How to write better headlines

Given that headlines are the entry point to the rest of your copy, here is a challenge for you.  Get up a little earlier tomorrow morning and write 10 headlines. Then do the same thing for the next 21 working days. This could be for a website page, a blog entry, a social media item, an advert, an email subject line or any other sales or marketing item which includes a headline.

When you write, do not try to edit your copy (words). Just write. If you find that you write more than 10 headlines, that’s fine, however ensure that you are writing at least 10 and no fewer during each writing session.

During my copywriting training workshops and talks we always discuss headlines. Focus your attention on the first 2 or 3 words as these are the most important. The reason being that the eye reads in ‘chunks’ and the reader will process the first words of your headline.  They may already be making a decision with regards to whether they will continue reading. It is a bit like your smile when you meet someone – it is the first thing that they see and they may well smile back at you.

It is OK to write long headlines, in that the reader will usually read the whole sentence. Check out advertisements and count the number of words that they put in their headlines. Sometimes it is only a few words, sometimes the headline is much longer.

Headlines are a big subject and, because I don’t get out much, I have been studying them for over 30 years. An effective headline can work wonders, by the way and entice the reader to continue reading – just like you are now.

Having written 10 headlines, go and do something else. After at least an hour has passed, come back and look at them. Sometimes, the best one jumps out at you. If you work in a team ask your colleagues to vote on your headline ideas: you will be surprised with the results, I am sure.

I know that you are busy. You may be a business owner or marketing professional. I am sure that your ToDo list never ends. Even if you are lucky enough to be able to outsource your copywriting, I still think that it is important that you contribute ideas (including headlines).

I have found that little and often beats big and infrequent, when it comes to writing and this is true for headline writing.

As you know, Google likes content including headlines (wrapped in H1 tags within the html).  Writing headlines will give you ideas for website pages and blog entries. You can also experiment with split A/B tests to see which headlines work the best.

I realise that writing words for websites can be a big challenge, which is why I offer this service and provide training in this area.

So, will you take me up on my challenge and write 10 headlines tomorrow?

Here are 26 ways to write better headlines.

For support and ideas, either comment on this blog or engage with me via The Marketing Compass website where we have a Copywriting Group.

Should an image be included in a blog?

For some time, I have been asking myself: should an image be included in a blog? I realise that this is not the greatest question facing humanity, but it certainly has been bugging me. I am a visual person and I like to see colourful images. However, when I create a blog I have noticed how time consuming it is to find an appropriate image that I like, download it, check the file size and if necessary shrink it, add some text and a logo and then upload it and check it within the blog entry. Phew!

Not that I mind the work involved. However, I want to ensure that I am using my time to the best effect. So I revisited two of my favourite bloggers: Seth Godin and Neil Patel and Voila! Neither of them use images in their (text based) blogs. By the way, in Neil’s case you have to click around a bit to find a text blog, in that he does a lot of video blogging. (He is famous for the Marketing School podcast).

Now let’s think about the blog entries themselves. When you visit someone’s blog, is it the big image at the top of the entry that you are interested in – or the words that they have written? I have been using ‘Set featured image’ within WordPress for some time, after I discovered that by doing this, the image appears properly within social media. The problem is that by doing this, the image dominates the screen when you visit the blog page.

In addition, an image can slow down the page loading speed (which is a Google Ranking factor, by the way). Have inadvertently uploaded some massive images to my blog, I started using Tinypng to shrink PNG and JPEG images.

On this basis, I have decided not to include ‘pretty picture’ images in my blogs from now on – unless they add value to the blog. For example, I am an inveterate Mind Mapper and I use these ‘thought organisation diagrams’ in my marketing training and public speaking sessions. A Mind Mind or a process schematic would help my readers to understand the text – so that would be a good reason to include them. When I do, I must remember to add an alt tag. (So much to do, such little time!)

PS As I am sure you know, blog, blog entry, and post mean the same thing.

What to look for in Google Analytics

Here is a quick checklist of what to look for in Google Analytics. If you don’t use Google Analytics frequently, it can be confusing can’t it?

These are 3 key areas that I look at when I spend five minutes looking at Google Analytics for one of my websites or one of my clients. (Sometimes, I spend a lot longer).

Once you have logged in you will see a menu on the left hand side of the screen (if you are using a desktop / laptop). We are going to use:
Audience
Acquistion
Behaviour
….from this menu.

Audience / Overview – what are they doing when they visit?

Towards the top RHSide (Right Hand Side) of the screen, change the date range so that you are looking at three months. I have found that this is a reasonable time period, to measure changes.

If you have more than 5 minutes at your disposal, when you are working with Google Analytics, you can change the viewing period to see what difference it makes. However, for comparison purposes – it is important to stick to the same time period.

Within Audience / Overview you can see: Sessions. Users. Page views. Pages / Sessions. Bounce rate. Also, you can see a pie chart of new versus returning visitors. NB You can change the settings so that you can see different information.

Acquisition / Overview – where did the website visitors come from?

Within this view you can see:
Direct – i.e. visitors have typed your website address into a browser
Referral – they have found your website by clicking on a link in a website
Organic search – they found you via Google search
Social – they found you by clicking a link in Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc
Email – they clicked on a link from an email, i.e. your website address if you place this after your name, phone number etc

Behaviour / Overview

Shows a list of the most popular pages within your website.

If you see:   /

….at top, or near the top of the list, this means ‘home page’. You can click any of the pages and drill down for more information.

Conclusion

It is a good idea to login to Google Analytics and make a note of some of the key stats, i.e. the ones that I have listed above, in a spreadsheet. Then login a week later and make a note of the new numbers within a separate row within the spreadsheet.

I always include Google Analytics when I build a website and I am always keen to show the website owner how to use the software in order to improve their website.

We have an SEO Group within The Marketing Compass website.

What are SEO Citations and how can they help you?

You may have asked yourself: what are SEO Citations? If your enterprise is mentioned on the web, this is called a Citation. It comprises any combination of the following information: the name of your enterprise, telephone number, business address, postcode, website address. Citations are particularly important when it comes to improving local SEO search results.

If you haven’t focused on local SEO there are many reasons why you should do so, regardless of your business type and size. As smartphones become our ‘2nd brain’ we use them to search for all sorts of things – wherever we happen to be. Understanding Google Search is a crucial marketing skill (it is a big subject, isn’t it?)

Interestingly, a Citation doesn’t need to link back to your website. The value in a Citation is in the mention. The more mentions, the better, as this will boost your local rankings although relevancy is an important factor. Links are still helpful and Citations that include hyperlinks are better than Citations that have no links.

Local Citations include the following combinations: company name and phone number; company name, phone number and address; company name, phone number, address and website; company name and website.

Additional Citation information includes: business categories; hours of operation; driving directions; business description; images; videos; payment forms accepted; geo-coordinates; reviews; owner responses; social media links; email addresses; alternative phone numbers.

A complete local Citation would include your company name, address, and phone number. This is referred to as a NAP. In order to help with your local SEO page rankings, the NAP should match the information on your website exactly. In computer terminology, this is referred to as a ‘character string’. Once you have decided on a format, stick to it. For example Tel: 01628 773128 versus… Phone: +44(0)1628 773128 or some other variant of phone number formatting.

Include your NAP on your Homepage, About page and Contact page.

Here are some places to get Citations: directories, forums, blogs, social media, press mentions, image and video descriptions and profile pages.

You can ask us about SEO within The Marketing Compass website where we have an SEO Group.

Cloud-based marketing apps and services

How many cloud-based marketing apps and services do you use? How many of them connect to each other? Has it all grown organically, or was it planned? The last few years has seen a dramatic rise in the number of marketing related services that are available in the cloud.  Some of them are free, others are cheap as chips and some are relatively expensive.

Here are some of them:

CRM (Customer Relationship Management systems)
* Capsule CRM
* Salesforce
* Zoho

Website
* Squarespace
* WordPress
* Wix

Forms
* Formstack
* Gravity
* Wufoo

Email marketing
* ConstantContact
* Dotmailer
* MailChimp

Many enterprises now capture (in a GDPR compliant fashion) customer contact information which triggers a series of events. For example, an automated Welcome email; a record being created within a CRM system; and a task for a salesperson to contact the customer. If you are already doing this, that’s great – however most businesses are not doing so (or anything close to it).

It is important to see the whole thing from the customer’s perspective. Is the software helping them? Is it easy for them to use? Does it actually work? What do the metrics tell you about customer behaviour? How can you improve performance and results?

To what extent does the software give you a competitive advantage? What is the strategic thinking behind the deployment of these services? Have you implemented back-up and recovery processes?

My work as an internet marketing consultantMailChimp trainer  and Capsule CRM consultant and trainer has meant that I have had to learn a great deal about cloud-based marketing apps  and services, as my clients ask me questions about how to solve a business issue or how to get X software talking to Y software.

I suggest that you list all of the apps / services that you use and think about how they are currently connected. See the whole thing as one big picture.

Keeping connected

I am on a fast train to London and I am sitting at a table with my laptop placed in front of me. It is plugged in and charging up. I have connected to Great Western Railway’s onboard wifi and it is running well. However, just in case, I always carry a mobile router in my business case. Currently, I am using one from 3 which offers 4G where it is available.

I have my iPhone on the table as well and from time to time it lights up with social media push notifications; I have just received one from LinkedIn which tells me that I have another 1st degree connection there.

When I travel abroad I take my Chromebook which weighs around a kilogram and the battery lasts all day.

Personally, I feel somewhat lost when I am not online, during the working week. I need to keep on top of emails and I have found that the Gmail app on my iPhone 6 is a great way of doing this.

How about you:? Are you always online? Is this a good thing, in your opinion?

Push versus Pull marketing

What are Push and Pull marketing strategies? ‘Push’ means that you go out and find customers i.e. by cold calling, mass emails, direct mailshots and most forms of advertising. The problem is that you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, aren’t you? Typically, only 3% of people are actively looking to buy when you contact them. This is why large companies spend so much on sales and marketing; they know that they have to shout louder than their competitors. If the customer doesn’t already know you, the chances are slim that they will buy the first time that you contact them.

During the last century, marketing was largely all about pushing. Companies pushed the (unwilling) customer towards their brands, using expensive advertising, telesales, direct mail and sales forces. In the 21st century, pushing has become more difficult, due to the fragmentation of media, an explosion of communication channels (i.e. TV and radio stations, websites, blogs etc) the advent of GDPR and knowledgeable buyers who have heard it all before.

Enterprises of all sizes realise that getting customers to come to them is better than the old style ‘hunt and kill’ method. Broadly speaking, an attraction based approach includes customer education and knowledge sharing. It is co-operative, trusting, interactive and more female than male in nature. It also happens to be ideal for the world wide web, which was originally conceived as a way of sharing files amongst scientists.

I know that this approach does not appeal to everyone. “Why should I share my hard won knowledge?” they say to me. “That’s fine,” I reply. “Keep all of your professional knowledge locked up in a darkened room. Lock and chain the door. Let some large, angry hounds wander around the corridors putting the fear of God into anyone who enters the building.”

What will happen? The knowledge will shrivel and die, as it needs interaction with others to flourish and grow. Mind you, you’ll have to go and bang on all of the doors in the neighbourhood to find new business. By the way, how will your neighbours know that you are so brilliant at what you do, as they can’t see your expertise?

My advice is to share a little more. If you need any more encouragement, I am sure that your competitors are already doing this.

I receive a sales enquiry every business day, based on a knowledge sharing, ‘Pull’ approach. It is enjoyable to talk to people who are interested in what I do, have a requirement and are ready to spend money.

Google likes this approach as it favours websites with extensive content, by the way.  If you move towards ‘Pull’ you will need to spend more time learning, writing and sharing which is the right thing to do in a fast moving technological society which is experiencing exponential change. If you don’t have the time, then you can always work with someone who can help. (Like me, for example).

The above was originally published within my e-newsletter, which you can subscribe to here.

Postcard marketing benefits and ideas

Postcard marketing benefits

I have always loved postcards, as a promotional technique. Here is a list of postcard marketing benefits:

*  They are inexpensive to produce
*  There is no envelope, which means that your postcards will be read
*  You can print in full colour on the front
*  Postcards allow you to be creative
*  Postcards can be used for customer education, i.e a series of tips and ideas can be sent using postcards
*  You can send postcards (with permission) directly to the customer; therefore it is a more targeted form of marketing than traditional advertising
*  Postcards are versatile: you can experiment with different sizes, images, headlines and sequences
*  Postcards can be fun and engaging
*  They are quick to produce
*  They can be personalised

They can be used to:

*  Produce sales leads
*  Launch new products / services
*  Announce special offers
*  …and many other things

Think of your postcard as an advertisement. On this basis, you would have a headline, image and bodycopy. The headline will determine whether the customer reads the bodycopy (text).

Personally, I have always liked DL sized postcards (1/3rd A4).

Print your postcards on a reasonably thick stock, so that they are not flimsy.

If you are starting out with this promotional technique (of which there are several hundred), I suggest that you start with low quantities and run some tests.

If you would like to use this idea within your marketing, I can help with strategy, ideas, headlines, copywriting and artwork.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading about postcard marketing benefits, you can ask questions about this topic within The Marketing Compass website.

Interestingly, MailChimp has launched a postcard marketing service.

MailChimp postcard marketing

PS Remember that all of your marketing has to be GDPR compliant if your business is in Europe.

Act like a startup

If you have been running your business for a while, from time to time you may get fed up with it. You may find yourself disengaging and even wishing that you were doing something else. Perhaps the answer is to act like a startup.

Do you remember when you first started your business? Scary, wasn’t it? Sheer adrenaline propelled you forward. You put in long hours and kept hammering away until you had a successful enterprise on your hands.

Business and indeed human nature does not work in straight lines. Success comes and goes. Sometimes everything is ‘up’ and sometimes everything is ‘down’.  If you find yourself in the doldrums, what would happen if you worked like a startup does, for the month ahead?

For a start, you have to find your passion for your enterprise once again. You would put in longer working hours. You may find yourself wanting to talk to everyone about your business. You would generate new ideas and ways of looking at challenges.

The trouble with having a successful business is that you can stop taking risks. The business owner can find themselves buried in bureaucracy and paperwork. The fun of it all can drain away. Perhaps this is why so many entrepreneurs sell their businesses once they have reached a certain size, only to start all over again.

One idea is to schedule a creative thinking session for your team or hire a business creative thinking speaker in order to help you and your colleagues to think outside of the box.

We welcome startups and small business owners here: www.marketingcompass.co.uk

7 reasons to launch a startup

Speed of response to sales enquiries

“Thank you for your rapid response!” a prospective new client wrote in an email. “I am waiting for some other consultants to get back to me, so please bear with me for a few days.” I wonder why so many suppliers take so long to respond to sales enquiries? I imagine that they would tell me that they are busy (who isn’t?) Do they like it when people are slow to respond, when they are looking for quotations?

I wonder how fast you are at acknowledging enquiries that arrive in your email in-box or by phone?  One way of keeping on top of emails is to install an email app on your phone (i.e. the Gmail app  which is available via Google Play). When I am travelling, I keep a close watch on my emails and I acknowledge receipt of sales enquiries either immediately or as soon as possible i.e. at the next break during a training day or consultancy session.

I am extremely lucky to be married to Joanna, who used to work as a PA in central London.  Joanna answers the phone when I can’t get to it and I CC her when I email sales proposals. I ask clients who book my consultancy, training or speaking services to  ‘please respond to both of us and we will organise everything for you.’

How fast do you turn quotations / proposals around? Personally, I turn them around quickly, usually within a couple of hours of receiving the enquiry and quite often within the hour.  I think that that speed of response to sales enquiries is a message in its own right. It says: “We are here. We care about you. We are reliable. If you work with us, this is the level of service that you can expect in the future.”