Archive for the ‘Strategic Storytelling’ Category

What Have You Learned This Year? Five Questions to Help You Improve Your Marketing in 2013

Monday, December 31st, 2012

There’s plenty of advice out there about trends for 2013 and how to plan for the coming year. But before you look forward, it’s a good idea to take stock of the year drawing to a close.

If you’re like me, some of what you tried for your business worked well this year; other strategies were less successful. But mistakes are as valuable as successes. Both provide opportunities to learn and do even better next time.

So here are five questions to ask yourself as you reflect on 2012 and plan ahead:

1. Who is your ideal client—and whom are you actually helping? Are your present clients meeting your expectations?

All too often, especially when you’re starting out and don’t want to turn anyone away, it’s easy to fall into the trap of accepting clients who soak up your time but want to pay the minimum. Not worth it, especially as you’re trying to build your business. Look over your client list and determine who’s worth your time and who isn’t. Then let the sponges go.

2. What was your most successful marketing strategy? What did you do right to gain more qualified clients?

Note the adjective: qualified. You want to focus on the outreach you did that brought you more of those you want to help, not just more inquiries or more people who aren’t your target market. As you evaluate your success, think in terms of return on investment—not simply money spent, but time, as well. How can you expand on this effort during the coming year to build on your success?

3. Which marketing efforts failed to bring you desired results? Why? What went wrong?

Remember, this isn’t about banging your head against the wall. You want to identify what was a waste of time and money, and why. Maybe your concept was good, but the execution failed. Or maybe your execution was perfect, but you misunderstood your ideal client and how she would respond. Analyze your effort to figure out how you missed your target, what’s worth refining and repeating, and what to avoid in 2013.

4. How has your understanding of your work evolved? Is that reflected in your marketing messaging? Do you need to make refinements?

The more clients you help, the more you develop and refine your sense of your own capabilities and what you do best. Take some time to pat yourself on the back, note down your strengths and the words your best clients have used to describe you and how you’ve improved their lives. Look over your web content and other marketing materials to assess whether your content accurately reflects the true nature of your work—from your ideal client’s point of view—and your true abilities. Then make any necessary refinements.

5. Of all the marketing initiatives you tried this year, which one did you enjoy the most? Why?

Chances are that the marketing you enjoyed the most, you did the best. Maybe you discovered a passion for blogging, or you love the challenge of maximizing ROI from a Google AdWords campaign. Perhaps you found that you have a skill for teaching through workshops or webinars. Or maybe you’ve met some of your best customers by shmoozing in professional networking meetings or by helping others through LinkedIn forums.

We all thrive when we’re playing to our strengths. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new approaches that push you out of your comfort zone, but it’s always a good idea to make the most of the strategies you really enjoy. Not only will you excel at what you love, but you’ll learn more about yourself and new directions for your business.

As we enter 2013, use what you’ve learned from this exercise to plan for an even better, more successful year of promoting your great work. Good luck and best wishes for a prosperous, fulfilling New Year!

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

How to Keep Your Annual Appeal Out of the Circular File

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

The week before Thanksgiving, along with the inevitable flood of holiday gift catalogues in the mail, comes the inevitable flood of annual appeals from your alma mater and any good cause you may have supported in the past, along with requests from many causes you haven’t.

If you’re like me, I’m sure you toss the ones you don’t really care about, which constitute at least 90 percent of the mail, and set aside the ones you want to review for tax-deductible giving before the end of the calendar year.

So what makes a direct mail annual appeal worth opening, let alone reading—let alone responding to with a donation?

Just saying what you do and why it’s important aren’t enough to save an appeal from the circular file. Here are three key criteria to an effective annual appeal:

1) A Qualified Mailing List

This may seem obvious, but given the amount of junk mail we all receive, it’s certainly not always followed. Especially for non-profits that need to watch every dollar spent, it is well worth the time and investment to create and maintain an up-to-date database of qualified donors who have given in the past.

You can amplify this list through effective lead generation materials on your website—free, valuable content that your site visitors will want to download in exchange for their contact information. Understand the people you are trying to attract as donors, what they care about, what motivates them, what they would want to receive that is relevant to your work and helps to educate. Create quality content to give away in exchange for the contact information you need to expand your list of potential donors.

2) A Compelling Story

The best way to bring home the positive impact of your non-profit’s work is to tell a story that illustrates how your efforts benefited those you intend to help. Journalists use this approach all the time to explain a complicated issue—like rising gas prices—by telling the story from a local point of view. Readers can more readily identify with an abstract issue if it’s explained in personal terms.

To hold your audience, your story needs to have emotional impact that’s earned, not forced. People don’t want to feel manipulated. Stick to the truth. If your work is really good, you’ll have plenty of compelling anecdotes that can be woven into your narrative.

3) Great Visuals

A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. Not everyone will read a long appeal letter, no matter how well crafted. Use quality photos that illustrate how you help—not grip-and-grin snapshots of donors at events—to help tell your story and draw your reader into your appeal. It also pays to invest in a professional graphic designer to lay out your story in a way that is compelling and easy to follow.

In addition to the above, be sure to get your appeal in the mail in time for it to arrive a month to six weeks before December 31, so recipients won’t miss it in the Christmas rush. And do a thorough evaluation of your appeal’s effectiveness when you’ve received all your donations.

There are many, many good causes out there, all competing for donations. Your chances of raising money for your good works are significantly better if you have a solid mailing list and a great, humane story, well presented, to share with your qualified donors.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Seven Ways to Repeat Your Message and Get Noticed

Monday, October 1st, 2012

There’s a golden rule in public speaking:

Tell your audience what you’re going to tell them.

Tell them.

Then tell them what you told them.

When it comes to delivering a memorable message, repetition is key. With so much information battering us for attention every second—from emails, texts, tweets, social network posts; on our smart phones, radio, TV; not to mention from live beings in our midst—it’s amazing that we can remember anything at all.

The Rule of Seven
So how many times do you need to repeat your marketing message for your ideal customer to pay attention, remember and follow your call-to-action?

The annoying answer is—it depends. If you’re an expert in a small but clearly defined niche, you may have a dedicated following who just need to hear your advice once to take action.

But if you’re competing in a crowded marketplace, you need to repeat and repeat and repeat. Some marketing pros cite the Rule of Seven—a minimum of seven times to repeat your message in order to be noticed. It’s probably no coincidence that seven is the average number of bits of information that we can hold in our short-term, conscious memory.

Vary the Medium to Develop Your Message
This doesn’t mean you need to repeat the exact same message in the exact same format, over and over. In fact, it helps if you promote your message with some variety, so your ideal client doesn’t yawn and move on because she’s heard it already. There’s a balance to be struck between reinforcing your message and annoying the people you’re trying to convince with too much of the same thing.

So here are seven ways to get your message across in different styles and formats:

  1. Blog about it. Tell a story about how your helped solve a problem for a client. Be sure she’s someone your target audience can identify with. Tweet about your blog post, using keywords that your target audience is likely to use for search.
  2. Create a video of your client explaining how you helped her solve that problem. Embed it on your website homepage, post it on your social networking sites and tweet to your followers.
  3. Create a short guide to solving that problem, optimize it with keywords and post it on your website as a download in exchange for email addresses. Promote it through your social networks.
  4. Promote a free webinar about how to solve that problem in greater detail, using  your email list of qualified potential clients and social networks.
  5. Do the webinar. Offer participants a discount for your product or service.
  6. Guest post on a blog with a significant audience of potential clients about how to solve that problem. Link to your website and your problem-solving download.
  7. Get yourself an interview on your local business radio show and tell your story. Promote your next webinar.

And so on. You can, of course, also tell your story through traditional advertising, such as newspaper ads, if your budget allows. The point is to think creatively, across media that your ideal client favors, and plan your promotional push within a short enough period that will help you to reinforce your message multiple times.

As you develop your campaign, be sure to measure results. Which tactic garnered the most inquiries? Which gave you the best return on your investment of time and resources? Experiment, test and refine. With each new round of repetition, you’ll have a better shot that your ideal client will actually be listening.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

 

How to Be Yourself and Stop Hiding Behind Your Website Content

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

I read a lot of websites. Market research for clients, competitor analysis, my own information search—it all adds up to a lot of words on screen. And quite frankly, much of it is, well, garbage, to be polite.

It’s not that the content isn’t informative. It’s not that it doesn’t answer my questions. It’s just hard to read. And I’m not talking about lack of good grammar, though there’s plenty of reason to gripe about that.

Don’t Sound Like a Robot
What bothers me most about many web sites, especially sites for professional services, is that they seem to be written by automatons. The language is stiff, formal, like content you’d find in a term paper. In an effort to sound professional, the writer comes off sounding aloof—not someone I’d want to spend time with.

It’s a pitfall in all forms of business writing—using complicated sentences and big words to sound intelligent. But really, what we all want is to deal with a warm-blooded person on the other end of the website, someone we can identify with, someone we’d enjoy meeting over a cup of coffee for a good conversation and help solving a problem.

Keep It Conversational
I know how hard it is just to be yourself online. It’s natural to feel vulnerable when you put yourself out there. We all need boundaries to protect our privacy, especially on the Internet.

At the same time, to connect with your ideal client, you really need to push past any urge to spiff up your web content with lots of long phrases, fancy terms and—please, no—business jargon. No one really talks like that unless she’s trying too hard to impress. And it shows.

So here are a few ways to keep your web content down-to-earth and personal:

  1. Choose strong nouns and active verbs. They always beat overwrought vocabulary and circuitous sentence structure, no matter what the genre. It’s fine to use unusual, interesting words—as long as your target audience speaks that way, too.
  2. Use the second person, you, to speak directly to your audience, as you would in a conversation. Don’t feel you need to use third person he/she/they to be polite or more appropriate. That will only distance you from your reader.
  3. Capture your natural voice in your writing. How would you explain this topic to a good friend? That’s the tone you want to emulate online. The best way to test your content for conversational tone is to read it out loud when you’re through writing. If you hesitate because the sentences are confusing, get stuck on pronouncing big words or get bored listening to yourself, it’s time to revise.
  4. Anticipate your reader’s questions and answer them in a logical sequence. This achieves two goals: Your copy will be easy to read, and your reader will feel understood and keep reading.
  5. Avoid foul language. This is an exception to the point about capturing your natural voice—if you tend to curse a lot, that’s your business, but it doesn’t belong on your professional website. Even today when just about anything goes, many readers will be turned off by words that get bleeped on most TV shows. Occasionally, cursing in context can be very effective, but it should be used with full intention, not carelessly.

For more suggestions on how to write web copy that works, check out this post: Five Reasons Why Your Website Content Isn’t Working—and How to Fix It.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

 

 

The Solid Gold, No-fail Key to Marketing Success

Monday, August 20th, 2012

About 15 years ago, when I had just started as marketing director for a small New England college, I bumped into one of the faculty as we collected our mail. When I introduced myself, he balked. “So, you’re going to give us the Madison Avenue treatment,” he said, making no effort to hide his disdain.

We later became friends, but his remarks unnerved me. I was new to my job and had just been given the role of marketing head a short week after arriving to direct the college’s communications efforts. I really didn’t know what I was doing, and his comments made me feel like I was leading some tainted effort to snare potential students with sleazy sales pitches.

Marketing Must Be Authentic to Persuade
Of course, that’s a common misperception of marketing, with a basis in truth. Traditional advertising manipulates our emotions to get us to buy. But we’re long past the days when the Don Drapers of the world could push out one-way messaging without consumer push-back (unless, of course, the product was a total dud).

Marketing (which includes advertising), especially on today’s consumer-driven Internet frontier, has to be authentic to persuade. Messaging is no longer one-way. Consumers have many options to research products and services online; reviews, forums, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and more provide ample ways to confirm or deny marketing claims. Bad reviews spread with the speed of data transmission.

While the fear of someone sinking your business with a critique that goes viral may be enough motivation to be authentic, here’s a much better reason: Integrity is the key to effective marketing.

Be True to Yourself and Honest with Your Clients
Whether you’re creating content for your website, a blog post or a tweet, be true to yourself and you’ll never have to worry about making promises that you can’t fulfill even if you mean well, getting business under false pretenses, or overextending yourself and undercutting expectations.

I share this because marketing can seem such an overwhelming and unpleasant prospect, a necessary evil when you’re a small business owner who already has far too much to accomplish each day. It’s often the lowest priority on your to-do list, the tightest budget item. You know you have to do it to get business, but, like my former college colleague, you avoid it or hold your nose.

Discover Your Strengths to Reach Those You Help Most
So, consider this: Marketing is certainly challenging. It involves a lot of time and attention to detail and strategy and follow-through. But marketing is also one of the best ways I know to discover your strengths, the true value of your work and how you’re helping others. Developing a solid strategy forces you to think rigorously about your ideal client, the problems and mistakes she struggles with, and how you help her to find solutions. Telling your true story becomes a source of pride in all of your hard work and accomplishments, as well as a means to get the word out and find more great clients to help. Honest client feedback enables you to do even better.

While I was marketing director at that college, I made a solid commitment never to create any false advertising. Sometimes I had to rein in enthusiastic colleagues who wanted to oversell their programs. Sometimes I had to say no. I worked hard to find and tell honest stories, and the college attracted more qualified students.

The same will hold true for your business. Be authentic, serve with excellence, market with integrity, and your work with thrive.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

10 Things You Should Know About Your Ideal Client

Monday, July 9th, 2012

To have an effective marketing strategy, you need to know whom you’re selling to. That seems pretty obvious, but it’s a step all too often missed when we have a product or service we think is really great and put all our effort into talking it up, rather than communicating from the point of view of those we hope to attract.

For a website to work, you need content that solves a problem or answers a pressing question for your ideal client. It’s all about providing useful information that she’s already seeking.

To Understand Your Ideal Client, Get Inside Her Head
So, how do you know what your ideal client wants? Even before doing surveys, focus groups or other research, the first step is to get a clear handle on whom you want to sell to. Here are 10 basic questions (and related details) to ask yourself about your ideal client. You can draw on what you know of your existing client base or imagine whom you’d really like to attract to your business.

Some of these may require you to stretch your imagination, but if you work through this exercise, you’ll have a much better sense of the kind of person you’re actually trying to reach:

  1. How old is your ideal client? What gender? Ethnicity? (For the sake of simplicity, I’m using female pronouns here.)
  2. Is she employed? What’s her annual income?
  3. What’s the highest level of education she’s completed?
  4. What’s her relationship status?
  5. Does she have children? How old? What kind of school do they attend?
  6. What’s her life style? Does she walk, drive or use public transit to get around? If she drives, what kind of car? What kind of home and community does she live in? Where does she buy her clothes? What community organizations doe she volunteer for, if any? What does she do for a vacation? Is she involved in a religious community? Politics?
  7. What does she do for fun?
  8. What’s her news source? What books and magazines does she read? What blogs does she follow?
  9. Is she active on Facebook? Twitter? Other social media? Or does she find the idea of social networking online a waste of time, intimidating or an invasion of privacy?
  10. What wakes her up in the middle of the night? What’s the biggest challenge she’s facing right now?

Your answers will help you to develop an avatar of your ideal client. You can even go so far as to give her a name and find a picture in a magazine that fits her description, to help you visualize.

Keep this profile front and center in your mind whenever you’re developing a new marketing strategy or writing new content for your website or blog. If you can really get inside your ideal client’s head, you’ll better understand her motivations, what’s driving her to seek out your help through your business—and how you can better provide the solutions she needs.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Extreme Web Makeover III: Trees at Risk

Monday, June 4th, 2012

There’s an old saying that the cobbler’s children go barefoot. Eleven years ago, I published my book, Trees at Risk: Reclaiming an Urban Forest. An environmental history of Worcester, Mass., the book traces the decline of the city’s public trees and parks, and serves as a cautionary tale about the high price we pay as a community—in quality of life as well as land values—for neglecting our urban forests.

A niche market, certainly, but the book has been well-received by people who care about tree stewardship, local history and urban ecology.

My Marketing Challenge
Only problem: I simply never took the time to market the book properly, and have yet to fully penetrate that target market here in Central Massachusetts and beyond, wherever communities are struggling to preserve publicly owned trees—an issue that has become much more salient with the arrival of the maple-loving Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) here in Massachusetts and four other states, as well as Canada.

So, I have many copies of the book stored in my basement. And I need to get them into the hands of people who care about my subject. I’ve had a website, treesatrisk.com, for several years, but the site wasn’t getting much traffic. Time for the marketing consultant to finally apply her skills to her own book!

Rethinking the Strategy for My Book’s Website
My first step was to rethink the marketing angle for the book. For my original website, I had just lifted copy from the back cover for the homepage and my bio, excerpted part of the book’s introduction for a sample, included a review and links to some news stories about the book and a TV interview, and had a page to buy the book. The site was simple and attractive enough visually, but had no punch or any real strategy.

But I realized that I had a natural hook. Worcester, most unfortunately, has struggled with an ALB infestation since 2008—we’ve lost nearly 31,000 trees here and in surrounding towns to the bug, which destroys maples and other hardwoods. I actually predicted the infestation in Trees at Risk, since the city has a predominance of maple street trees. So I refocused the website on the infestation, and repositioned the book as an authoritative account of the circumstances that led up to the situation we’re now in.

Revised, Targeted Content and a Fresh Look
With excellent help from Ed Booth of Insight Dezign, I created a custom version of StudioPress’s “Balance” child theme, using a Genesis platform that takes WordPress one step further with code that guards against hacking.

The design has a strong visual focus for featured content on the homepage—in my case, a review quote and image of the book linked to the Buy page. I rewrote all of my content to tell the story of Worcester’s current tree crisis, placing it in the historical context detailed in my book. Other content changes and embellishments:

  • Keyword-branded, custom urls for each page
  • Photos that I took of trees around the city
  • Custom header matching the book’s cover text treatment
  • An easy-to-skim, chapter-by-chapter summary of the book’s contents
  • A more engaging book excerpt about the Hurricane of 1938 that places the ALB devastation in perspective
  • A personal bio as well as the story of how and why I wrote the book
  • A page of ALB resources
  • Embedded excerpts from my TV interview
  • Strategically placed excerpts from a great review of the book by the Journal of Political Ecology
  • A Beetle Blog, which gives me the opportunity to write about the ALB and tree stewardship, telling the story of what’s happened since the book was published and creating content that will boost search and my own authority as a source for interviews and speaking engagements
  • New pricing that reflects the impact of Ebook pricing on the print world
  • Links to the Buy page at the end of each page, in the footer and right sidebar

I relaunched the site last week, promoting it through email, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and I’ve begun personal networking, once again, to promote the book and the website. Feedback, so far, has been quite encouraging. The site launch prompted two sales already, and I now have the strategic, authoritative platform I need to move all of those books out of our basement family room, into the hands of tree-lovers.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

 

To Pin or Not to Pin: Is Pinterest Worth Your Time?

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Pinterest continues to make headlines as the fast-growing visual sharing social network struggles with growing pains over copyright infringement. Last week, Pinterest changed its terms of use, revising previous language that frowned on user self-promotion but, by default, opened the door to a host of liability issues when users shared copyrighted content without permission. As of April 6, Pinterest now states that users can only pin content they own or have permission to use.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s reelection campaign has become one of the most recent Pinterest adopters, hoping to connect with the site’s largely female following—a strategy driven by current political wisdom that the November election hinges on women voters.

Here’s a round-up of recent articles on Pinterest’s copyright debacle and how savvy marketers are leveraging their Pinterest content to drive website traffic and conversions:

Pinterest’s Growth Comes Back to Earth The Street

Pinterest Terms of Service Get Updated Huffington Post

The Copyright Question: How to Protect Yourself on Pinterest Mashable

Hey Girl, Obama’s on Pinterest! Forbes

Is Pinterest Traffic Worthless? Copyblogger

56 Ways to Market Your Business on Pinterest Copyblogger

Pinterest vs. Google+: Which New Social Network Is Worth Marketers’ Time? Hubspot

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your good work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Do Your Client Testimonials Sound Fake?

Monday, March 19th, 2012

“Your product is great. I’m telling all my friends to buy it.”—J.S.

Are you convinced? Now that you’ve read J.S.’s testimonial on XYZ.com, are you going to run out and buy that great product?

I didn’t think so.

Client testimonials are a popular way to promote your product or service and can lend credibility and authority to you and business. But all too often, websites are cluttered with a mishmash of testimonials that sound as contrived as blog spam.

Even when true, a testimonial that is too general, simplistic and unsigned will not only be perceived as fake, but can also undermine your authority. If you raise your visitor’s suspicion that you’re just making them up, testimonials can undercut trust that is key to the effectiveness of your site.

To Sound Authentic, Testimonials Need to Be Authentic
Authentic testimonials share the qualities of believable quotes in a newspaper article or magazine feature: They reflect a unique voice, are specific to the subject, pack an emotional punch and accurately capture the words and feelings of a real person.

The best testimonials are ones you collect from third-party reviews, such as social media sites where clients can rate your services. For example, if you have a Google Places page, your customers can write reviews. You can also collect comments from your Facebook fan page. If you’re doing a great job of customer service, chances are you’ll have some excellent testimonials.

You may also use customer evaluation forms or ask directly for written feedback. If you do so, be sure to ask permission to publish comments. As you sift through the feedback, resist the temptation to edit people’s words and clean up their language too much, so that it sounds too perfect and less true. Transparency is key to building trust online.

Use Source Names and Titles Whenever Possible
When you can credit a quote to a real person with a title and business or home town location, the testimonial is simply more believable. It’s the same as when you read a newspaper article; if the person is named, you’ll trust the quote more than when it’s attributed to “a reliable source.”

For some professions, however, confidentiality requirements rule out naming names. For attorneys, medical professionals and mental health providers, the best alternative is to include initials and the person’s general location, if you have permission. Another option is to create case studies about client experiences that don’t name names but are specific enough to illustrate the kinds of problems you’ve helped clients to solve.

Select the Most Original, Specific Quotes That Show How You Solved Your Client’s Problem
With testimonials, less is more. Don’t bombard your site visitor with too many testimonials that repeat the same points or don’t add value. Be selective. The more specific the comment, the more personal and unique the testimonial, the better. Unless there’s a very good reason, limit the quotes to a few key sentences. Rambling testimonials will just make your reader’s eyes glaze over.

Above all, select quotes that demonstrate how you helped your client solve a real problem. The more specific she can be about the problem and how she benefited from your product or service, the better. And if you have a great quote from a skeptic, all the better still—nothing persuades more effectively than a former doubter who’s become a true believer in the quality of what you offer.

Anticipate and Address Roadblocks to Purchasing Your Product or Service
As you choose which testimonials to include, think about the obstacles that potential clients might have with making a purchase. Is your product or service perceived as pricey? Then be sure you include testimonials from clients who feel it’s well worth the investment. Does it involve a number of steps to use correctly? Include quotes about how your directions are clear and easy to follow. As always, promoting your business requires that you fully understand and address your ideal client’s needs and concerns.

Place Testimonials Near Decision Points
Analyze which points in the decision-making process might cause your potential clients the most concern and address them with strong testimonials. For example, if you offer a money-back guarantee, you can reinforce your promise with testimonials on your sales page from satisfied customers who had their issues addressed by your customer support team. For more on testimonial placement, see MarketingExperiments.com’s article on Using Testimonials Effectively.

Another way to include implicit proof of your product’s quality is to use customer satisfaction reviews on your site. This is a well-established practice for sites such as Zappos.com, LLBean.com and Amazon.com.

Use Unscripted, Sincere Video Testimonials
While most of my comments here address written testimonials, their video cousins are a popular and powerful way to add authority to your site. Video provides a much more personal way for your potential customers to connect with others who have bought your product or service. So here are a few guidelines:

  • Never script a testimonial video. Viewers will see right through it.
  • Use good enough productions values so that the video appears authoritative, but don’t make it so polished that it comes across as slick (which equals fake).
  • Choose satisfied clients with whom your ideal client can identify.
  • Ask them to tell a story about how you helped them to solve a significant problem.
  • Keep it short; a minute or less if you have several videos.

Whatever form of testimonial you choose, the most important thing to remember is this: Keep it honest, concise and specific to how you helped your customer improve some aspect of her life in a meaningful way. All the rest is commentary.

Evelyn Herwitz is a marketing consultant who loves to help service professionals tell great stories about their good work, to establish them as approachable experts and to grow their businesses. She offers a free half-hour consult to new clients.

 

PowerPoint Presentations Don’t Have to Be Boring

Monday, February 27th, 2012

We’ve all sat through them. Workshops, lectures and classes where the speaker uses a projector with a PowerPoint presentation to lead the audience through key points. Often there are handouts of the slides, so you can follow along without taking notes.

The only problem is this: Unless there’s a good story that ties together all the bullet points and data, you and everyone else around you are probably going to forget what you learned and toss the handout into the circular file when you get back to your office.

The good news is that PowerPoint offers a wide range of options for visually stunning and compelling presentations. But it takes thought, planning and some playfulness with visuals to create a memorable message.

Here are some key elements for an effective PowerPoint presentation:

Know Your Audience
This is my marketing mantra. Understand whom you’re speaking to. Why have they come to your presentation? What’s the problem they’re trying to solve, and how is the information you’re presenting going to help them? Keep this foremost in your mind as you plan your slides.

Identify Your Desired Outcome
What do you want your audience to learn from your presentation? Are you teaching a new concept? Making a case for a favorable decision on a project? Structure your content in a logical sequence that enables your audience to connect the dots.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
There’s only so much information that any of us can absorb and retain. Don’t overload your slides with too many bullet points or too much data. Set priorities and organize content for each slide around one key point.

Tell a Story
There are several ways to do this. You can use a metaphor, such as a journey or sporting event to tie together the elements of your presentation. Or you can integrate anecdotes into your presentation, stories that illustrate key points involving people and dilemmas your audience can relate to. Make this the heart of your presentation. It helps to map our your ideas in a storyboard format, so you can see how it all fits together, before creating your slides.

Use Great Visuals
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Introduce key concepts with images that illustrate your points. You can include a simple line of text or just let the image stand on its own. There are many royalty-free stock image sites; some require payment per image and others are free. My current favorite source for free images is CompFight, which enables you easily to search Flickr Creative Commons. There are also a wide variety of government sites that offer free content. Be sure to read and comply with all licensing agreements.

Add Movement
PowerPoint enables you to isolate elements of your graphics and text so that you can stage the appearance of information and visuals. Used sparingly, animation can help you to build your explanations point by point, as well as add some fun to your stills. Just don’t overdo it, because too much animation can end up being a distraction.

You can find more ideas about how to create great PowerPoint presentations at BeyondBulletPoints and intriguing ways to display complex data at PresentationZen.