Tuesday, November 29, 2016

11 Ways to Improve a Boring Sales Page Without Resorting to Hype

11 Ways to Improve a Boring Sales Page Without Resorting to Hype

Whether you sell car widgets, consulting, cab service, camping stoves, or customized cabinets, the day will come when you have to write up something to sell them.

The best advice is to be straightforward: Simply write who it's for, what it is, why people should buy it, and how to order. If your clear and direct draft then seems just too boring to you, you don't have to do the verbal equivalent of dressing up in a plastic burger suit and jumping up and down at passing cars.

You can give your copy a little rhythm and oomph with one or more of these more subtle jazzifying moves:

1. Alliteration

In the first sentence of this article, it was purposely overdone alliteration by having five things in a row that started with the letter "c." When you use only two or three sequential words beginning with the same letter or sound, however, it tends to stay under the radar while perking up the reader.

2. Anecdote

Tell an illustrative story in only a sentence or two.

For a lightweight camping stove, your story could be, "One of our customers came in after hiking the whole Pacific Coast Trail and thanked us for all the cold mornings the stove had enabled him to have hot coffee and oatmeal instead of granola, granola, and more granola."

In the description of a program on information marketing, the writing goes, "In the 1990s, my husband and I would sit in our living room opening bins full of envelopes, then stacking checks and money orders in one pile and dollar bills in another heap so high they'd begin to topple over."

3. Before and After

Right after that sentence about the dollar bills,  the scene was contrasted with the present day: "These days it's not as much work to count the money, but it's just as much fun to tell each other how many orders came in while we were sleeping, enjoying the outdoors, or traveling for weeks and months at a time."

Likewise, you can add color to your pitch by comparing how something used to be and how it is now: "Five years ago, Fineran Consulting had only three clients. Through word-of-mouth, it grew in leaps and bounds until its client list looked like the Who's Who of the Twin Cities."

4. Sentence Variety

To inject life into a page that seems like a snoozer, simply fiddle with the sentences so some sentences are short and others much longer, rather than all being of average length. How short? Very short is fine. Inserting a question here or there livens things up also. Notice how this was done in this tip.

5. General to Specific

Suppose  this post started like this: "Whatever you sell, the day will come when you have to write something up to sell it." It's OK, but the actual opening sentence is spiffier.

Look for places in your text where you made general statements, and bring them to life by substituting or sprinkling in particulars. Phrase patterns that accomplish this include "ranging from X to Y" and "such as A, B and C, to name a few."

6. Freshened Cliché

A cliché is a phrase so familiar that everyone can finish the wording if you stop halfway through:

  • Dead as a doornail
  • The real McCoy
  • Read you the Riot Act

Foil the reader's expectations by changing one of the words so the phrase still means much the same, but gains an interesting twist or takes on the opposite meaning. For instance:

  • "In 2009, the local real estate market was dead as a doorstop."
  • "Bill Barringer, our founder, is the real McSpy of competitive intelligence."
  • "When you come to Gentle Waters, we read you the Relaxation Act."

7. Translated Jargon

Most of the time you're wrong when you think everyone understands the insider lingo that's etched deeply into your brain cells. For that reason, and also for a change of pace, it's a relief to readers when you add a plain-English explanation of industry terminology, as in "Human capital—that is, people viewed as company assets," or "We bring together all the stakeholders, which in most cases means the landowners, people from town government and representatives of local environmental groups."

8. Unexpected Word

Is "jazzifying," in the third paragraph of this article, a word? Maybe not, but  you sure recognized it meant "to make more jazzy." Don't be afraid to use one or two words that aren't normally part of business talk.

Those words shouldn't be graduate-level, abstruse terms like "ossification" or "anthropocentric," but, rather, colorful verbs, nouns, and adjectives, like "bamboozle," "poorhouse," or "antsy."

Foreign words, too, like "hara-kiri," (ritual suicide, Japanese), "alfresco" (outdoors, Italian), and "verblunget" (totally confused, Yiddish) simply have a certain "je ne sais quoi" (an elusive yet pleasing quality, French) that adds sonic texture to your prose.

9. Shorter Paragraphs
Divide long paragraphs in half. They then read much more crisply on the Web.
Try it yourself.

10. Examples

If you've read this far, guessing one of the reasons is the examples. When someone not only says what you should do but also rounds out the advice with examples, readers' minds get spinning more usefully than from the same advice with no illustrations of how to do it.

11. An Exception

Dial back on a positive attribute of your product or service by describing an instance when that attribute isn't or wasn't true.

Adding such an exception often has a humorous effect, and it makes your overall claim more believable: for example, "Unless you stick them in a meat cooler for a month, our widgets start up instantly."

The best example of this approach in business is by The Linton Company, which says, "Where nice people answer the phone (with possibly one exception)."

A little of the above goes a long way. If every sentence dances at the reader, you'll provoke dizziness rather than desire to buy. Use just enough to wake the reader up so he or she pays attention instead of skimming on by. If you start getting comments about your writing, you may have done a bit too much.

The feedback that indicates you've done it just right? More people inputting their credit card information, opting in, or calling you for appointments.

If you need help with your email, web site, video, or other presentation to promote your company, product, or service, please give me a call at 440-519-1500 or e-mail me at john@x2media.us.

X2 Media can help you target your content and get your message to the audience in a way that it is not only seen and heard, but remembered.

Until next month….remember, “you don’t get a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression”. Always make it a good one!

From X2Media I would like to thank you for your time.

John E. Hornyak

X2Media, LLC

Three Ways Marketers Can Master Strategic Word-of-Mouth

Three Ways Marketers Can Master Strategic Word-of-Mouth

Positive word-of-mouth (WOM) has long been documented as a powerful tool for growth. Happy customers stake their reputation on recommending your product or service; that fact became the foundation for the Net Promoter System (NPS).

On the flip side, unhappy customers can spread negative word-of-mouth. The threat of negative WOM can be much more daunting and is difficult to control.

The good news is that unlike our B2C brethren, we B2B marketers can strategically manage word-of-mouth.

Especially because B2B is marked by ongoing relationships between customer and supplier, we have the opportunity to both increase positive WOM and convert detractors before they go public.

So here are three ways B2B marketers can ensure WOM skews positive for them.

1. Wake up the dead
Yes, zombies are real: They're your silent customers, and they may have given up on you. And although they may not be talking to you, that doesn't mean they're keeping quiet. They've got plenty of colleagues and friends who work in a similar field, who attend the same conferences, or who will find themselves in the line of fire during the next rant.

The thing is, silent accounts (or the "unhappy silent majority") are actually crying out for help, but they just don't see a point in being vocal with you. Perhaps because they have already "checked out" or don't see the value in providing feedback if there is a lack of trust you'll do anything with it.

To convey your commitment to using customer feedback, partner with your accounts/customer success team to help position and communicate that your company truly listens. With the resulting voice-of-the-customer input, you should be able to help the rest of the company find the optimal improvement opportunities, address these silent customers' needs, and save these accounts. Prove their opinions matter and are valued by your company; then, you will have an even stronger case study with customers willing to sing your praises!

So find out who these silent accounts are, and look for trends in use case, buyer persona, or other segmentation and use them when planning the next campaign or strategy document to target and catch more of the "best fit" prospects.

2. Keep all of your advocates close...
Account teams might have a handle on which customers are more vocal than others, but Marketing can use customer sentiment data to find all your advocates.

The tricky part to knowing a "customer" in B2B is really understanding who is part of the buying committee and who are all the end users who might be logging in to your product every day. But if you're only getting end-user's input, then you're missing out on key information that could help drive stronger relationships with the executives in the account.

The strongest case studies have a VP or senior sponsor highlighting your product, so be sure to cast a wide net when thinking about advocates. Everyone who makes up an account is a possible promoter at a tradeshow, a naysayer at a meetup event, or someone who is in between and is therefore a missed opportunity as someone who might speak up and enhance someone else's perception of you.

Whether via NPS or another method, by understanding which customers are happy and successful with your company's products and services, marketers gain a pool of advocates who are essentially raising their hand to promote you.

From there, you can activate those promoters and build a pipeline for positive reviews, case studies, and referrals for Sales. These interactions, when handled well, strengthen relationships to create loyalty and make it easier to increase engagement at the right times.
By having a bigger pool of promoters to choose from, you'll line up the right advocate for the right "ask" and eliminate the worry of burning out the same customers over and over.

3. And keep your detractors closer
OK, maybe not "closer"; but negative word-of-mouth is clearly a much bigger animal to corral since it's much harder to track and measure. But think of it this way: Even if you know of customers who are promoting you, but you forget to also pay attention to unhappy customers, you're advocate marketing work is essentially all for nothing. You might have an arsenal of great case studies, but they won't hold the same weight as a colleague unleashing his lack of enthusiasm (or worse) for your company at the next opportunity.

And that's the real issue: How can you possibly get ahead of every negative conversation that could sway someone's decision to do business with you? You can't. But you can take advantage of feedback data to learn what makes a detractor, determine characteristics of success, and use that to build customer-marketing campaigns that drive retention.

You can also identify trends where certain buyer personas or account types have misaligned expectations, and then course-correct future product messaging. Product marketers work with Sales—a major setter of expectations—to influence leads and conversions. You can stop a bad cycle of perpetual churn, whereby poor-fit customers are brought in for short-term gains.

Marketers can have a major effect on revenue growth by reducing the long-term costs of support and account teams that are continually fighting fires.

Bottom line: don't miss out on the opportunity to learn from detractors!

In the end, B2B buyers and customers are complex, so managing WOM is never going to be solved with a silver bullet. It's important to distinguish among all the contacts within an account to truly understand the pulse of sentiment. By creating a dialogue and partnering with other teams in the organization, B2B marketers have some unique tools they can use to get ahead of the WOM game.