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What every SEO can learn from Drayton Bird

June 14, 2011 by John Straw

Twenty years ago I discovered Drayton Bird and his book Common Sense Direct Marketing.

What I loved most about direct marketing was how developing direct relationships with prospects could be scientific, measurable and very accountable. What you could then do it use a combination acquired knowledge, best practice and creative marketing to maximise on-going response and revenues.

So what has this got to do with you? Paid search experts use these skills every day. They may not know they are using 30-year-old skills, but at least they are using them. The same is true of email marketers.

In my opinion, SEO experts and especially link builders are not aware enough of these skills and how direct marketing can help them beat the competition, and they should be.

What I am suggesting now is that every business should reconnect with Direct Marketing and Drayton Bird now, and here is why.

How do you maximise link-building response rates?

The main method of outreach for a link builder is email. Direct mail professionals will tell you that the ingredients that define what kind of response you’re going to get to your attempt to engage with another individual in order of importance are:

  • List
  • Offer
  • Timing
  • Creative

Let me take each of these in turn and apply them to SEO with a view to increasing your SEO performance.

The list

Generating a list of backlinks from the common and openly available link list providers gives you nothing more than a poorly targeted cold call list capable of generating you a poor response rate to any offer or creative you approach them with.

Why? Because you’ve not been able to clean, profile and segment the data according to criteria that are important to your specific campaign. A process used and perfected by direct mail specialists when most of us reading this were at school.

So if you work through poorly qualified lists of links, STOP. Think about how accurate, segmentable, and responsive those lists really are. Would be better-spent using much better data sources?

The offer

Matching what you want to say to sell to the target audience has a huge impact on conversion. If blogger outreach is your strategy, aren’t you better just talking to bloggers that have a history of linking to sites like yours? If you want to get links from curated resource pages, aren’t you better off talking to webmasters of sites that create and curate resources? You get the idea.


When I planned press media, Monday was the best day for response and it reduced in a straight lined as the week went on. I’ve seen some email marketing data to suggest a similar thing happens. I also know some brilliant PPC specialists who adjust campaigns by month, week, day and hour to maximise response.

I also know that PR specialists are very time-aware. They think a great deal about when is best to place a story, taking into account the new agenda of the day or week, the seasonality of a specific market, or the editorial agenda of the publication being targeted.

Time is likely to apply to your efforts the question is how and can you use it to maximise each campaign’s effectiveness.

The creative

Finally we get to the creative— whether you’re sending out emails, press releases, or even commenting. What you say and how you say it will matter hugely. It’s of no surprise that Drayton has also written a book on writing sales letters that sell.

What are you saying and is it really going to get the best response rate possible? Are you testing and measuring different techniques for achieving your goals?

Which brings me back to where I started. I think we can all learn from Drayton, and I think we should invest in the best data available to pitch relevant offers at the right time with smart responsive creative. We should then measure the response rate and carry on engaging with our new link partners. All Common Sense Direct Marketing!

John Straw is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and the founder and VP of Business Development of Linkdex.

Want to read more about Drayton Bird?

Drayton is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut. Here are a few of his inspirational articles and blogs:

Have you got an addiction to discounting?

Are you talking to me? Getting the right tone of voice in your customer communication

35 things I have found to be almost always true

How much can you afford to spend on marketing?

Want to get results? - ditch the jargon

Enough about me — let’s talk about you

But what about us?

June 13, 2011 by Sharon Tanton

About us written on hand

Chances are the most viewed pages on your website are About Us and your client list. Who are you, and who trusts you with their business? Two key things that potential clients want to know before getting in touch.

Client lists are self explanatory — names, logos, testimonials, and soundbites all linked to case studies add credibility to your business.

But what about your About Us? The section is a chance to let potential clients see the real you, and to show a bit of personality. But what bit of you, and how much personality? There are infinite ways of doing it, and we thought it would be useful to outline an approach we like.

Tips on creating a powerful About Us page

Do see the page from your potential client’s point of view. Your golfing prowess might be awesome, but how does that help them? Write about your approach to the business, not your hobbies.

Do think about the page as part of your business story. Write about how your role fits and contributes to that story. “Before joining x I worked as a sales consultant for fifteen years. My understandings of what can make or break a sale help my clients succeed.”

Do share your mission. What do you believe, and why? Define your audience — what kind of people can your business help?

Do interpret your data with your offer clearly in mind. So don’t just say, “I worked as an accountant for 20 years before starting my payroll business,” write “20 years in accountancy showed me how crucial payroll services are to business success.” Keep asking yourself “why is this relevant?”.

Don’t write too much. Remember the rules of good web writing. Short and to the point is good. Strong headlines will draw people in, so link to further pages if there’s more to say. 

Do make sure the whole page links well to the rest of your site. Relevant About Us copy will make natural links to your clients and services and approach, so embed them in the site. Fire enthusiasm, and lead people seamlessly to the rest of your content.

Do use good professional pictures of you and your team. People like to see who they will be working with.

Don’t be too obscure. You might feel that you’re best represented by a picture of a lovely smooth pebble or a snap of Kermit the frog, but not everyone will get it. (However if you do want to go down an alternative visual representation route, make sure your explanation is easy to find and written with wit.)

Don’t be boring but…

Don’t be “wacky” or “zany” or anything that could be remotely interpreted as something Timmy Mallet might do. Nothing along the “you don’t have to be crazy to work here…” lines, please.

Do ask for help. An independent view can be really valuable in helping you see what’s most relevant and most compelling for a potential client.

Sharon Tanton is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut, a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant and a Valuable Content associate.

Four ways to reduce the dreaded email churn

June 10, 2011 by Georgia Christian

Email @ envelope

Email list churn could be considered one of the few “givens” in life (next to death and taxes that is). No? OK fine, it’s not that dramatic but it is something that most marketers have to deal with on a regular basis.

Email churn refers to the number of subscribers who are lost to your list over a given period and it’s measured by the number of hard bounces, unsubscribes or spam complaints you receive. On average a marketer experiences 20-30 per cent of list churn every year, but you can work out your rate with this simple equation:

Tally up your hard bounces, unsubscribes and spam complaints for the time period you’re interested in and divide this total number of lost subscribers by your current list size. A quick example looks like this: 3,000 (lost subscribers) / 10,000 (current list size) = 0.3 x 100 = 30% list churn rate.

It is inevitable to a certain extent but there are steps you can take to reduce list churn. They aren’t quick fixes, but if you make a concerted effort to employ these tactics you’ll start seeing positive results:

1. Be honest with your subscribers

When your subscribers first sign up, tell them exactly what they can expect to receive from you, and stick to your word. If you have a few different newsletters, then set up an email preference centre where they can update their profile and change their preferences whenever they want. This is also a good time to disclose your privacy policy, in layman’s terms, which means letting your subscribers know that you aren’t going to sell, rent or disclose any of their details to anyone else.

2. Learn from your mistakes

If someone unsubscribes, politely request feedback about why they’re opting out and what you could do better, and then do what you can to implement the suggestions into future campaigns. It all helps with customer engagement and you should use the constructive criticism to adapt your strategy and help ensure you meet the expectations of the next customer who signs up.

3. Make things easy for your subscribers

Initially, they want a quick and simple opt-in and unsubscribe process along with reliable contact details, so make sure these aspects of your campaign are optimised for this. Incorporating a simple preference centre also makes for a better user experience. Not only is this a good way of engaging with your subscribers, but the data is hugely beneficial to you too, because you can use it to segment your audience and target them more effectively.

4. Re-engage inactive subscribers

Inactive subscribers (those who haven’t opened or clicked on any of your emails in the past six months) also affect your list churn. Don’t despair! Rather see it as an opportunity to re-engage and get them interested again in what you have to offer. Assuming these subscribers are bored with your email offerings, your reactivation campaign needs to jump out at them and offer something truly irresistible that’s going to guarantee a high open rate.

Georgia Christian is the editor of the online email marketing service Mail Blaze.

Marketing - more than commonsense?

June 10, 2011 by Sian Lenegan

Everyone is talking about integrated marketing. But what does it really mean in the context of your business and the day-to-day 9 to 5 shuffle?

It goes without saying that every part of your business should be connected to marketing in some way, and taking an integrated approach is the back-bone of success. But what does that mean?

If you’re a small business you wear many hats or if you are a larger company you have several departmentalised functions. Let’s start with marketing. Marketing is there to find new customers and ways of providing those customers with the satisfaction and value they derive from your product or service. The role of sales is hopefully made easier by the marketing activities. Operations or your production team are there to deliver what is promised by marketing and do so efficiently and profitably. The finance department has to support marketing and operations in the fulfillment of their accountabilities and maintain the company’s profits.

This is obviously painting a very basic picture but what I’m getting at is that every part of your business touches marketing and if everything is integrated, the power of innovation is in your hands.

Doing new things

Innovation allows us to do new things. The process by which your business does business is a marketing tool in itself. It is the mechanism by which you can find and keep customers. It’s what I would call “differentiation”.

If your business process and every department of your business is really in tune with marketing, you’ll find powerful ways to be innovative. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering; it could be in changing a few words or a small gesture. Every department of your business must always ask, “what is the best way to do this?” and always take the customer’s point of view. Which brings me nicely onto my next point.

Customer is king

Heard that one before haven’t we? What it means for business owners and marketers is that any marketing strategy starts, ends, lives, breaths and dies with your customer. Everything else is a moot point, nothing but the customer and what the customer wants matters. These customers have a sea of expectations, their attitudes, beliefs, opinions and everything else that makes up the subconscious mind is where the buying decision is made. We’re starting to dive into the psychology of sales and that’s not what this is about, let’s talk about marketing again.

There are two pillars to any successful marketing strategy — the demographics and psychographics. So what I’m saying is that if you understand who your customer is, you can determine why they buy.

Taking it seriously

OK, forgive me for being a little over dramatic, Marketing isn’t really as complicated as I’ve described and nor does it need a degree in psychology. The point is that most small and medium-sized businesses regard the function of marketing as mere “common sense”.

What is common sense? All common sense amounts to is your opinion. We see businesses all too often deciding what they want to do without any information and without any interest in what is true. This could be as simple as throwing together a clip art logo and choosing colours because that’s the colour your dog likes, but in reality it will completely and utterly turn off your target customer right away.

These may be strong words but I am trying to prove a point. There is a science to marketing. You need to be interested in it and you need to give it the investment in time and resources that it deserves. There’s a reason that companies like Disney, Fedex and McDonald’s spend what they do to get their brands right and get their marketing message out to their customers.

Small businesses obviously don’t have the money to throw at marketing like these brands do but you can afford to make sure that there isn’t one part of your business within your company that isn’t asking questions around marketing.

And if you are going to do something, isn’t it worth doing it properly? You know what they say — if you invest in peanuts you will get monkeys. Find a credible expert who can quickly show an understanding of your business and your customer to help you market effectively. It’s an investment.


Sian Lenegan is account director at Sixth Story.

Who are your competitors? An SEO perspective

June 08, 2011 by John Straw

Black binocularsIn the “old world”, a competitor might be someone who you could readily identify — someone in the local phone book who was on the same page as you or someone who bought ads on the same radio station as you, for the same products and services.

But in a world where customers have swapped the phone book and the local paper for search engines such as Google or Bing, a competitor is someone who ranks more highly than you for the keywords or phrases that define your business.

These competitors might not even be in the same town or country. Of course, you might be lucky. You might have a hyper-local business where you have a monopoly within a certain geographical reach, but even then, you might be missing out on customers who don’t know your business name and are searching for generic phrases.

Understanding how to be at the top of search engines can give you a huge advantage over your competition. The internet is still a relatively immature media and while an increasing number of businesses understand the importance of having a website, not all have understood the importance of natural or organic search, which is probably what brought you here.

In fact, sometimes the largest companies are the slowest to react to new technology, so you may be able to “punch above your weight” and rank more highly in Google and Bing than competition who used to be able to outspend you using traditional advertising methods.

This isn’t new. Sun Tzu, the strategist and warrior said:

“If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.”

He also said:

“Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.”

The phone book of the day is a search engine and understanding your customers and how they find you is a business imperative. If your customers are finding your competitors first, then understanding why your competitors are beating you is the first step to turning around that situation.


John Straw is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and the founder and VP of Business Development of Linkdex.

More insight into competitors:

Do you know what your competitors are up to?

Keeping your eyes on the competition

What to do when your competitor lowers their prices

Posted in Online marketing | Tagged SEO, competitors | 3 comments

Three top tips to maximise referrals

June 07, 2011 by Craig McKenna

Receiving good referrals from your business contacts is a great way to bring in new business. The prospective customer is more comfortable with the possible transaction as you have been recommended to them and a lot of the initial hard work of engaging dialogue is removed. Referrals are good news all round but how do you get more of them?

Here are my top three tips on how to make the most of potential referrals.

1. Make it very easy for your contacts to refer people to you

Nobody enjoys sounding confused or not being able to answer questions. If they don’t know how to articulate what it is that you do they won’t be able to refer you, so make sure your proposition is simple and that they have the tools to be able to refer you effectively. I was fortunate enough to have an excellent group of non-execs involved in a business a few years back, they were very well-connected but never brought any referrals into meetings. I challenged them on this and after much discussion it became clear that the company proposition was too cumbersome for them to articulate easily when they met potential referrals. I refined it, they brought referrals.

2. Follow-up properly

It is essential that if someone takes the time to give you a referral that you follow it up properly. Basic courtesy dictates that even if you feel that the referral is a waste of time it is important that you at the very least email/ call the referred party. You may be wrong, you really never know what potential business is behind the referral until you speak with the prospect. I received a referral a couple of years ago that seemed very random and a total waste but once I spoke to the company it transpired that they were looking to launch something new and that was what they wished to speak about, it was a great piece of business. You just never know until you make the call, so make the call.

3. Thank your referrers

This may sound like the most obvious tip of them all but it just doesn’t happen often enough. Whether the referral results in business or not you need to make the effort to thank the person that make the intro. In a recent exercise, a  client of mine found that he had received over 50 referrals over a three-year period but not one had referred more than once, a stat which surprised us both. We went back six months and thanked them all, with an email update on what had happened with the referrals, sending an email plus a couple of bottles of wine to the ones which had led to business. From those 14, eight have since referred again. Not only is it the right thing to do, but thanking your referrers actually generates more business!

Craig McKenna is a managing partner at The Growth Academy.

Posted in Sales | Tagged sales, referrals | 0 comments

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