Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What Is Copy and Why Is It Important To My Marketing?

This may seem like a very basic question. However, it's one that needs to be asked and answered. Why? Because a lot of business owners don't "get" the value of good copy. 

You may be asking "What is this copy you talk about?" In the simplest form, words. Just like the ones you're reading now. But not just any old words. Words that explain what your business, product or service can do for a prospect. 

More importantly, words that sell. Words that will motivate someone to give you money in exchange for value. And words are a key part of every ad or marketing campaign a business runs. 

The right words will sell and the wrong ones won't. It's really that simple (but not easy) to write a winning sales letter or message. 

Words are part of radio and TV commercials and newspaper ads. They're on pay-per-click ads, landing pages and sales letters. And they're part of brochures, follow-up e-mails and every other marketing message. Bottom line - words are part of all your marketing efforts

The right words are critical in direct-response marketing, which is what every business owner should use. Direct-response marketing asks the customer to take a certain action. It can be to opt-in to an e-mail list, sign up to watch a video or buy a product. 

A business owner will know exactly which ads work to make a sale. Why? Because you can track to the penny how many prospects buy from each ad. 

This is why most ad agencies don't like this type of marketing. They want you to pay for their ads over a period of time and ignore the results. That's because most of the time these ads don't make many sales.  

Their ads may win awards for being clever or creative. But when it comes to making sales, these ads almost always fall short. 

Most agencies rely on image or "branding" type marketing. This relies on expensive ads with few words that don't really sell. It's a popular myth based on the theory of "brand awareness." 

use the word theory because I haven't seen it work well in the real world.  It says if you put your company name out there often enough, folks will eventually buy from you. 

This kind of marketing can make some sales in the short run. For example, if you have a stopped-up toilet and hear an ad for a plumber on the radio. 

Here's the problem with this theory. If you can't directly track an ad to a sale, you don't know if it works. What's the ultimate goal of a business? Make enough sales to at least cover your costs. And better yet, make a profit. 

This ties back to my original point. Why the right words are critical to business success.

I know this may sound really basic. But I see a lot of business owners who don't seem to get this simple concept. 

If your marketing hasn't worked well, you might be using the wrong words. You could make an offer your market doesn't want. Or you could make your offer to the wrong people. If you want to sell T-bone steaks, you wouldn't target a group of Boulder vegans. 

A savvy copywriter and marketing pro can look at all three to find the weak link(s). 

I'll admit this is a little self-serving. That's because I am a copywriter. I tell you this because it's critical to your business success. 

More than a few companies do OK without good marketing. Will they continue to do OK in the future with a so-so economy? With a few exceptions, I doubt it. 

The economy won't get any better anytime soon. Especially with state-run health care. 

There are so many "wildcards" that affect the economy today - both here and around the world - that I don't know when it will get back to 'normal' or even decent. 

In the future, good business and marketing basics will be more important than ever. That includes good copy, offers and strategy. 

Don't believe that good marketing makes a difference? Listen to this Tony Robbins interview of Jay Abraham:


Jay is a well-known marketing legend. His advice produced $9.4 billion in sales for his clients. 

Listen to the audio more than once and take plenty of notes to mine the marketing "gold." 

What's the best measure of your marketing? Not how many leads or how much "brand awareness" you have. It's how well you convert those leads into sales, which lead to dollars in your bank account. 

This should be your main goal when you make any marketing decision. Not to just 'get your name out there' or 'boost brand awareness.'

If it don't make the cash register ring, it doesn't mean a thing. 

That's the best reason why good copy is critical to your business success. 

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Why It's Not Enough To Be A ________ Marketing Expert

Nowadays it seems like there are plenty of "social marketing experts" for hire. The explicit (or implied) promise is that if you get enough posts, likes and tweets, these modern-day wizards will magically solve your business problems.

This reminds me of the late 90s dot.com boom, and the promises I heard back then. Phrases like:

"It's a new era in business.... just get enough 'clicks' and 'eyeballs' to your website, and the profits will take care of themselves."

That advice didn't work real well for a lot of companies. Such as Pets.com... Contentville... Flooz... Kozmo.com, and other victims in the dot.com boneyard.

Clicks and eyeballs weren't enough to keep them in business. They still needed old-fashioned things like sales and cash flow.

A book was written about this dot.com graveyard by Phillip Kaplan titled F'd Companies. It chronicles the Alpha and Omega (beginning and end) of multiple companies with no product... experience... or realistic business model. Just hot air, blue sky and empty promises.

Todays 'tweets' and likes' seem to be the equivalent of the late 90s 'clicks' and 'eyeballs.' I'm not sold on the idea that if your Fan page is popular enough, you'll convert enough folks to purchase your product or service. Or that you can effectively communicate your marketing message in 140 characters or less.

I realize that you can write a short tweet or post that can get someone to a website or landing page. Social Media can be part of a sound marketing strategy, but it's not the be-all / end-all to your business challenges.

The biggest whopper I've heard from the Social Media Kool-Aid drinkers comes from the Head Twits themselves, Ev Williams and Biz Stone. Speaking last month to the "Tech Crunch Disrupt" conference, they had the chutzpah to tell capitalists in attendance to 'Stop stressing about how your business will make money. The money will come."

Ah yes, the Field of Dreams approach to business. Brilliant!

This quote is the leader in the clubhouse for the biggest load of BS I've heard in 2012. It's terrible advice, defies business fundamentals and common sense.

Why do I bring up the F'd Companies book and the Twitter quote? Because technology and good intentions aren't enough aren't enough to be successful in business. You have to put in enough consistent effort, and make sure that effort is guided by a sound business plan and fundamentals.

It's not enough to be a Facebook / Twitter / Other Social Media Outlet marketing expert... you have to know the fundamentals of good marketing to be considered an expert - or at the very least competent.

Preferably if you've learned those fundamentals from folks like Claude Hopkins and his book Scientific Advertising... John Caples and David Ogilvy, to name a few. Or more modern-day marketing wizards, such as Jay Abraham, Ted Nicholas, Gary Bencivenga, or John Carlton.

You really need to know the market you're selling to... what product or service(s) said market really wants... and what will motivate them to buy said product or service. If you hire a marketing consultant or copywriter to increase sales and cash flow, they darn well better know these three things - or else you're probably throwing your money away.

The moral of this story? I'll say it again: It's not enough to be a __________ marketing expert, and it's not the medium (or media) that make the difference... it's the rock-solid, time-tested marketing fundamentals put into action.

They've worked for all kinds of companies for over 100 years, and they can work for yours too. Give 'em a try. If done correctly, I think you'll like the results you see.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why Groupon Should Have Listened To Claude Hopkins...

It looks like the honeymoon is over for Groupon, judging by this recent article at Slate.com. The stock price has dropped from over $31/share down to $5.36 and no profits to speak of. Instead, Groupon has an annual net loss of 27 cents a share. Just like the over-hyped dot.com stocks of the late 90s, this Social Media darling has had plenty of hype and hot air... but nothing in the way of earnings, or a good business model.

You may be asking: "Why should Groupon have listened to Claude Hopkins... who the heck was he... and why was/is he so important when it comes to marketing and business?"

Claude was one of the great advertising pioneers of the early 20th Century. He believed that advertising existed only to sell something, and the results should be measurable and justify the results it produced. (That sounds familiar... I wonder who else has been talking about that?)... but I digress.

Hopkins wrote the classic marketing book Scientific Advertising in 1923. What Claude said back then about advertising still applies today. If you're serious about marketing or business, you should read this book. I'm reading it for the fifth time, learning (and re-learning) solid marketing fundamentals.

Groupon's execs should have read what Claude wrote to avoid the problems they face today.

What are these problems? Lack of long-term, repeat customers that result from Groupon and "daily deal" advertising... small-business clients selling goods and services at a discount... then paying Groupon steep commissions - usually 50% of the already-discounted sales price.

Groupon's business model assumes that a company will sell a discounted "sample" of its product or service.... then customers will gladly pay full price on future buys. That doesn't make sense to me, and it didn't make sense to Claude.

Here's what he says in Chapter 13 - The Use of Samples:

"For the same reason some advertisers say, 'You buy one package, we will buy the other (Ed: Buy one, get one free).' Or they make a coupon good for part of the purchase price. Any keyed returns will clearly prove that such offers do not pay. Before a prospect is converted, it is approximately as hard to get half price for your article as to get the full price for it. 

As Claude Hopkins reminds us, it's difficult (if not impossible) to pull this marketing feat off.

It's a great lesson for business owners, investors and marketers alike. Before you start-up or invest in any new or existing business, make sure it has a good long-term sustainable business model... and competent, experienced management.

Or if you consider hiring a marketing consultant or copywriter, ask them if they know who Claude Hopkins is. I can almost guarantee you that many of today's "social media experts" don't have a clue who Mr. Hopkins was... and why his words of wisdom are still so important today.

They know the ins and outs... likes and pokes... tweets and re-tweets of Facebook and Twitter... but I'm not convinced they truly know the "old-school" fundamentals of good marketing - which (if applied correctly) always work in any type of market or advertising medium.

That's what I'll cover in my next blog post, which talks about the difference between the medium and the marketing... and why it's so important for your business.

Until next time...