct mail letter or my website.

That’s exactly right! So unless any of those forms of media provide enough information to sell someone on the idea of contacting you, then you should probably be using that media to point them toward your website where you can address all of these things. Obviously you will still provide your phone number and address in case they are ready to take the next step.

Beyond that, if you make a conscious effort to start marketing conversationally, you’ll be amazed at what you can fit inside any of the standard marketing mediums. One of my marketing teachers told me that when putting together a headline for any marketing copy he used to take his top 3-4 headlines and ask his friends at the bar which one was good. If they told him they really liked them or they were very good he threw them away. After all, everyone is going to say that. Instead, when they said, “Is that really true?”, he knew he had a winner. That’s a great way to institute conversational marketing into your shorter marketing mediums.

Finally, this is all about a one-on-one relationship. Earlier I stated that your best website takes your face-to-face sales pitch and puts it into words and video. A crucial point in being personal is to include a salutation with your name and title. The bottom of your web page, and every other type of marketing where it can fit, should have a salutation just like a personal letter. Remember, people buy from people, NOT from businesses. The obvious exception would be TV/video since you are addressing them directly and personally.

You’re starting to see this “personal relationship” idea reach big companies with Google marketing videos usually telling you which Google employee in which department is talking with you. Tom Anderson, founder of Myspace, also made sure he was the first friend for all new accounts. Smaller companies like Batchbook.com and 37Signals.com are even better at introducing you to the people helping you when you need help. The biggest challenge for large companies is that they have 100 people in customer service, product development, R&D, and marketing so they can’t be personal. Their weakness at not being personal should be your advantage. DON’T EMULATE FORTUNE 500 COMPANIES BY MAKING IMPERSONAL MARKETING OR AN IMPERSONAL WEBSITE. Make your website extremely personal so you can set yourself apart. Don’t be afraid to use your status as a small business to your advantage! Obviously if you have a lot of turnover, then you need to think through how you’ll do this effectively.  Also, don’t ever sign off as, or put, “owner” on your business card. If you ever want your business to run without you, training your customers to expect to hear from the owner is a step in the wrong direction.

To your Conversational Marketing success, Bryan

P.S. In my next few blogs I’ll be going more in depth on using this type of marketing on websites and other online medium including providing example websites.

Internet Marketing for Small Business – Your Website

In my last 3 blogs we reviewed the 3 pieces of your small business’ online presence:

Chichen Itza - the 7th Wonder of the World. Is your website this complex?

  1. Traffic
  2. Website
  3. Commitment

We then discussed the 3 primary ways to get Traffic (Search Engines, Online Ads/Google Adwords, Viral Marketing) and of course reviewed videos explaining some basics of Viral Marketing and Search Engine Optimization for Small Business. We then looked at some of the best tips for optimizing your Google Adwords campaigns in my last blog.

This time around we’re going to take a closer look at your website. From my last 3 blogs you have a lot of great ways to get people to your website, but how do you know your website is any good? Let’s break this into 3 sections:

  1. Goal of your website
  2. Content
  3. Layout
  4. Tracking or Analytics

1. Goal of your website – This is so important to understand as I think most people never even consider this point. For most people they have a website because they’re supposed to have a website and then they leave it at that. That’s not at all true, the goal of your website is to sell something! Since my small business is service-based, my goal is to sell an appointment or, in other words, get the potential customer to contact us. For other businesses the goal is to sell a product directly online. If you fail to sell your product or appointment via your website your secondary goal should be to collect your visitor’s contact information for future marketing. We’ll discuss basic ways to do that in the future.

2. Content – Since your goal is to sell your visitor something, the content of your website should be geared to do just that. How do you accomplish that? You answer all the questions that might prevent them from buying from you. That’s what your content MUST do if your customer is ever going to make a commitment to purchase from you. Here are the basic points you must cover in any marketing to earn a customer. I call these the 4.5 points of successful marketing:

  1. What problem can you fix for me? – Address and detail their problems to demonstrate that you understand their needs.
  2. Is your solution the best? – Explain how your solution to their problem is the best solution available.
  3. Why should I work with your company? – Compare your business to your competition to show how ONLY your business can meet their needs and requirements.
  4. Why do I need your solution now? – Dollarize their potential losses by not having your solution so they understand that every month, week, day or hour that they wait they’re losing money by not working with you.

4.5. What am I risking? – Make the process of either buying from you or contacting you for an appointment as risk-free as possible.

The biggest negative business owners point out to me when addressing these points is that now their competitors can see their whole “sales pitch”. My response to that is firstly, so what? They’re going to find it one way or another anyway. Secondly, if your business and product can’t highlight enough advantages, benefits, and differences to make it IMPOSSIBLE for your competitors to steal your sales pitch then you need to go back to the writing board and come up with better copy and/or a better business plan.

3. Layout – In the online world you basically have 4 types of websites:

  1. Complex – You have graphics and videos and Flash programming and javascript drop-down menus and somewhere amongst the entertainment you may even address some of your customer’s questions or needs.
  2. Simple – You list your business name, phone, address, a short About Us, a Contact Us page and maybe even a bit about your products. These websites do nothing more than provide contact information for people who already want to do business with you. Most visitors, however, don’t care about you until you educate them on how you can make their life better.
  3. Corporate – Every major corporation has one of these. It has all the standard pages for Contact Us, About Us, Investor Relations, Products, Store-Finder, etc. etc. It answers a few questions of the 4.5 points of successful marketing but often is bordering on the too Complex described above.
  4. Long-winded – These are those scrolling 1-page sales pitch websites that you just hate to visit. However the truth is, these are some of the best tracked, best-designed, best-selling websites in existence. Millions upon millions of dollars in internet fortunes have been made through this style of website. These designers have often done their homework and tweaked their website sales-machines to perfection so don’t write these off as unprofessional or ineffective. An unprofessional website is the one that doesn’t generate sales – nothing more.

So how do you optimize your site to generate the best results without getting too far off-track like the site descriptions above?

  1. Make it EASY to contact your business. Their should be a phone number, email, and/or contact us button on every page so that it’s visible at all times.
  2. Never make anything more than 2 menu’s deep (unless you sell millions of products). This is a lesson learned from the “Long-winded” guys. You can’t direct people through the 4.5 points of successful marketing if you have too many clicks. People want their questions answered right away and in a logical progression and if they have to click through more than 2 menus deep to get those answers they’re much more likely to leave.
  3. Relate your pages to each other. I was just searching for car parts for my 2008 Mitsubishi Evolution X on a performance parts website. The website had some awesome Youtube videos of their 10 second Evo with a listing of the parts they sell and used on that car. Only problem was the list of parts didn’t link back to the spot where I can buy the parts. After 30 minutes of navigating around I’m still not sure if the parts I found were the same ones they used on their own car! The point is, don’t make every visitor have to go back to your home page to find what they need. If you reference another product, idea, or reason to do business with you on an individual page, you better have a link to your reference.
  4. Provide testimonials. You can say all you want about your solutions and business however that never has the same effect as third-party testimonials from your customers. If your website doesn’t have those, start gathering them right away. Gathering testimonials is literally as simple as asking for them so be sure to ask!

4. Tracking or Analytics – Since we’re all looking for the simple answer let me give you just that. The most important performance number for your website is your conversion rate. This is the number of customers created divided by the number of visitors. In other words, if you have 100 visitors and 4 bought from you (or scheduled an appointment for a service-based business), your conversion rate would be 4% (4/100). Some benchmarks for conversion rates by industry are available courtesy of Fireclick.com where the current internet average conversion rate is 4.3%. It’s also helpful to talk to other people in your specific industry if possible. As a point of comparison, my conversion rate in the 4th quarter of 2009 was 6.5% for my local service-based business. In a future blog we’ll discuss ways to really analyze your Google Analytics stats to determine how to improve your conversion rate.

To your website’s selling success, Bryan

P.S. Here’s another short article about website design by Barry A. Densa at Melissadata.com that I think is very appropriate.