Why does marketing pitch the wrong product?

Apple and orange for Why does marketing pitch the wrong product

There is a disconnect between what marketing is telling potential customers and what you and your sales team are actually trying to sell.

So why does marketing pitch the wrong product? And are you definitely pitching the right product?

The answers lie in the gaping chasm between the two departments.

Two sides to every story

Marketing isn’t intentionally pitching the wrong product. They simply have a different focus than sales.

Marketing is focused on the benefits of a product that attract buyers to your brand. Their campaigns are directed at buyer personas, which represent your company’s customers, not one specific customer account.

Meanwhile, your sales team speaks to customers one-on-one. You discuss specific features and performance based on what that customer needs in a product. But this can lead to short-sightedness about the possibilities of up and cross sell, that a wider marketing campaign encompasses.

A separation of duties

Marketing needs to do what they do and create campaigns while sales needs to make sure they are talking about the product that will turn leads into customers. There is nothing wrong with the focus of each department.

But a lack of communication between the two departments is what leads to frustration for your sales team.

How this plays out on the sales floor

If your sales team is looking to meet a goal on a product, for example, a certain tablet, you may know that this tablet has features which are perfect in a small business setting. However, you see a marketing campaign aimed at small business owners pitching a different tablet.

It’s not that the tablet in the campaign is a bad product, but it’s not what you would recommend to the small business owner over the phone. You end up spending time redirecting the potential buyer’s attention to the right tablet.

A leaky sales funnel

The negative impact of pitching different products to the same audience affects both marketing and sales.

First, if marketing is pitching the wrong product, they may be creating case studies or whitepapers, even whole campaigns about this product with the wrong audience in mind.

Second, customers can sense misalignment. If a customer hears different things from marketing and sales, they can disengage from your brand and look elsewhere for a similar product.

Fixing the funnel

Making the sale, converting the lead, whatever you want to call it, marketing and sales have the same goal: attracting leads and moving them through the sales funnel. You have to help each other out by opening the lines of communication.

What to tell marketing. Let marketing know what products you need to sell to make goals and which of their buyer personas each product caters to most. You can also tell them which questions or insights you get from which customers so they can develop the personas further.

What to ask for in return. Ask for specific materials (ie: case studies or whitepapers) to back up the products you’re offering to certain customers, ask to be copied in on all email blasts or relevant content that may prompt customer contact and make sure you get complete information on every lead.

Knowing what to say to marketing and having consistent meetings to keep the lines of communication open can align the efforts of marketing and sales even if each is focused on their own thing.

Presenting a united front

If marketing and sales are aligned when it comes to the products pitched, the different focus of each department is a benefit. As potential customers move through the buyer process, they get a consistent experience with the company’s brand.

If they hear about the benefits of the right product from marketing, the customer can transition flawlessly to your sales team to discuss the details and features of the product that will suit their needs.

With transparency and communication, sales can help marketing pitch the right product to the benefit of both departments and the customer.

(Hat tip to TheBusyBrain for the photo)

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Tools for writing: Microsoft OneNote

 

Microsoft OneNote on different devices

Microsoft OneNote, the underdog pretender to Evernote’s crown, is a growing part of my life. I’ve used the digital notebook application, on and off, for many years. I tried switching to Evernote a couple of times but always came back, like the prodigal son. (Full disclosure: Microsoft is a client of Articulate’s but this is just my own personal review.)

Indeed, there are many things to like about OneNote:

  • Hierarchical structure. You have notebooks, tabs, pages and sub-pages. For a tidy-minded person like me, this works better than using tags to categorise notes.
  • Encryption. You can password-protect and encrypt whole sections of your notes.
  • Familiar interface. It looks and feels a lot like Microsoft Word, which is where I spend most of my life. Evernote’s roots are more HTML and sometimes that shows in the limited formatting options.
  • Multiple elements. It’s easy to embed and scale multiple pictures, add diagrams and handwritten notes and mix up multiple text boxes on the same page. It feels like a digital notebook should feel – flexible.

But until recently, it fell short of its potential. That’s changing. Here’s why:

  • Solid multi-platform support. I can – and do – use OneNote on my PC, Mac, web browser, iPhone, iPad and Android. Notebooks synchronise smoothly across all the devices.
  • Price. It’s free on all platforms and you can use it with a free OneDrive subscription or, as I do, with an Office 365 account and OneDrive for Business.
  • Pen support. I don’t have a pen-equipped Microsoft Surface but my Samsung Galaxy Note has a pen and OneNote works well with it.
  • Sharing. It’s easy to share notebooks with colleagues. For example, I just created one where we can archive useful sources and web pages.
  • Change highlighting. When someone changes something in a shared notebook, the changes are nicely highlighted when you log in. I think this is going to be an increasingly important feature.
  • Integrations. It works with Feedly, my RSS-reader of choice and IFTTT. More integrations are happening.
  • Capture. There’s a screen clipping app and a web page grabber that drops new content straight into OneNote pages, where you can annotate them.

Overall, I’m finding that I’m spending more time in OneNote and I can see it becoming a useful tool for me and my colleagues at Articulate.

What do you think? How does it compare with Evernote?

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10 tricks to encourage colleagues to contribute to the company blog

Work desk for 10 tricks to encourage colleagues to contribute to the company blog

Most companies are aware of the effect and therefore the need for a content marketing strategy to boost their online presence, but the number of US companies blogging for marketing purposes is only around 40 percent.

The reality is that keeping up with a blog can be a lot of work. Consistency requires commitment to a full editorial calendar. Going outside the bounds of your company’s marketing team and getting colleagues to contribute is a good way to generate plenty of content.

But not all of your colleagues are writers and convincing people to voluntarily add to their workload is not easy.

A reason to bother your colleagues

People look online to get a first impression of a company, and the blog is often the best place to look for the real voice of the company. People want to see an overview of who you are, what you think and what you do but your marketing team doesn’t have time to become experts in every department.

To publish a range of content that’s specific and knowledgeable, you need:

  • Sales people writing on how they help customers
  • Research and development on what’s coming up in new products
  • The CEO on the mission and outlook of the company (and maybe the industry as a whole)
  • The customer service reps to answer common customer questions

Your colleagues are the key, but they may be reluctant to get on board. These tips will turn them around and get them enthusiastically contributing to the company blog.

1. Mandatory participation

Requiring a realistic level of contributions guarantees the blog calendar stays current. Of course, mandatory is not the same as encouraged participation, but sometimes making something a requirement is the extra push needed. Try to get managers on board to help you enforce your plan.

2. Early incentive

Early on, you can initiate a gamified system. Create incentives to reward colleagues for participation. Implement levels of achievement for things like sharing posts, commenting on blogs or the number of posts written to engage colleagues in the whole marketing process.

3. Give them the numbers

Telling colleagues why you want them to contribute is a big motivation. Show them content marketing stats like:

  • Companies with active blogs can generate 67 percent more leads
  • Businesses blogging more than 20 times a month get five times more traffic

Motivate people by tying the blog’s goals into their departmental objectives. Quality content has a big impact on incoming customers, and getting more customers is in everyone’s interests.

4. Give them more numbers

Once you’ve got a string of contributions, post marketing metrics, whether essential or non-essential. People will enjoy seeing the comments and shares on their own work and seeing the engagement from customers and other colleagues and it will motivate them to contribute more.

5. Detailed briefs

Even with incentives and good reasons to blog, you’ll still have reluctant writers. If you want colleagues to contribute, a detailed brief which pinpoints the topic and outlines the main points will encourage employees by giving them a clear structure to work with.

6. Questions to answer

Another way to give colleagues a starting point is to give them a question to answer. Every single one of your colleagues is an expert in what they do and they get questions. So, turn those questions into a blog article. They already know how to answer – they just have to write it down.

7. Flexibility in format

Don’t limit assignments to written blogs. Promoting a content culture means allowing for creativity. If the sales team wants to create a video series or the owner has an idea for a podcast, let it happen.

8. Offer editing

For people uncomfortable with writing, knowing someone will take a look before the publish button is pressed acts as a safety net. For some of us, writing is work and you push through. For your colleagues who only write for your blog, knowing help will be there allows them to relax and write.

9. Hire writers

Interviews and ghost writers take the pressure off those expert colleagues who just don’t have the time or ability to write. Find writers that know how to extract the important information and can create blogs in interview format or write on your colleagues’ behalf. For your colleagues, a short amount of time spent sharing expertise equals quality content from experts in writing.

10. Spread the responsibility

People will be more enthusiastic if the added workload is minimal. The more colleagues that contribute, the lighter the load. In a company of 50, if everyone contributed, you’d only have to write a post once every two months to fill a post-a-day editorial calendar. That said, sometimes it’s best nurturing the most enthusiastic and talented to do a little more, rather than battling the most belligerent.

Success for all

A successful blog has to be consistent, give voice to the entire company and target the buyers looking to get an impression of what the business behind the blog is all about.

Make the blog a team effort from CEO down to intern and encourage colleagues to contribute to the company blog so that is becomes an accurate representation of who your business is and why customers should buy from you.

(Hat tip to Jim Winstead for the photo)

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Tools for writers: Taco for to-do lists

Screenshot of Taco showing simple to-do list view

I’m really learning to love Taco. Really love it.

It does two important things.

All your tasks on one screen

First, it pulls in tasks and to-dos from all the apps I already use and displays them in one place.

It supports a ton of apps. I use it with Basecamp, Zendesk, Office 365 and Salesforce. So, instead of four open windows, I have one for all my tasks.

Apps supported by Taco

Priority and focus

The second, and in many ways more important, thing that Taco does is make it easy to prioritise your tasks and focus only on the few tasks that matter today.

It has two columns: ‘for later’ and ‘up next’. You can drag items from one column to another and up and down within the columns. Hide the ‘for later’ column for a short list of the stuff that matters now.

This is the answer to task-anxiety. Instead of drowning in dozens or hundreds of tasks, now you know that you have all of them in sight and that you’re focusing on the top priorities (and temporarily hiding the rest).

Taco Screenshot

If you use more than one app to store tasks and you have more tasks than time to do them, then you need Taco.

(Full disclosure, I was a modest early investor in their initial Kickstarter campaign but only enough to pay for my subscription. I have no axe to grind except the one that helps me get through my work faster.)

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Offshore development for beginners

Offshore development: Diagram with a world map, tablets and phones plus networked icons of people

We talk about marketing for start-ups and tech companies but did you know that we are talking from experience? We drink our own champagne: Turbine is a software start-up and a subsidiary of my marketing company, Articulate.

Although Turbine is based in London, England, we built the application using outsourced, mostly offshore talent. The main development was done by a company in Ukraine called Anadea. We also used testers in Romania, web developers in Argentina and AdWords consultants in Austria, among others.

For the most part, it worked very well. But I learned a lot and this article outlines some of those lessons for anyone thinking of going down the same road.

Offshore is good

Fundamentally, there is no difference between a programmer (or a designer or a tester) based in an office in London and one in another part of the world. They’re either good or bad, talented or useless, collaborative or ego-centric.

What does change is that they are often cheaper and you get access to a much wider pool of talent. This is why I’ve said before that Turbine wouldn’t have been possible without it. Going offshore is nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, most of the applications you use every day were built ‘offshore’.

Your job is the same whether you work with people in the same building or people on the same planet: find the right developers, brief them properly and manage the project well.

Finding developers

In my time, I’ve interviewed hundreds of programmers. There are three secrets to hiring a great developer every time but nobody knows what they are. However, there is already some good advice on the web that will help you reduce the risk of hiring a terrible one:

My experience suggests that when working with offshore developers (and programmers in general), there are a few traits to look out for:

  • Communication. An ability to communicate clearly about technical issues in a language you understand. For example, they explain the pros and cons of different approaches.
  • Context. They see the project as a whole instead of focusing on some obscure technical detail or vanity project or intellectual obsession. For example, they talk about pieces of programming in terms of the improvements they deliver to users.
  • Methodology. The right approach to programming is critical. When I was interviewing for Turbine initially, most developers wanted a very detailed specification and approached projects in a ‘you-asked-for-it, you-got-it’ way. I preferred a more agile approach.
  • Prototype. You should plan on building a prototype with them – a minimum viable product that takes less than a month to build – before committing to a long term relationship. They should welcome this. Plan on throwing it away and starting again, with them or with someone else.
  • Pricing. They may not be able to give you a fixed price but they should give you a very clear idea of what their prices are, how they will charge and how you will pay them. If they quote a price per hour or per day, find out how long that price will be in effect. It’s no point signing up at $40 an hour and then they double the prices on you three months later.
  • Team. If you’re working with an outsourcing provider rather than hiring individuals, you should aim for a certain amount of team stability. Who is working on your project? For how long? Can you meet them (virtually or otherwise) before you commit?
  • Project management. They should have a good story to tell about how they will track and manage the implementation. What tools do they use? What methodology do they follow? What do they expect from you?

Getting the brief right

The initial specification for your product is the constitution and foundation of your relationship with software developers. It’s important for what it says but it is also important because of the way you say it.

Looking back, I think the original Turbine specific was too detailed and too comprehensive. It was 22 pages and should have been five pages. We could have easily launched the application with a quarter of the functionality we had at launch. That would have allowed us to launch sooner, get feedback faster and focus our work on features that mattered to users.

As I’ve said before, non-existent code doesn’t crash. It also doesn’t cost anything to write.

My top tip: once you’ve written a specification or brief for a developer, go through it line by line and delete everything that is not absolutely necessary. Less is definitely more.

It’s better to work collaboratively with your developers to figure out the best way to implement and design functionality. Your job is to be the champion of the compelling, unique features of your app and the guardian against gold-plating.

37 Signals’ Getting Real is essential reading before you start this process. As is Eric Ries’s Lean Startup. I read them both but, looking back, I don’t think I really paid enough attention. So, my advice is to read them twice!

Managing remote developers

I’ve written before about project management in general but here are some of the things that worked for us doing offshore development on Turbine:

  • Seeing is believing. After a rough patch in the relationship, we started doing video conferences using Skype and then Google Hangouts. This made a huge improvement in the quality of the relationship – we were more communicative and trusting once we started using video. Aim to have at least one video conference a week.
  • Talk about the weather. Seriously. Make a bit of small talk. Treat one another as human beings. It builds up a reservoir of mutual understanding.
  • Emails. Have the developers send you a daily wrap-up email. What were they working on, what problems did they have, what do they need etc. It shouldn’t be a formal report. A short, friendly email is very helpful for keeping the channels open.
  • Address problems early. Distance amplifies stress. If you feel like there’s a problem, address it as soon as possible, preferably on the phone or via video conference not via email.
  • Use export English. You should be working with developers who can speak and write English to a reasonable standard but remember to speak slowly, use simple words and avoid idiomatic language if you want to be clearly understood.
  • Put it in writing. Verbal communications should also be captured in writing, ideally using a project management tool like Basecamp or Pivotal Tracker or a bug tracking tool like Lighthouse.
  • Don’t interrupt. Programmers need to concentrate so avoid interrupting them. Use the tools they prefer for communication. Generally, IM and email are better than an unscheduled phone or video call.

Let’s compare notes. Comment here or contact us with your feedback. If you’re working on an app, drop me a line and let me know how you’re getting on.

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Impatience is a virtue and six other essential attitudes for entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs: NASA coffee cup with a launch in the foam

Get a cup of coffee and prepare for launch. Rome wasn’t built in a day but it should have been. The status quo is obsolete. Best practice is someone else’s idea of what you should do. Good enough isn’t.

Impatience – the fierce hunger for progress – is one of the defining characteristics of an entrepreneur. For them (for us), impatience is a virtue.

If you want to understand what your boss is thinking, remember that she is probably frustrated that things aren’t changing fast enough.

Attitude adjustment

Clare gave me this title – ‘impatience is a virtue’ – to work with and it sparked more reflections on the right attitude for an entrepreneur:

  • Don’t believe the hype. Lots of people, me included, will tell you about their shining success and how they achieved it. Just look at all the business biographies next time you’re in an airport book shop. Four-hour Work Week! Hah! Overnight success is a myth. Listen to Alex Blumberg’s painfully-honest and charming StartUp podcast for a dash of reality.
  • Failure is good for you. You don’t learn much from success. This is why so many mega-hits are followed by lousy sequels. Matrix Revolutions anyone? Failure is a better teacher: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No Matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ (Samuel Beckett)
  • Taking a break is work. Getting up insanely early is the latest fad recommendation for entrepreneurs. In fact, how I trained myself to get up earlier is the most popular post on this blog, so I’m not immune from giving this advice. (But I wrote my piece in 2006, before it became fashionable. Ahem.) But the truth is you have to find your own pace, your own sleep and work patterns. Sometimes taking a short break or a long walk is more important.
  • Time is precious. Waste it. Your time is more valuable than diamonds. An hour spent solving an important problem, closing a great deal or writing an awesome blog post adds more value to your business than an hour wasted on email or pointless meetings. But your personal time is also precious. As Bertrand Russell said, ‘time you enjoy wasting isn’t wasted time.’ There are three essential skills: delegation, prioritisation and saying ‘no’.
  • Habits trump passion. Passion has no place in business and there are too many myths about productivity. Willpower is not a lengthy visitor. I find that I need to turn it into something sustainable and the one thing that consistently helps is to form a new habit. Leo Babauta’s Zenhabits blog and Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit are the definitive sources on this point.
  • Love and respect are business assets. I’m not a ‘take what you want, give nothing back’ type of boss. I strongly believe that running a business is an engine for progress, a noble calling, a Good Thing. It is an expression of creativity and an opportunity to show respect to people, no less so than any other calling. Work is love made visible.

What do you think? What works for you?

(Image hat tip: NASA, io9)

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Why customers are your best allies in sales

Team huddle: Why customers are your best allies in sales

The days of cold calls are dwindling. That’s because potential customers are turning to the internet looking for products and information. It’s no longer about finding customers, but making sure they can find you.

Content marketing’s main purpose is to ensure that the right customers find you and that when they do, they like what they see.

But there’s another side: content marketing builds a relationship between your company and your customers. As you learn more about your existing customers, you can hone content to delight them. This fosters greater customer loyalty, which is essential for growing your company.

In fact, you’ll find that your existing customers are your best allies when it comes to marketing and sales.

Learning how to delight potential customers

Existing customers offer information about who uses your product, why they use your product and feedback about where your company is falling short.

Instead of casting a wide net with your marketing efforts, the information from your existing customer base allows you to target and attract the right individuals.

Building personas

Personas aren’t based on one actual customer. They are a synthesis of the commonalities between different types of customers who you identify as your ideal buyers around which entire marketing campaigns are built.

To build accurate personas and effective campaigns, you need data on the demographics, personalities, wants, needs and values of people that have already bought into your brand.

Selling the right thing

You also need information on why your existing customers chose to buy from you. Your sales and marketing efforts won’t be as effective if you are emphasising the wrong benefits, which no one cares about.

Your customers are the only ones who can tell you what’s best about your product and your company from the buyer’s perspective.

Getting critical feedback

On the other hand, customers also provide feedback about where you fall short. In one of his TED talks, Bill Gates said, ‘We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.’ If you never improve, you never grow.

You need to know what your buyers don’t like and where you can improve in order to market yourselves more effectively and hone your products, services and brand to meet your ideal buyers’ needs.

Delighted customers become brand ambassadors

Information from your customers helps you build effective marketing campaigns with targeted content. These in turn help to ensure customers are delighted with your company and therefore return for future transactions. If you’re really lucky, they’ll also become your brand ambassadors. There are a few key ways this happens.

Shared content

Good content gets shared, liked and followed. If you put out good content, your existing customers are more likely to share it with their network of people who have similar needs and which you might not otherwise have access to.

Social proof

The number of followers you have on social media doesn’t tell you if you’ve met your sales goals, but it does offer evidence to potential customers that your brand is well-liked. And potential customers use social proof when making a purchase decision.

Referrals and reviews

It’s easier for potential customers to buy into a brand recommended by someone they already trust. Encourage existing customers to refer others or fill out online reviews by offering incentives. The word of existing customers can sway an indecisive buyer.

How you respond seals the deal

A Crayola customer once complained on social media that one of the pink crayons in his new box was dull. Crayola responded and sent the customer a brand new crayon in the same shade. That customer got back on social media to talk about that response.

In a digital age, you can’t control every piece of information that shows up online about your company. But you do control how your company responds and your response creates allies.

Gathering information about what delights your ideal customers increases the effectiveness of your marketing and in turn, you delight customers and create loyal advocates for your brand, which extends your reach well past what you could achieve on your own.

(Credit to Wikipedia Commons for the photo)

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Roll up, roll up: I’m speaking at MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum in Boston next week

#mpb2b join me logo

Here at Articulate, we live and breathe marketing. In particular, inbound marketing and copywriting. And what are the essential ingredients for amazing marketing content and lovely qualified leads? Personas.

We believe in understanding your customers’ personas and your own. This is why I’m going to be talking on this very topic, next week, at Marketing Profs’ B2B Marketing Forum (#mpb2b).

Interactive Session: Creating Useful Personas and Tone of Voice Guidelines

Well-executed marketing copy has deep foundations. Whether it is your website home page, blog, social media marketing, emails or advertising; your company has a voice. This interactive session will help you discover, focus and refine that voice and describe it in ways that make sense to people who write for you and for your potential customers. Accurate, well-articulated personas are key to this process and go hand-in-hand with tone of voice guidelines. This session will walk you through ways to develop and improve marketing personas to make them more effective and useful.

Discover

  • How to create better marketing personas
  • How to find and describe your company’s tone of voice
  • How to use personas and voice to create better marketing copy

So why not join me?

Meet hundreds of your fellow marketers and check out Matthew’s live session at #mpb2b in Boston – next week, 8-10 October. And if you don’t happen to be going along, why not share this anyway and spread the word about what I hope will be a useful talk. And if you’re going, contact me. Let’s meet up!

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The 7 qualities of an eye-catching and effective call-to-action

Man using a megaphone for The qualities of an eye-catching and effective call-to-action

An effective call-to-action is critical to inbound marketing. Get it wrong and your content-driven inbound marketing strategy could fail.

Make sure you create a clickable call that will convert visitors into viable leads.

Start by attracting the right visitors to your site

Before you can convert visitors into leads, you have to attract those visitors to your site. This is done by generating good content that means something to your potential customers.

Well-written content that addresses the questions and interests of your buyer personas will draw them to your site and then it’s up to you to follow it up with a call-to-action worth clicking.

1. Offer something of value

In the case of content marketing, the call-to-action usually comes at the end of a blog article. Every call-to-action offers something to the visitor and, just like the content, the offer must hold value to your ideal buyer. To make sure the offer is worthwhile for the reader:

Target the same buyer persona as the content. For example, if the topic of a blog article targets a startup entrepreneur, an ebook or whitepaper on startup marketing or equipping a startup in the cloud would make sense.

Match the stage of the buyer process. Avoid offering too much too soon (or too little too late). Learn what content requires an offer like an ebook aimed at the early stages of the buyer process or an offer like a consultation or a pricing guide for a buyer closer to making a decision.

Your whole marketing team needs to realise that the call-to-action is a critical part of meeting your marketing goals using inbound strategy and learn how to make the call effective.

Once you have content to attract visitors and an offer that appeals to them, it’s essential to use copy and design that will catch the reader’s eye.

2. A clickable shape

The design of any call-to-action needs to appear clickable and this is best done with a button.

For example, check out HubSpot’s call-to-action:

HubSpot's call-to-action

The button in this offer makes it obvious the visitor should click to receive the offer, but there’s another aspect of this call-to-action that makes it effective.

3. Contrasting colour

Despite extensive research, there is no one magical colour to up conversions. What is important is colour usage and contrast.

For the call-to-action to draw attention, make use of white space and contrasting colours like the HubSpot example above with a bright blue button on a dark banner sitting on a white background.

The example below, from Pancake’s main page, uses contrast to highlight the call-to-action button:

Call-to-action on Pancake's home page

4. Complementary font

Just like with colour, a font that is different from the rest of the text on the page will emphasise the call-to-action.

Take a look at this example from The Daily Egg where the colour and font contrast the rest of the page to make it standout:

Call-to-action from The Daily Egg

5. Actionable wording

The copy in your call-to-action is just as vital as its design. A call-to-action requires action words like:

  • Download
  • Attend
  • Sign up

You also have to be clear about what you’re actually offering. For example:

  • Download your free ebook: Social media for the small business
  • Attend the webinar: How to market on a shoestring budget
  • Sign up for a free 30-day trial

Avoid language that isn’t clear and straight-forward. No one’s going to act on this: ‘If you’re interested in learning more, consider downloading our ebook … .’

6. Prime real estate

You can place a call-to-action at the end of a blog, in a sidebar, on a home or product page or religiously above the fold but, wherever it is, it’s best to:

  • Avoid placing competing offers next to each other
  • Make sure the call-to-action is at the forefront of the page design
  • Use directional cues such as arrows to guide visitors to the offer
  • Avoid placing a call-to-action in a cluttered area of the page

7. A/B testing

There are things that don’t work in a call-to-action, but there’s no single magic colour, font, wording or placement that converts for all companies. So the most important step is to conduct A/B tests to see what visitors to the site actually respond to.

Create the same offer with variations in colour, font, wording, placement or size. For example, you may create a blue version and a red version. Test which gets more clicks and conversions and then use those results in future offers.

As you learn which call-to-action variations work for a brand, you’ll be able to create the most effective call-to-action every time and generate more viable leads to nurture into customers.

(Hat tip to Wikimedia Commons for the photo)

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Book review: ‘Everybody Writes’ by Ann Handley

Ann Handley is Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs and our very own Matthew Stibbe is speaking at their 2014 B2B Marketing Forum in Boston in October.

Everybody writes review book cover

Many of us become complacent as writers, believing the ability to write well is an innate gift. Balderdash, says Ann Handley.

In a refreshing take on mastering the written art, ‘Everybody Writes’, the new book by Handley, reminds us writers (and would-be-writers) of a couple of important facts:

  • ‘If you have a website you are a publisher. If you are on social media you are in marketing. And that means we are all writers.’
  • In the words of New York Times’ David Carr, ‘Writing is less about beckoning the muse than hanging in until the typing becomes writing.’

Who’s it for?

Although geared towards business and marketing writers, ‘Everybody Writes’ offers general tips that are useful no matter what you write or how experienced you are at writing it.

Handley advocates that as writers, we can always improve and evolve, so this book isn’t one to be flicked through once, and then left at the back of the shelf; it’s a book you can constantly refer back to.

Following Handley’s lead, here’s a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of what you’ll learn from ‘Everybody Writes.’

How to write better (and how to hate writing less)

As Handley writes, writing is something we all do all the time and if Buzzfeed can find internet success with ‘3 Bananas That Look Like Celebrities’ it can’t be that difficult or mysterious.

Like driving, good writing is more habit than anything else. As advertised, this section provides would-be writers with some guidance to hone their skills and habituate the writing process (or at least make it less painful).

The strength in this section (and the entire book actually) really lies in the fact Handley practices what she preaches in the first rule when she says that to write well we need to read a lot, as well as write. The volume of clever and insightful quotes shows that Handley is clearly well read.

Writing rules: Grammar and usage

Many writers won’t feel they can benefit from yet more grammar advice (although arguably many of them probably can).

This section, however, is useful for novices and pros alike. Rather than pontificating about the finer points of grammar (that most people don’t really care about), Handley concerns herself with what readers really do find annoying.

Rule 37 even suggests old-school rules we shouldn’t bother following anymore, like ‘never split infinitives’.

As a former French student, the word grammar strikes fear into the very core of my being, but this section is significantly less painful than the majority of grammar reading out there.

Story rules

As an inherent storyteller, this section really resonated with me.

Handley succinctly and smartly theorises how you inject the storytelling spirit of writing into writing for business: ‘your content is not about storytelling, it’s about telling a true story well.’

This is an excellent tip for those who generally view storytelling as something utterly fantastical, as well as those who are disenchanted with what they’re writing, or writing about.

Handley not only provides solid advice on how to create a story around just about anything, but provides some genuinely inspiring accounts of real-life businesses doing this.

Publishing rules

For anyone writing without journalistic experience, this section is incredibly helpful.

Although most of us have experience with sourcing and referencing others’ work, with free range over the internet and of all the information it holds, research can become dangerous territory, rife with blurred lines.

In this section, Handley handles some of the copyright and fact-checking issues that come with responsible, journalistic writing. She also summarises some of the other lessons journalists can teach us about writing and the general practices we can adopt to make sure our writing is ethical and interesting.

13 things marketers write

Every professional copywriter will, at some point, have to write something they’ve never written before, or that they’re not too familiar with – whether that’s social media posts or the annual report.

The beauty of this section is that it provides a short boost of confidence in how to approach specific writing tasks such as tweets or blog posts, offering the core information needed to do it well.

As a writer who has spent the past two months almost exclusively writing the unfamiliar, this section was of particular value to me.

Content tools

‘Everybody Writes’ has tips even for the master-writer, so if, by some strange turn of events, you make it all the way to this final section without finding anything helpful, you’ll find something here.

From word processing tools to productivity aids, this section contains a plethora of different tools for you to try out and give your inner writer the best possible chance of success. For procrastinators, like me, the time management tools may be a revelation, while for others the more practical resources, like image sourcing sites and blog idea generators, will make this section.

The verdict

In the foreword, author Nancy Duarte writes, ‘this book inspires you to become a stronger writer. And it does so with style’.

With some epiphany-inducing points, inspiring examples and excellent references, including, but not limited to, ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Mean Girls’, I don’t think I could sum this book up much better myself.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read ‘3 Bananas That Look Like Celebrities’.

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