Eat it #26! OMI’s Top 40 Digital Strategists List

I just received an email that I’m really excited to share:

“The Online Marketing Institute has officially released their list of the ‘Top 40 Digital Strategists’ leading the industry, and they are thrilled to include you, and your advice for 2013.”

Alphabetically, we’re at #25 on the OMI list with some brilliant leaders in the digital strategy field. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know many of them, and they are definitely the cream of the crop.

And, any list that puts the likes of Scott Brinker and Joe Pulizzi in the honorable mention category is clearly less than scientific. Joe, Scott, my advice is to buy OMI’s Aaron Kahlow a cooler full of steaks before next year’s list is published.

Nonetheless, it feels great to have your work recognized.

Check out the entire list of winners.

If you want to know how smart these folks really are, read their top advice.

Thanks again to OMI for the honor. I am…. well….. honored.

[signature]

A Quick How-To on Using Your Marketing Battery

This a guest post by Your Customer Creation Equation reader and email marketer Elliott Breadmore.

When I launched my first website I was full of excitement and enthusiasm, looking forward to providing thousands of people with valuable information that I had learned. Sharing my knowledge on my site was the easy part though. Getting the views is another thing.

For example, getting views through back linking can be a tediously long and frustrating process. It can require hours and hours of dedication and can sometimes have only minuscule results. If done wrong it can annoy viewers and bring negative sentiments to your site and actually have harmful or depressing consequences. When back linking you need to keep an overall positive attitude and thank people for their feedback.

Back linking: The process of going onto another site, talking about the subject in the post (normally related to your niche but not always necessary) and then leaving a link back to your site. The point of back linking is to increase the number of views that one of your pages receives, therefore boosting it up on the Google page rank.

This is where your “marketing battery” comes in; it is all about viewers and conversion rates. When your page receives views, you can expect 10% to go onto the squeeze page and request your free product, which then makes them subscribers.

Squeeze Page: A landing page created to solicit opt-in email addresses from prospective subscribers..

Now with those 10% of viewers that are now subscribers, we send emails offering valuable information so they keep coming back to our site wanting more. After 4-5 solid emails with helpful information, a sales letter goes out.

Sales Letter: An email, often in “letter” form, advertising a product.

This letter is, by definition going to those who are most worthy to receive it; they have not unsubscribed after the first 4-5 mailings.

We build a relationship with our subscribers during the first 4 or 5 emails, and then when they know that the information that we are providing is both legit and educational, the sales letter goes out.

Your email campaign can also be a difficult process. You specifically need to address each letter on the subject of your choice. When writing these first couple of emails , they need to be very informative, structured, and professionally friendly. These emails are crucial if you are to sell your product.

Using Email to Inform and Build Trust

I personally recommend the email being no longer than 400-600 words. You don’t want to burden the reader, but instead keep them interested and looking forward to the next one.

Keep in mind that your subscriber batteries will lose charge over time. Having multiple products that are consistently advertised to your subscribers can cause a drain on the juice, so keep an eye on your stats and evolve your strategy as needed.

You want to keep your subscribers happy, informed, and engaged, while avoiding product advertisement burnout.

Remember to keep your approach happy and positive; this will ensure that others enjoy your site as much as you do.

Elliott Breadmore is the Marketing Manager of Email Marketing Tips, one of the leading online resources for all things email marketing. His (and Email Marketing Tips’s) main goal is to provide fast-tracked education to aspiring email marketers.

Image courtesy jeroenbeel on sxc.hu

Web Conversion Conversation with Brian Massey, The Conversion Scientist [Audio]

Pamela Muldoon talks with Brian Massey, website conversion expert and The Conversion Scientist at Conversion Sciences, his marketing firm in Austin, Texas whose main focus is on assisting companies to create higher conversions from the traffic they drive to their websites.  He is also the author of Your Customer Creation Equation: Unexpected Website Formulas Of The Conversion Scientist , the book that shows you how to develop the right formula for qualified lead generation and higher conversions.

 Transcript | Subscribe with GoogleSubscribe

[signature]

Your Conversion Web Team Needs a Draftsman

BlueprintWe’ve been talking about who you need on your web team. One person was story teller. Another is a draftsman. Draftsmen are designers who are all about function, not just looks. Not that an ugly webpage is good for conversion. Not at all. If a website is ugly, looks amateurish or dated, or is tricky to navigate, it will hurt conversion rather than help it.

But, sometimes web designers get a little too caught up in the design, the beauty and symmetry. It almost seems they forget that the point is to get people to convert rather than to take a screenshot of the home page and post it on the wall. Reminder, we want people to find answers, products, services and relationship on this site…not just cool graphics.

Conversion Scientists know they need designers. But they also know they need draftsmen. Draftsmen aren’t the ones who make the front of the building look like a swan’s wing. They’re the ones who make sure there’s plumbing and electricity and air vents and studs and other things that make the building actually work.

If I am helping a company to create a high-converting website and I say, “Make this element the most prominent item on the page,” a “draftsman” designer will hear, “Surround it with white space, make it stand out on the background, choose a color that is NOT part of the page’s color palette, and make sure it is above the ‘fold.’”

[freebookpromo]I don’t know what the creative designer will hear. I just know that they are reluctant to step outside of the site’s style guidelines, meaning that important elements look the same as every other element on the page.

You want a designer on staff that is designing the optimal routes for the human eye. They can guide the path of your visitors’ eyes like a conductor’s baton.

Once the logo and style guide is done, release the agency, but keep your draftsman close. Because once the website is pretty you’re still going to need somebody around who can pick the right “Contact” form and design those breathtaking conversion buttons.

Summary

On your web design team, you need somebody who can pick the right colors and the right style and feel for your company. But you also need a draftsman designer—the one who knows that the prettiest website in the world isn’t much good unless the hard working parts—like your conversion buttons—have the right to disrupt the design. Draftsmen—who are sometimes women—are designers with tool belts. They’re more concerned with bearing walls than graceful arches. And they put in the elements that make people convert. Read more in Customer Creation Equation.

 

Your Website Needs an Image Maker

Pictures are powerful. They can evoke emotion and action and tell a story. Sadly, many designers focus solely on how an image fits into the design rather than what the image conveys to the visitor. So, in addition to a designer, our website needs an image maker who understands the purpose of an image in storytelling and conversion. Our image maker will understand why the image will appeal to our audience and what it will say.

For example, think about all the consultative websites that seem to feature the same set of super-scrubbed, fit, shiny, smiley, possibly lobotomized and mostly Caucasian people wearing dark suits?

Here they are! Put on your designer’s hat and see if you can ferret out the reason they chose the picture.

clip_image002

Figure 1: What does this image say to the reader?

The designer’s caption for this image may be “If you buy from us, you can hang with happy, pretty people, like me!”

I call this Business Porn.

[freebookpromo]Next, put on your cynical hat. What does the image “say” now? I might say “Hi! I’m here to appeal to the base urges of our mostly male audience.”

This is what readers are thinking.

Getting Your Best Image Out There

Here’s a great test for your site. Go to your home page or other page frequented by visitors. Look at the images there and try to write a caption for them. I know that your images don’t have a caption. No one adds captions, which is just plain sad. Every image should have a caption

Captions are the most read part of a Web page. You should provide a caption for each image.

The caption does not have to explain the picture. In fact this is a great place to re-state any offers on the page. Get your ace copywriter involved.

Having a caption is one of the basic tenets of images. Here are others:

Show the product

This is obvious for an Online Store, but less so for the other signatures. Publishers can show the content.

How can a Consultative Site “show the product?” Get creative. Show screenshots of things you designed for clients. If you work in human relations, have a picture of a real team, working together, not the perfect team above. Show graphs of improved productivity or profits. Provide pictures of DVD’s complete with labels to highlight your online video or choose pictures of your authors or presenters for reports and webinars.

For the Site as a Service, screen shots are commonly used. But only use the whole screen if you must to tell the story. If the screen shot looks like a complex, overwhelming jumble, it will scare people off rather than attract them.

Make it clickable

People expect to be able click on images. If you doubt this assertion, try installing a service like CrazyEgg (www.CrazyEgg.com) or ClickTale (www.clicktale.com). You will get a heat map of where visitors are clicking on your pages.

It’s very enlightening.

For product pages in your Online Store, take visitors to a larger version of the image. For Brochures, Publications, Consultative sites, and Service sites, take them to a page that includes the image, but offers more.

Yes, you should take them to a landing page.

More and bigger is better for conversion

On your Online Store, the more photos you can offer, the better. Show the product from all angles, in high resolution. Show it being used, worn or manipulated.

Successful online retailers can even show their apparel with a variety of outfits.

Remember, you have to get the user to touch, taste and smell your products through the Internet.

Your image maker can help that happen.

Summary

Designers look at how the whole website fits together. Image makers, on the other hand, make sure the images fit in the story and the overall conversion plan. Without an image maker, your website can wind up with images so sterile they communicate lack of imagination or so “arty” they forget you’re selling a product. Image makers make sure your products show to the best advantage, have captions and are clickable so that people who like what they see can be taken deeper down the ol’ conversion funnel. Find out more about what your site needs from an image maker in Customer Creation Equation Blog….

 

Bring a Story Teller to Your Markishing Team

Whatever kind of website you’re running, you’re likely to be publishing…something. So you don’t just need a marketing team. You need a markishing team. And your markishing team needs a story teller. Because, let’s face it, people remember a good story. They share good stories. Most web content is neither remembered, nor shared. And often it doesn’t convert either.

People believe the most interesting things about the words on websites. Among them:

  • Nobody Reads Them. Clarification: Nobody reads bad web content because it’s as compelling as the list of ingredients for dish soap.
  • The Only Important Ones Are SEO Keywords: Clarification: SEO will always be important but Google is constantly changing its rules so that keywords don’t win; good content does. Besides, if the search engines like it, but it reads like a list of ingredients for dish soap, you will convert no one.
  • They Can Be Written In-House: Clarification: No. Most companies write what I call Styrofoam copy: colorless, tasteless, and bad for the environment.

[freebookpromo]Styrofoam copy comes from hiring copywriters who write “business speak.” It is “safe” but offers little in the way of storytelling, metaphor, and proper use of detail. Then the work is sent through marketing, one or more executives and perhaps the legal department.

By the time the copy has completed this gauntlet of red ink, any remaining color, taste and freshness will have been squeezed out until it is “squeaky clean, like a Styrofoam sandwich,” to quote author Tom Robbins. (Source: Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, Tom Robbins, 2000 Random House).

Writing that converts must appeal to humans. That’s who your customers are. At least, that’s what we assume. Case in point: GroupOn, a so-called “deal-a–day” site offering email subscribers discounts from local businesses. You’d think that discounts of 50%, 75% or more would be engaging enough for email content. GroupOn didn’t. Each of the dozens of deals they send out is packaged in a description that is witty, entertaining, and fun.

How important is copy to GroupOn’s business? The New York Times writes, almost jealously, that GroupOn “has managed, at least for the moment, to make words pay.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/business/29groupon.html?pagewanted=all

This flies in the face of reports and research that says Web surfers don’t read. GroupOn descriptions get read.

GroupOn writes the descriptions for their customers because they recognize one thing: businesses don’t know how to write, especially about themselves.

This includes you and me.

Marketing people may be great at messaging and positioning. This is only half the battle. Get a good copywriter, pay him or her exorbitantly, and don’t edit the copy, except to correct errors.

This more than anything will increase the value of your white papers, articles, videos, social network posts, and landing pages.

Summary

The reason people think web content isn’t written to be read is that much of it sucks. The best many websites can hope for is that enough Google power will lead prospects to the site that they’ll make money in spite of their content. But the most brilliant sites know that great content is the key for conversion from Googlebots to human beings. Great websites tell the stories of their companies. A website that converts needs a great story teller to put the words to proverbial paper. Read about the benefits of a story teller on Customer Creation Equation.

Unsolicited Advice #3: MoFo Law Firm

Me and my fellow authors Andrew Davis, Josh Miles and Todd Wheatland tackle another site offering Unsolicited Advice.

This time, we look at the site of the law firm Morrison Foerster, with the suggestive domain MoFo.com.

Special props to development firm Synotacwho designed the competing site I used in our “Competitive Advantage” segment.


View on YouTube

[signature]

When is stock photography “business porn?”

On page 83 of my book, I introduced the concept of “Business Porn.” Business Porn is the stock photography found on business websites that is irrelevant at best, and pandering at its worst.

To see if you have business porn on your site, I suggest that you write a caption for the image. For many of these images, the caption would be something these:

image

Diversity. Just the thought of it makes these white people smile.

image

We believe everyone works better when they work together,
even if they’re just standing around.

If you would wouldn’t put the caption on your site, don’t use the image.

Both of these images and the caption quotes come from a parody video aired on a canceled TV show called Better Off Ted.  Some of the classic business stockphotos are here:

image
These people love what they are seeing.
No, it’s not a cat video.

image
We want to shake your hand so you can
start sending us checks.

“Diversity. Good for us.” Watch on YouTube

Two seasons of Better Off Ted are available on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.

[signature]

What Makes Books Sell?

Peep Laja asked me some hard questions about what worked and what hasn’t worked as I’ve brought the new book to market. Here is a brief interview about my experience.

And don’t miss the strange falling picture about midway through. This was the day after Halloween, you know.

[signature]