Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What's Hot for 2014?

According to this year's AP-GfK's General Social SurveyAmericans don't trust each other.

The 2013 poll shows only one-third of Americans think they can trust their fellow citizens, down from one-half in 1972. 

A record high of two-thirds of Americans are suspicious of others.

That's bad news for marketers, who rely on customers' trust to offset their uncertainties.

The AP-GfK poll results come on top of more bad news from the CMO Council, whose 2013 B2B Content Survey shows buyers are largely skeptical about marketers' content.

Trust will be the hot issue for 2014.

Trust me.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Write to Delight

In Eight B2B Companies That Deliver Delightful Copywriting, Hubspot's Corey Eridon recommends these rules for better writing:
  • Choose the right words. Precision turns the most complex ideas into simple ones. 
  • Be concise. Omit everything that's inessential.
  • Empathize. Find common ground with your customers and avoid "business babble."
  • Don't be afraid to have fun. Infuse a little humor in your copy and you'll charm your audience.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

When Branding, Don't Follow the Herd

You're a global, market-leading, socially responsible company with a broad product portfolio and a deep commitment to diversity and sustainability.

Guess what?

Your customers don't care, according to new research by McKinsey.

The consultancy studied the marketing materials of 90 B2B companies, then asked 700 buyers to rank by importance the themes expressed in those materials.

It turns out buyers don't evaluate prospective suppliers in terms of global reach, market leadership, or their commitment to social responsibility, diversity and the environmentamong the most prevalent themes in today's marketing materials.

Instead, buyers care most about suppliers' responsiveness, honesty and expertisethemes rarely expressed in the materials.

The researchers caution against "following the herd" when developing marketing themes.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Get Personal in Your Marketing

Ready for a shocker?

B2B brands have stronger emotional bonds with customers than B2C brands.

According to a new study by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), 40% to 70% of customers feel an emotional tie to such brands as Oracle, Accenture, FedEx, SAP and Salesforce.

In contrast, only 10% and 40% of customers feel an emotional tie to such brands as CVS, L'Oreal and Wal-Mart.

Most of us are taughtand believethat B2B customers care only about the business value a brand delivers.

But, based on its findings, CEB urges B2B marketers to adopt campaigns that focus on the fulfillment of customers' personal and emotional needs.

B2B campaigns that promise personal value have twice the impact of those promising business value, as demonstrated by recent campaigns by Xerox, Grainger and Edwards Lifesciences.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Searchers Getting Wordy

Bloggers can take heart from a trend in the way customers are searching on line.

Searchers are increasingly using complete sentences and long phrases as search terms, according to software maker Hubspot.

They're realizing that simple search terms can no longer pinpoint useful Web content, given its enormity.

So, for example, instead of entering "sales training," a searcher might enter "two-day onsite sales training for a small insurance brokerage in Kentucky."

"As a result of these more complex searches, Google has actually changed its algorithm to better fit conversational questions from searchers," Hubspot says.

Google's change in its algorithm will help drive more traffic to blogs, "which are designed by nature to be educational, answer questions, and provide background info," Hubspot says.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Social Spam Surging

Spammers are frantically spreading their muck across the social media networks, according to a study by Nextgate.
Spam increased by more than 350% on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn during the first six months of 2013.
Facebook and YouTube host considerably more spam than the other social networks, according to the study.
We're immune to the spam that floods our email in-boxes, but social spam is insidious, because it's much more difficult to detect.
And there's another reason spammers love it.
Where spam delivered as an email reaches one victim at the time, spam delivered as a post on a social media network can reach thousands.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Content Marketing First

According to ADWEEK, Bank of America ran a banner ad this week on NYTimes.com that, when clicked, activated a live Webcast of The New York Times' "Schools for Tomorrow" conference.

Visitors who clicked the ad tuned into a live stream of the one-day event, Webcast inside the banner.

Bank of America was a sponsor of the conference.

An advertiser has never before hosted a live Webcast of a Times conference within an ad, says ADWEEK.

The ad "represents the demand by marketers today to align with, create and use content to get the attention of ad-weary consumers in fresh ways," ADWEEK says.

Expect to see a lot of copycats in the next 12 months.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Does Exaggeration Pay?

Do your ads embroider the truth?
If so, you may be wasting your investment.
Consumers are on to you.
Early this year, research firm Lab 42 asked consumers whether they believe advertisers.
The findings are unflattering:
  • Three-fourths (76%) of consumers say advertisers always exaggerate. Fewer than one-fourth (24%) say they don't.

  • Among the consumers who believe advertisers always exaggerate, a majority single out advertisers' use of Photoshopped graphics as an obvious attempt to deceive.

  • Nearly one-third (32%) of consumers say they "get what advertisers are up to," and 17% would like to see the government punish advertisers for exaggerating.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Best Ad Ever

Most people in the ad biz will tell you the best ad ever created was Volkswagen's 1962 "Think Small."

The ad was the brainchild of New York-based agency Doyle Dane Bernbach.

It's held in esteem for its faultless integrity. Speaking honestly in an ad in 1962 was nearly as against-the-grain as you could get.

In an era when motorists in the US were addicted to power and flash, the ad also tapped a shadowy part of the Zeitgeist, by asking readers to consider different values.

By chatting candidly about the simple virtues of economy, DDB persuaded 200,000 Americans to buy the stubby, 40-horsepower "Beetle" that year (the peak year for Beetle sales in the US).

Sunday, August 18, 2013

How to Breed More Believers

Customers come to your marketing content as skeptics.
It's your job to turn them into believers.
A proven way to combat skepticism is to substantiate your product claims with statistics.
Far better than other details, statistics strengthen your content's persuasiveness, even when they're from a third party.
Consider the following claims (by a window manufacturer):

SageGlass is ideal for buildings where sustainability is a goal. It controls the sunlight and heat that enter a building, providing great thermal efficiency. It also means buildings can use smaller, more efficient HVAC systems, dramatically reducing energy consumption.
Consider how much more powerful the claims become when statistics are added:
Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have said that full deployment of dynamic, highly insulating glazing can save up to five percent of the US energy budget. That’s equivalent to over 160 gigawatts of electricity generated annually by fossil fuels. Such savings could reduce CO2 emissions by 300 million metric tons.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Trust Drives Customer Loyalty and Spending

Winning over the Empowered Consumer: Why Trust Matters, a recent white paper from IBM, concludes from a survey of 28,500 consumers that trust spells the difference between enjoying a loyal customer base and suffering a transient one.

Consumers come in three varieties, author Melissa Schaefer argues:

  • Advocates, who like you, recommend you, buy more from you, and shun your competitors;
  • Apathetics, who are largely indifferent toward you; and
  • Antagonists, who dislike you.
The survey asked consumers about the degree of trust they placed in businesses and found direct correlation between trust and advocacy, and between trust and higher spending.

When you win customers' trust, you not only make them your advocates; you create a "cognitive monopoly" over them, Schaefer says. They have no thought of buying elsewhere.

Trust comes from communicating frequently and "re-humanizing" the experience of doing business with you, according to Schaefer. That's because customers crave recognition. "They want to be known, they want to be heard and they want to be valued," she says.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What Content is the Most Effective?

What content works best for attracting new B2B leads?

Research reports, according to a new survey by c
ontent creator Ascend2.

The firm asked more than 400 marketers to rate a variety of devices for their ability to generate leads.

Thirty percent of marketers chose research reports as the most effective device.

Twenty-eight percent chose Webinars and twenty-six percent chose white papers.

A research report can act like a prospect-magnet, provided it asks the right questions and answers them in an honest way, according to the firm's blog.

Reports that don't focus on customers' "common pain points" or that merely recycle your opinions won't woo prospects, the firm says.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Clarity Trumps Persuasiveness

Does your value proposition get lost in a ton of puffery?

If so, you're turning off prospects.

Your value proposition, not the way it's stated, is the key to winning customers.

If you're "talking up" your product at the expense of clearly expressing its value, go back to the drawing board and simplify your copy.

In 2011, Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director of Jacksonville Beach, FL-based MECLABS, tested two versions of a Web site.

Version A provided an exhaustive list of product benefits, describing each in glowing terms. It wrapped up with a call to action that asked prospects to link to another page with purchase directions.

Version Bhalf the length of Version Alisted only the product's most appealing benefits and leaped right into the purchase directions.

Version B, "by reducing the amount of information contained in the copy and clearly focusing on just the core aspects of value," according to McGlaughlin, enjoyed a response rate 200% greater than that of Version A.

"When it comes to crafting effective copy, clarity trumps persuasion," McGlaughlin says. "Get clear about your value proposition."

Sunday, June 30, 2013

In Media Res

Attention-grabbing copy leads with a bang; namely, the thing that matters most to your prospects.

Let prospects know from the first few words they read that you can help them reach their most important goal.

Don't start with throw-away statements, in the mistaken belief you need to warm them to you.

You may remember from school there's an ancient technique for literary narrative called in media res, dating way back to Homer's Iliad.

Latin for "in the middle of things," in media res plunges the audience into a crucial situation right at the start of a story.

The chain of events leading to the situation is never related; or is revealed only later in the narrative.

The technique works, because it involves the audience immediately.

Remember in media res when you begin your next email, Web page, ad, brochure, script or sales letter.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Power of Control

Part 7 of a 7-part series

Control is another powerfully persuasive word you should use when pitching customers, says Kevin Hogan, author of The Science of Influence.

People desperately need to feel they're in charge of situations, able to shape outcomes, and prepared to counter threats.

So let customers know they're in control

They'll listen to you.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Power of Your Customer's Name

Part 6 of a 7-part series

Your customer's name is a powerful persuader, says Kevin Hogan, author of The Science of Influence.

Inserting it into a verbal or written request can increase your chances of getting compliance.

You instantly win favor, because you're honoring your customer's individuality.

But exercise caution, or you'll creep her out.

Don't wear out your customer's name. Excess will arouse suspicion. 

Insert her name only where it's natural to do so, such as the opening and close of your request.

And be sure to pronounce or spell the name correctly. 

A flub can be fatal.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Power of Thanks

Part 5 of a 7-part series

Kevin Hogan, author of The Science of Influence, says the fourth "magic word" is please.

So it shouldn't surprise you the fifth stealthy persuader is, you guessed it, thanks.

Thanks is a word we often forget to include in emails, posts, ads and verbal requests.

But it's irresistible, because it says you're grateful for the customer's consideration.

So use it more often.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Power of Please

Part 4 of a 7-part series

We're taught as children to "Say the magic word" for good reason.

Please is indeed magical, despite the fact we're all aware that its express purpose is to persuade, according to Kevin Hogan, author of The Science of Influence.

Including the word in emails, posts, ads and verbal requests is guaranteed to boost their persuasiveness.

So please do it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Power of Imagine

Part 3 of a 7-part series

Imagine works as a persuader because it's one of the few requests we don't automatically resist.

That's why Kevin Hogan, author of The Science of Influence, says it's one of seven "magic words" guaranteed to make you more persuasive.

By asking your customer simply to imagine she's using your product, you're asking so little she's bound to comply with your request.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Power of Now

Part 2 of a 7-part series

When modifying any request, now acts as a persuader because it implies that delay will have unpleasant consequences.

That's why Kevin Hogan, author of The Science of Influence, includes now among the seven "magic words" guaranteed to make you more persuasive.

The word's power derives from our conditioning as children to hear a request modified by now as a threat by a parent, as in, "Finish your homework now!"

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Power of Because

Part 1 of a 7-part series

Kevin Hogan, author of The Science of Influence, says there are seven "magic words" guaranteed to make you more persuasive.

Becausepreceding any reason, no matter how vaguewill often persuade people to agree to your request.

They'll do so automatically.

That's because we're conditioned from childhood to comply when offered justification for a request.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Feelings First

Note to B2B marketers: Money isn't everything.

Yes, money informs all business decisions. But emotion propels buying decisionsincluding the decision to buy your product.

Your product not only has to be the right choice; it has to feel like it. Without that feeling, all options seem pretty much the same.

Leading with the detailed financial arguments needed to seal buying decisions can take the wind out of your sails (pun intended).

So before piling on proof points, rouse your customer. 

Tell attention-grabbing stories of "before and after" transformations experienced by other customers.

Omit those stories and you'll find yourself merely reciting a lot of facts and figures, which feed the brain, but starve the gut.

Sales gurus Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer, in Conversations That Win the Complex Sale, caution:

"One of the most common mistakes sales professionals make when selling is that they lead too early with proof. They believe that all they need to do is use the brute force of facts and logic in their pitch, and the prospect will buy from them. What you need to understand is that proof has its place. But it should come only after you've created the emotional momentum in your prospect that makes him want to move from where he is to where your solution can take him."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Where's Your Proof?

At a turning point in the novel Great Expectations, the central character is told by his attorney, “Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.”

Are you counting on looks to persuade prospects? Or does your copy provide the proof points they require?

To move prospects from interest to desire, proof points are mandatory. They give prospects the evidence they need to believe what you claim might be true. But in the rush to distinguish their products from competitors', marketers often neglect to provide even the most common ones: 

  • Qualifications of the people behind the product
  • Specifications
  • Performance statistics
  • Test results
  • Achievements of customers who've used the product
  • Testimonials
  • Endorsements by experts
  • Awards won
  • Demonstrations
  • Unconditional guarantees

Without question, today's ADD-positive prospects want to learn one thing about your product: how it's different.

That doesn't mean they'll settle for your word on it.

PS: My thanks to Richard Hendrickson for inspiring this post.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Should Your Copy Forgo Good Grammar?

Bad grammar in an ad's headline caught my eye recently. (The ad comes from a company that rents furniture to tradeshow exhibitors.)


What could the copywriter have been thinking?
  • The combination of "Your vision" and "Our furnishings" gets you noticed;
  • The two antecedent nouns (one of which itself is plural) don't require use of a plural pronoun; or
  • "It gets you noticed" sounds livelier than "They get you noticed."
Should your copy forgo good grammar? The answer's yes if:
  • The rules of grammar weaken your argument, and
  • You're certain your audience doesn't prize learning.
I'd bet the copywriter thought "It gets you noticed" packed punch, and the rental company knows its customers don't care whether a pronoun disagrees with its antecedents.

Ad man David Ogilvy said, "I don’t know the rules of grammar. If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Watch Your Language

The father of phrases like death tax (a.k.a. estate tax) and climate change (a.k.a. global warming), Republican strategist Frank Luntz employs focus groups to examine words’ emotional content.

His goal is to find words that will change people's visceral reactions to hot-button issues.

In a 2012 speech to the Washington State Chamber of Commerce, Luntz advised business executives to revise some of their pet phrases. He recommended they replace :
  • Free enterprise with economic freedom
  • Middle class with hardworking taxpayers; and 
  • Business climate with healthy economy.
Luntz also recommended executives strike understand, accountable and important from their vocabularies, because listeners no longer have faith in these words.

You need not agree with Luntz's politicsI, for example, would replace his death tax with fairness reset and his climate change with planetary meltdownto agree with his theory.

The emotional content of words makes them powerfully persuasive.

Novelist Joseph Conrad once wrote, "He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Six Principles of Persuasion: Scarcity

Part 6 of a 6-part series

You're feeling the power of scarcity when you pay $900 for a ticket to see The Rolling Stones.

According to Robert Cialdini, we're susceptible to scarcity because loss seems terrible.

Faced with scarcity, you let emotions cloud your brain and throw caution to the wind.

Scarcity is why deadlines drive sales; why "limited editions" disappear from shelves; and why censorship or prohibitionactual or threatenedincites panic buying.

Want to persuade someone? Give him a deadline.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Six Principles of Persuasion: Authority

Part 5 of a 6-part series

You're feeling the power of authority when you accept without question the auto mechanic's recommendation to replace your tie rods.

In Influence, Robert Cialdini writes, "We are trained from birth that obedience to proper authority is right and disobedience is wrong."

Heeding an authority is wisewhen her expertise is genuine. 

But trouble lies in the fact we're vulnerable to symbols of authority:
  • Titles, certifications and professional designations;
  • Uniforms and business suits; and 
  • Trappings of success (trophies, limos, posh offices, club memberships, etc.).
Authority explains why we buy products recommended by actors in TV ads; why we over-tip showy waiters; and why con men like Bernie Madoff flourish.

Want to persuade someone? Trumpet your expertise.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Six Principles of Persuasion: Liking

Part 4 of a 6-part series

You're feeling the power of liking when you accept the affable rep's suggestion to rent a Mercedes, even though you'd be happy with a Hyundai.

Robert Cialdini claims three factors affect likability: 
  • A person's physical attractiveness;
  • Her similarity to ourselves; and 
  • Her readiness to compliment us.
The more these factors are in force, the more likable the individual.

Liking explains why the handsome account exec enjoys a bigger income than his homely colleague; why the insurance agent is so quick to tell you he shares your passion for mountain biking; and why the Realtor says you have beautiful children.

Want to persuade someone? Preen. Relate. Flatter.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Six Principles of Persuasion: Social Proof

Part 3 of a 6-part series

You're feeling the power of social proof when you order the same appetizer as everyone else at the table, even though you've never eaten a ridge gourd.

Robert Cialdini says social proof equips us with a "wonderful kind of automatic-pilot device" that spares us mistakesbut also leaves us vulnerable to marketers.

Social proof explains why baristas salt the tip jar; why publishers splash "best-seller" across book covers; and why manias for products like mortgage derivatives and Cabbage Patch Dolls occur.

Want to persuade someone? Tout the number of customers you have or all the great reviews you've gotten.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Six Principles of Persuasion: Consistency and Commitment

Part 2 of a 6-part series

You planned to buy a dress, not a purse. But you bought a purse because the salesperson said, "You really need a purse that matches your new dress."

You're feeling the power of consistency when you go along with a suggestion automatically. 

Robert Cialdini calls consistency a "shield against thought" that protects us from "unpleasant realizations" (such as the fact that you can hardly afford the new dress).

We prize consistency because we think inconsistency is a character flaw. But that belief can work against our interests.

Consistency kicks in after commitment.

You feel the power of commitment whenever you accept a suggestion to extend your involvement after saying "yes" to a simple request.

  • You agree to take your utility company's phone survey, then agree to switch to a more expensive monthly plan. 
  • You agree to sign a petition, then agree to donate to the cause. 
  • You agree to attend a free seminar, then buy an annuity.

Commitment rules us because it affects self-image. We want to be smart consumers, good citizens, shrewd investors. But that belief can also work against our interests.

Consistency and commitment explain why contests generate new customers; why "lowball" pricing produces profits; and why cross-selling is part of every salesperson's skill-set.

Want to persuade someone? Ask him to perform an easy deed.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

6 Principles of Persuasion: Reciprocation

Part 1 of a 6-part series

Robert Cialdini's best-selling textbook Influence is nearly four decades old, but its teachings are as fresh anything you'd find at the latest TED.

You're feeling the power of reciprocation whenever you feel the urge to donate in response to a "lumpy mailer" from a nonprofit (one of those direct mail pieces that includes a pen, a package of seeds, or a pad of address labels).

Reciprocationa sense of duty to repay favors in kindrules human behavior and sets us apart from other animals.

Reciprocation explains why free samples spur purchasing; why international relief efforts promote alliances; and why concessions make negotiation possible.

Want to persuade someone? Do him a favor.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Lobbyist's Secret Weapon

Today's guest post was contributed by Edward Segal, CAE. He is CEO of the Marin Association of Realtors.

Of course, my association has used lobbying techniques to sway lawmakers (meeting with them, testifying at hearings, sending them position papers, and asking members to call their offices).

But when these tactics failed, we brought out our secret weapon: PR. 

Working like a powerful spotlight, PR helps you stand out from the crowd and focuses attention on your position. To use PR as a lobbying tool for your organization:
Turn advocacy into news. Position your lobbying activities as interesting and newsworthy.

Flex your muscle. In your news releases and other press materials, include boilerplate language about the size and scope of your organization, details about the economic impact of members, or other information that shows the influence of the association.  

Study the media. Pay attention to the stories covered by news organizations. The types of news they cover today provide powerful clues about the stories they may be interested in doing tomorrow.

Think like an editor. Identify as many news hooks and story angles about your lobbying campaigns as possible. Give the media as many reasons as you can to do stories about your advocacy activities.

Write like a journalist. Prepare news releases as the news stories you want them to be.

Keep your audience in mind. Provide your target audience with the information it needs to understand the reasons for your lobbying efforts, what you are trying to accomplish, and what the public can or should do to help ensure victory.

Create visuals. Excellent visuals and compelling stories are important to all news mediums. For example, a photo, chart or graph will literally make your story larger on a Website or newspaper page; good pictures can help attract the attention of online news outlets and television stations.

Be prepared. Make sure those who will talk to the press are properly trained, with special emphasis on answering pointed or negative questions from reporters.
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