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I learned what irritates business people most a few weeks ago. It's jargon. In fact a few years ago I read that over 25 per cent of business executives admitted to using jargon they didn't understand in meetings.
No wonder, then, that when it comes to selling technological things, so many messages dissolve into a sort of linguistic swamp.
Here's a good example from an e-mail someone sent me:
At Blah-co we have just developed an email stationery online software package that allows one in house member of staff to deploy all email users with a professionally designed Email stationery template, designed by one of our team of designers to all users and to include their unique contact details, meaning not only will the presentation of their emails improve but equally as important all be consistent throughout your organisation. (whew!)
Because of the way the templates are constructed our solutions avoid all types filtering ensuring your mail always arrives.
Well, I think I understand the beginning and the end and recognise all the words but I'm damned if I know what they mean when put together.
Here's another series of examples extracted from mailings sent by another firm.
"Are you one of those lucky few who have bedded down IT operations?"
"Would you realise a significant increase in business agility, accelerated decision making, employees pursuing a common agenda and a heightened awareness of your strategy?"
"Miss or ignore priority system availability or leadership messages"
"Adopting a new change driver that communicates change and strategy in a high impact and engaging way"
"Intranets suffer the limitations of pull technology"
"A controlled feedback channel enables you to capture a snapshot of employee morale in real time"
"Cascade this down to your people"
They actually have something great to sell, so we tried to translate their stuff into English.
Every day, you send tens, hundreds, maybe thousands of e-mails to people who want or need to hear from you.
Maybe they're your colleagues, your customers, your employees or your prospects: many may actually have asked to hear from you.
Then what happens?
Your "wanted" messages get lost in a sea of Spam. So the poor recipients go through the infuriating task of fishing out what really interests them from all that rubbish.
A **** sends your messages on a different route. One that avoids the traffic jams. It's a desktop alert that jumps onto your screen no matter what you're doing. You can't ignore it; it appears whether you're onscreen or off.
And that's why firms as varied as Sky, Arsenal Football Club. Kelloggs and Warner Brothers use them.
Winston Churchill said, "Use simple words everyone knows, then everyone will understand."
This is important especially if you're selling a financial or technical product or service. Use a bit of jargon to reassure the anoraks, but put the rest in plain English.
Confucius said that if language is used incorrectly, what is said is not what is meant, everything goes to pot and "the people stand about in helpless confusion".
If you wish for a few text-book cases, consider the National Health Service or the police force.
On the other hand, if you actually relish a little chaos, you need the economy bullshit generator. Click here and give it a go. It will add a welcome touch of drivel to your meetings.
Before you launch your new website make sure you get these ten fundamental tips right. This checklist will ensure you are maximising your web presence by having a strong search engine ranking position for targeted keywords in your industry.
1. Cross browser checks
Make sure you have done a thorough check on all popular browsers before your website goes live. The ones to check are IE 7 and 8, Firefox 3, Safari 3, Chrome and Opera.
2. Check that all your links works
Although it may seem like an obvious tip, use a free tool like Xenu Link Sleuth to check for dead links on your website.
3. Create a custom 404 Page
Design a custom 404 page to ensure users aren’t clicking off your site if they come across a dead link. Use this page to give users popular links and a search facility for them to continue to find the right page.
4. Choose the right keywords
Keyword research is highly important when constructing content for your website. Pick two or three word terms as these are easier to work with and are known to have a higher conversion rate than single word terms.
For instant traffic to your website, use Google Adwords Sponsored Links. These ads are typically displayed across the top in a beige colour and down the right hand side of the search results. However, be aware that your campaign may cost you a lot of money if incorrectly set up and monitored.
Add a blog to your website but don’t use your blog to only talk about your products, instead discuss non-commercial topics which will help to drive traffic to your website i.e. a guide to buying the right widgets.
5. Make sure your title tag includes keywords
Make sure each page of your website has a unique <title> tag and that this tag starts with the keyword targeted to this page. For instance:
<title>Metal Widgets | Buy Aluminium, Brass and Steel Widgets for sale at Bobs Engineering</title>
In this example, the title tag has additional information such as different types of metal and selling messages like “for sale”. Also notice the company name is at the end.
6. Consider your meta description for high CTR
To attract a high number of visitors via Google, consider your meta description tags. Use this tag to display your unique selling point such as:
“Free next day delivery on our award-winning Leather Sofa – guaranteed to be the lowest price sofas for sale online”
7. Proofread and check your site
Get your family and friends to check all details on your website before it goes live – this includes phone numbers, email addresses, addresses and names. Ensure all your place-holer text has been removed!
Make sure each page of your website contains at least 50 words of exclusive content. Pay particular attention to product details and category descriptions and ensure you include the target keyword for that page.
Don’t be tempted to copy text from other people’s website or catalogues as this will incur a duplicate content penalty from Google. You can test how unique your content is for free at http://www.copyscape.com/.
8. Use a sitemap and submit to Google Webmaster tools
Generate an XML Sitemap and submit it to the Webmaster tools of Google, Bing and Yahoo. Using GWT, you’re able to diagnose any crawl issues with your website and get statistics on which pages on your site are broken and how many pages on Google have been indexed when the site is launched.
9. Use Google Analytics
To analyse and monitor the success of your website, set up a Google Analytics account. This way you can measure the traffic to your website and keep an eye on visitor retention. It is also a useful tool for checking the success of your keywords and highlights what people are searching for.
10. Contact authority sites for valuable links
Once your website is launched, the next stage to improving your ranking for a particular keyword is to have a significant number of links to your website using your target term as the clickable text link. This can take a lot of time and effort so it can be beneficial to get a professional SEO team to help you with this.
These tips were brought to you by Leeds SEO Company Blueclaw.
Part of the marketing communications food chain that we don’t hear so much about is the discipline of message definition. But for me, it’s the essential preparation that needs to happen before you really get stuck into communicating with the outside world. I do a lot of work for corporates in helping them define, distil and articulate key messages to their clients and target audiences, and although the process demands a certain amount of rigour, it’s not just for the big boys.
Every business, no matter what the size, needs to be absolutely clear about their messages from the outset. At any moment in time, you need to be able to clearly articulate what your business stands for, what you believe in, what marks you out as different and what kind of value you provide to your customers. This is more than an elevator pitch – this is describing the very soul of your company.
So think about it now. How would you answer the following questions?
Set aside time and space to think about these questions and really refine your answers. Write it down. Talk about it with colleagues, clients, and – best of all – those who are completely unrelated to your business. Do they understand what you have to say?
I advise clients to undertake this exercise every six months at least. Because as the world changes around us, it’s important to revisit who you are, how you do what you do and what is critical to you and those you serve.
Once you’ve established your messages, you’ll not only look at your business differently, but you’ll find that your communications will flow so much more fluently, through all the channels you choose to employ.
A new wave of marketing seems to be emerging. Collaboration, synergy, sponsorship, integration, partnership, engagement and branded content are terms heard on a daily basis. You could even argue that the UK government is joining this shift in marketing by uniting two different parties to reach one goal – although that might be stretching things a bit!
It seems obvious that this shift has come about because of the recession – brands and marketing teams are now forced to find new ways of obtaining the same results with half the budget and half the resource. Partnerships have proven to be the perfect solution. By partnering, brands are able to achieve more than they could have achieved alone.
The most interesting thing about this shift is its longevity — this new collaborative way of working looks set to continue well after we are in recovery. As a result, we are seeing a more engaged audience, more innovative marketing campaigns and strategic partnerships across all sectors and channels.
In particular, partnership through sponsorship is becoming increasingly popular. Professional associations, product launches, independent films and band tours are now realising how beneficial these types of sponsorships are. Sponsorship funding is a multi-billion pound industry in the UK and everyone wants to get a piece of that pie.
Done well, these partnerships add value to all parties involved. The rights owner receives additional sponsorship funding, the sponsor receives a receptive targeted audience and the audience receives added value through more engagement with the event. It’s a win-win-win situation and I anticipate that sponsorship and collaboration in all its forms will continue to thrive well into the future.
Jackie Fast is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut.
I started running marketing workshops for my customers back in January 2007 and I haven’t looked back since. Each workshop has helped me to develop relationships with my customers, find new customers, demonstrate my expertise and most importantly, help my clients grow their businesses.
Some workshops have been easy to fill, others harder. And whilst no one could say that they’ve been easy money, I’ve made a great profit out of each and every one of them and generated significant amounts of business after the event from the delegates in the room. You could say that I’ve had such a good experience with them that I’ve become quite evangelical about running them! In fact, I recommend that many of my clients run them for their customers too.
But many of the business owners I speak to can’t quite get to grips with the idea of running a workshop. They know it’s a good idea, but they get that sort of glazed look in their eyes when I mention it, and I can see them thinking “Just agree with her and she’ll stop pushing you”. But I can see that for most business owners, running a workshop is scary.
So why wouldn’t you run a workshop? Why might it be a bad idea? Well having done a bit of a brainstorm, I have a few theories.
Firstly I think people are scared. “Who do I think I am to run a workshop on X, Y or Z”. They’re worried about being lynched by their competitors for daring to put themselves out there as an authority on the subject. But you can’t run your business for the benefit of your competitors. You have to do what’s right for you, your business and your customers. If you think that you have some knowledge that will help your customers, why not share it?
I also think they’re worried about being “found out”. Found out by their customers for not being the world authority on their subject. Worried about having someone in the room who knows more than them. Worried about looking like a fool.
Well you know what? Maybe there will be someone in the room who knows more than you. Unless you’re a professor in your subject, the chances are that you don’t know it all. But if you’re clear about what you are good at and who this workshop is for, you will add value to your delegates and you won’t look like a fool. I promise.
People are also worried about no-one coming. Selling 20 spaces on a workshop is not easy. Even if people tell you it’s a good idea to run a workshop on the subject of your choice, getting those people to commit financially and making sure they’re available on the day isn’t easy. It takes skill, tenacity and organisation to fill a workshop. And that puts people off. Either they’ve tried it and had their fingers burnt, or the sheer scale of what they need to do puts them off.
Having filled workshops and conferences for more than three years now I know how tough it is. But I promise you that the benefits far outweigh the hard work.
Here's a strange story for you.
A few months ago I wrote an e-mail for a firm selling investment advice.
They took forever to get the damn thing out and never told us how it did, but one day sent us an e-mail asking us to adapt it for another firm's list with whom they had a deal.
By accident we saw two revealing insights into why so much marketing is bad.
An internal message said our e-mail was outdoing anything before — which would have been nice to know.
And note from the other firm said their new marketing chief was more interested in brand values than response, so could we make our e-mail shorter and less aggressive.
This reminded me of what the smartest guy with the biggest brand in the world said about marketing.
Sergio Zyman is the former chief marketing officer of Coca-Cola. In five years, when few people thought Coke could sell any more, he and his team increased its sales by 50 per cent, and the share price quadrupled.
You couldn't imagine anyone less like a direct marketer than someone who sells Coca-Cola. Or anyone you might think more dedicated to brand values.
What your job really is
Zyman could teach a lot of direct marketers who hanker after quasi- intellectual tripe about the realities of life.
He said in his excellent (and funny) book "The end of marketing as we know it" that marketers should be "the ultimate stewards of return on investment in assets".
Zyman’s wonderfully down-to-earth definition of the aim of marketing is this: "To get more people to buy more stuff more often at higher prices so the company makes more money".
He says a lot in his book about marketers' lack of intellectual discipline, and the way they fail to set exact targets, talking vaguely about "more" sales, "more" market share but never putting a figure on the increases — saying precisely how much more.
As I always say — though I probably stole it from someone smarter than me — if you aim at nothing, you usually hit your mark.
Zyman is particularly critical about the way marketers get into the boardroom and then start being more interested in what goes on there than their customers.
One of his best stories tells how he showed his first Coca-Cola ads in 1993 to his boss Roberto Goizueta, who said, "I don't like those ads."
"Look, Roberto," he replied, "If you're willing to buy 100 per cent of the volume worldwide then I'm happy to do the advertising that you like. Otherwise I've got to keep doing it to those damned consumers."
My favourite quote on this is from one of the great businessmen of the 20th century.
The architect of Sears, Roebuck's rise to become the world's greatest retailer was Julius Rosenwald. He once remarked, "My ambition is to stand on both sides of the counter at once."
I doubt if he ever used the phrase "brand values". He just knew that no matter how important such things may be, "Nothing happens in business until something gets sold."
Who said that? Thomas J Watson Jr. of IBM. Strange how the best people tend to say similar things, isn't it?