What I’m working on this week (Mar. 30 – Apr. 3, 2015)

The end of the first quarter of the year. Time is RACING by!

Last week was a great week for work, plus it was my 40th birthday, so it’s all awesome. I was also busy with a a design change for this site (for a few reasons but primarily because I want a mobile-friendlier theme). It’s not perfect yet (is it ever?) but it’s headed in that direction. Plus I recently hired an assistant (I haven’t had one in a few years) and that has changed how I work and (in the short term) created some extra tasks as I train her with the tasks I need her to do.

Here’s what I’m working on this week:

  • A series of articles for a client that he can schedule to his blog for the second quarter
  • Blog posts for two real estate investors for the month of April
  • Working on three print books for clients (they’re all underway and I just need to push them forward)
  • Building sales funnels for a real estate investor and a local manufacturing firm
  • Writing ebooks for a real estate investor, a financial advisor, and a real estate developer

Got a couple of my own projects, too: A real estate investing blog, a book, and a bunch of research on a couple of new sales funnels.

Have a great week!

If you’re trying to decide on the best social media strategy, you’ve probably missed this crucial first step…

This is a pretty common scenario: I’ll get on the phone with someone to consult with them about their business and somewhere in the conversation they’ll ask a question.

The question usually sounds something like this: “Should I get a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn profile? What about Pinterest? Or Instagram?

It’s a good question to ask… unfortunately, business owners frequently ask it too early in the process.

My response is always this…

WHAT DOES YOUR SALES FUNNEL TELL YOU?

Your sales funnel is the most important part of your business. It’s the flow of your customers from first hearing about you… allllllllll the way through developing a relationship with you… allllllllll the way to the point when they buy from you, and beyond.

It’s the step-by-step sequence that people go through as they become leads, then prospects, the customers, then evangelists for your business.

I think most business owners know that (at least intuitively, even if they don’t know their sales funnel as deeply as they could).

However, business owners also encounter an onslaught of messages that tells them: “You need to be on social media and if you’re not on ALL social channels, your business is as good as dead in the water.

THE MYTH OF SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE FACT OF BUSINESS

Social media is a means of communication not a universal business strategy. It’s a way to engage with people, to connect with them, to listen, to have conversations, to advise, to help, to share… and yes, even sometimes to sell. Because it’s a means of communication, it’s also a useful marketing tool… but it is NOT a universal business strategy.

The reason is: Not all of your prospective customers are active on every social media channel or even ON every social media channel.

One client found that his target market of older professional men with an interest in cars were active on LinkedIn but not Facebook and definitely not Pinterest. Another client found that his target market of a specific group of real estate investors was active on Facebook but not Twitter or Instagram. One client found that his clients weren’t on social media at all.

Consumers use social media to connect and learn and share. But not all consumers do. Some don’t get it, others don’t feel the need, others don’t have time.

Many business owners seem to assume that ALL of their customers are on ALL social media ALL the time so they invest a lot of time and energy and money into building social brands. They discover a significant lack of engagement and zero return on all of that marketing investment.

The truth is very different: Some target markets are using some social media some of the time. (Sometimes more than others).

There are situations when a different approach works better. From direct mail to print ads to cold calling, just to name a few.

HERE’S WHAT TO DO INSTEAD

Before you invest heavily into every social media channel, figure out where your best customers spend their time. Are they hanging out on Twitter? Are they hanging out on Facebook? Great. Invest there. Or, as I suggested in another blog I run about copywriting or real estate investors, if your target market is spending more of their time at their kid’s softball tournaments, then skip social and sponsor the team.

Invest time thinking about where your audience’s attention is focused and that will tell you exactly how to connect with them.

It might be one or more social media channels… or it might not.

Financial fiction review: ‘Graveyards Of The Banks’ by Nyla Nox

Love financial fiction? So do I. And I review them for you!

In this post I’m reviewing…

Graveyards Of The Banks by Nyla Nox

 

Financial fiction meets Dante’s Inferno meets The Office.

Graveyards-of-the-Banks_Nyla-NoxOVERVIEW: This is the story of a young woman in London who is strapped for cash after her anthropology career falls short, so she gets a job in an investment bank and navigates the complex inner workings of a bureaucratic, multinational hell.

REVIEW: Wow. This was an amazing, moving book. Most of the financial fiction I read is best described as thrillers or mysteries, but not this book. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect… the first couple of pages had a pace and a style that I wasn’t used to. But once I got into the writer’s rhythm, I was hooked. This book is a semi-autobiographical fiction (?) viewed through a poetic filter. And it really struck a chord with me: I have faced the exact same things that the protagonist faced — I worked the life-altering long hours, endured the crazy, condescending assholes, navigated the fiefdoms and bureaucracies and hypocrisy, and scraped by on a pittance while talking to others about millions or billions of dollars. The main character was me; I haven’t connected in a book in a long, long time. I was transported back in time to my early career in the financial world.

FINANCIAL FICTION QUOTIENT: There isn’t a huge amount of finance in this book. The main character works in an investment bank (“The Most Successful Bank In the Universe” as it’s called throughout the book) as a graphic designer who creates complex financial documents for the investment bank’s corporate clients. But what the book lacks in actual financial references, it more than makes up for in its accurate portrayal of the inner workings of a multinational behemoth of a company — including the various competing departments of bankers and designers and IT and training, the levels within each department, and the paint-everything-optimistically CEO writing encouragingly oblivious weekly emails.

SUMMARY: If you have ever worked in a large financial firm you will see yourself and the people you work with in this book. (I’ve worked in 4 large financial firms and this book painted an accurate picture of each one). You know how a show like The Office perfectly captured everyone you work with in an office setting? This book does that with the financial world, while at the same time making you feel like you’re walking through this financial hell with Dante.

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DISCLAIMER: The author sent me a free copy of the book to review.

Find more financial fiction reviews here.

The quicksand principle: 12 on-site strategies to draw people deeper into your blog

Quicksand! In cheezy action shows, it was the vilest of naturally occurring killers, slowly drawing people deeper and deeper to their own demise.

In the online world, YouTube is excellent brilliantly devious at applying the principle of quicksand. I’ll start watching one video and an hour later I’ll find myself watching crazy cat videos plumbing the weirdest depths of YouTube.

YouTube has perfected the art of quicksand: Of offering viewers quick and easy ways to access even more content that they might like.

If you own a blog, you should apply the same quicksand principle to your blog. After all, you worked hard to get readers to your website and you don’t want them to click away… you want to draw them deeper into your blog, encouraging them to read more posts. How do you do that?

I’m not talking about putting people onto your site (such as with marketing) or getting previous readers back to your site (such as with autoresponders)… I’m talking only about keeping eyeballs on your site when they land there.

TOOLS AND STRATEGIES TO DRAW PEOPLE IN

Quicksand strategy #1: Back/Forward buttons: Perhaps the most useful default quicksand method is to add a “previous post” and “next post” link on your site, especially if it displays the title of the blog post too. It’s interesting to me how I use this button: When I’m reading a post and get to the bottom, I can always tell how much I liked the post by whether I hit the “previous” button. There are a small handful of blogs that I do that almost always.

Quicksand strategy #2: Search: Adding a search bar on your blog is one way to get people deeper into your site. The assumption is that they go to your site and search for something they’re looking for. In my experience (based on the types of blogs I write for), this isn’t used very often because people usually get to a site for a reason and stay there for a reason… and searching seems to be something they’d likely go back to Google to do. But if someone really loves your content and wants to see what you’ve written about it, they may use your search line.

Quicksand strategy #3: Displaying more posts: This is another simple strategy that is usually cooked as a default into blog platforms: Quite simply, how many blog posts do you display on your blog? On the current version of AaronHoos.com, people see five post excerpts. Depending on the design of your blog, you might display 2-5 full blog posts or as many as a dozen excerpts (and some themes do a great job of encouraging this strategy with how they display blog posts and post excerpts).

Quicksand strategy #4: Categories: These are the high level key ideas in your blog. Mine, for example, are built around business, finance, and real estate — the three topics I write most about — plus a couple of other categories. Whatever you do, AVOID an uncategorized category because that kind of sucks.

Quicksand strategy #5: Tags/Topics/Labels: Tags are another way to label your blog posts (and, in fact, I think they’re sometimes called labels on some blogs). Categories are pretty important and I think WordPress requires all posts to be categories as something, tags are optional. But I like tags a lot. I think people have stopped using them as much but the use of hashtags in social media has a lot of similarity so maybe we’re using tags again. You can present your tags in a few ways — usually at the top or bottom of a post, embedded in your blog copy, and in a tag list or cloud. I’m a big fan of tag clouds — especially the ones that increase the size of the tag text based on the number of posts tagged with that word. Until recently, I used a tag cloud and would probably go back to one again except that I’m blogging a lot with a few tags that are disrupting the user-friendliness of the tag cloud.

Quicksand strategy #6: Date-based organization: You see this on some blogs. This is where the dates are listed down a blog’s sidebar and when you click on the date, it expands to reveals the blog posts for that date. On some blogs this is appropriate if you’ve been blogging for a while because it adds a layer of credibility to demonstrate how consistent you are. But I’m not convinced of its usefulness otherwise. In most cases, what are users there to do? Rarely will someone look for dated information; I think most readers are on your blog for topical information. Unless you write news or very date-centric content, this certainly is a way to draw people in but I’m not sure how effective it is.

Quicksand strategy #7: Recently posted/most popular/most commented: This is a power strategy that is really several strategies but I’m lumping them together because the functionality is the same and the user-experience is the same: These lists are derived from data gathered from the blog post (such as the date or how often it’s clicked) and displays it in a widget, usually on a sidebar list. I’ve listed three but there are way more… most shared and most mentioned are two more I’ve seen.

Quicksand strategy #8: See also: This often appears at the bottom of a blog post and lists similar articles (usually based on information drawn from categories or tags). I like using this tool when I’m on other people’s blogs, except I don’t like that this functionality is now often being co-opted for click-through advertising, which I think diminishes the value of the blog.

Quicksand strategy #9: In-text links: This is where you write a blog post and then link to previous blog posts whenever you mention something relevant in the copy (as I did earlier when I talked about avoiding the miscellaneous category and then I linked to a previous post about that topic). This needs to be done intentionally and it can be quite effective.

Quicksand strategy #10: View all posts by: This is usually used when you have a blog that hosts numerous authors, so each author’s name is clickable, giving readers the ability to view all posts by a specific author.

Quicksand strategy #11: Your own groupings: This is a strategy I need to do more with. I really like it and I think it’s effectively. Basically, you group together similar blog posts and link to each of them from a single landing page. Then this landing page gets a link in different places (such as your sidebar or your menus or whatever). Think of it as a table of contents built around a series of blog posts that may or may not have been intentionally related when you first wrote them. It’s a great way to quickly pull together content that might not immediately seem related, or to pull together content into a strategic topic. For example, I might do that about sales funnels on my website. (I fully intend to, just haven’t got around to it yet). I like this strategy because it creates so much control over what you present (plus you can add more text on the landing page, which can add further context for the links). And as an added bonus, this method can become a powerful tool in search engines to help attract readers.

Quicksand strategy #12: Link lists in popular posts: In some ways, this is a mash-up of two of the strategies above — see also strategy plus the your own groupings strategy. Start with some of your most popular blog posts and then add a list of related content to the bottom of that post. That way, people who land on that post will see the list and may be drawn deeper into your site.

HOW TO USE THESE STRATEGIES TO PULL PEOPLE DEEPER

These are tools and strategies to add some eyeball glue to your website. Although they won’t all work in every situation, the more you use, the better. People will have different experiences on your blog and they’ll pay attention to different things. One person might click through a link embedded in a sentence, another person might click through a “See more” link, and another person might click a tag. Each user users these tools/strategies because they want something specific from your site.

And one more key point: I wish it goes without saying but I’m going to say it anyway: you need to make sure you post great content on your site! As you build a library of great content, link back to it regularly from your future content to encourage people to read more.

MBA in Copywriting: It doesn’t exist (yet) but if it did, this should be the curriculum

As far as I’m aware, there is no actual Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a specialization in copywriting.

But there should be.

So in this blog post, I’m writing a curriculum for what I would recommend if I were in charge of putting a course together in copywriting.

Marketing Management

Topics include:

  • History of advertising, marketing, and sales from early marketplaces to online
  • Types of media and how different types of copy are used in each
  • Direct marketing/direct response versus other types of marketing
  • Developing marketing plans
  • Ethics in marketing

Mandatory reading:

Psychology, Sociology, and the Power of Persuasion

Topics include:

  • Psychological drivers for behaviors and decisions
  • Consumer habits (loyalty/disloyalty, trends, following the crowd)
  • Buying motivations
  • How to build rapport and connect emotionally
  • Persuasion and influence
  • Action, how to call people to it (and why people don’t act)

Mandatory reading:

Sales Funnels

Topics include:

  • Analyzing sales sales funnels for opportunities and troubleshooting
  • Connecting with people where they spend their attention
  • Creating end-to-end funnels (from attention to post-sale)
  • Strategies for growth and profitability

Mandatory reading:

Credibility and Reputation Management

Topics include:

  • What is credibility and authority and how do consumers ascribe it to businesses?
  • USPs — analyzing them and developing them
  • Positive versus negative reputations and what factors influence these
  • Components that contribute to credibility and authority (i.e. testimonials)

Mandatory reading:

Formulas and Structures

Topics include:

  • An overview of classic copy formulas and why they work
  • Attention/Interest/Decision/Action (AIDA)
  • Storytelling in copywriting
  • Components of copy (Headlines, Benefits, Overcoming objections, Calls to action)

Mandatory reading:

Attraction and Attention

Topics include:

  • Attention-getting with headlines and subheadings
  • Powerwords
  • Use of images
  • Basic fundamentals of color/design

Mandatory reading:

Measuring Results

Topics include:

  • The purpose of measuring
  • An overview of metrics, analytics, and statistics
  • Measuring the right things (and avoiding errors/assumptions)
  • How to split test

Mandatory reading:

Project

The student will be assigned a product or service and will create a marketing strategy for that offering. Then, the student will create an end-to-end sales funnel that is to include the following components:

  • Attention-getting marketing in at least 3 different media (and must include at least one broadcast media, one print media, and one online media)
  • Social copy
  • Sales copy for a sales letter (for web or magazine)
  • Website copy
  • Pre-sales relationship-building copy
  • Post-sales follow-up copy that drives additional sales

The student may deploy this copy in any appropriate sales funnel and must also defend each choice of media.