Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Don't Ignore Those Other Pages!

I want to pass along a tip for fellow copywriters and Internet marketers. It's actually a reminder, really.

When writing website content, most writers will spend most of their time on the home page. Makes sense - the home page is where 80% of the site's persuasive work is done, in my opinion.

But don't neglect the other pages on the site!

There are a lot of reasons why you should make sure to sell on every page of a website. One is (due to the incessant hyperlinking of the Web) the fact that someone visiting your site may not arrive at the homepage first. In fact, chances are good they won't. If visitors arrive at your Services page, or your About Us page, what's there to sell to them?

Each page has a different focus, but there's no reason you can't incorporate sales into each message. For instance, all it takes to sell on a Services page would be a paragraph or two about XYZ Corp.'s unique expertise in Service A. Or maybe links from each service description to a case study involving that service.

Selling on websites is not like print. You can get away with more flexibility, a softer sell, and adding in more information than you could in a print ad. You'll have to experiment (and test ruthlessly!) with these and more ideas, until you find a strategy that will work.

For EVERY page on your website.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Frantic Brainstorming: You'd Be Amazed

Today I called a client to update him, and ask him for approval on some ideas I had for his project. He wasn't in, so I left a message. He called back an hour later - he's very punctual in that regard - and we chatted a while. The update only took a second, and he had some good news for me too.

When we got to the idea-hashing though, I noticed that we both shifted gears. I was interested in more background information; he wanted to give me any information I needed to get the project done. I started us with some questions on the current approach I had, and we were off. Spent next 15 minutes just going back and forth, anything that came up.

By the time we were done I had a headline worked out, two possible central focuses, all my questions answered and some additional content for implementing the company voice.

THAT was good communication. We had a starting point, we were both aware of what the other needed, and we went in the direction necessary to get it. I got some focus to the content I have; he got the assurance of his writer being diligent and on-task.

I'm thinking of asking this company if I can do a case study of them after this site, for my portfolio. They're that cooperative and up-front. I wish all my clients were this attentive to their written presence!

P.S. - When the site's up, I'll post links to the blog for everyone to see what I've been talking about all this time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Looks like I was right!

I feel like I just received a compliment from a very respected expert.

True, it wasn't paid personally, and in truth I sort of signed up for it. I responded to this little quiz on Bob Bly's Blog: Test Your Direct Response IQ - Bly.com

Mine's the third comment down. I was the first, in that column of responses, to answer with what turned out to be the right choice. Bob says so here: Answer to Direct Response IQ - Bly.com

The power of Free is very noticeable. How many of you recognize a difference between 'gift' and 'free gift?' The second phrase is ubiquitous; you'll see it everywhere in modern marketing, new product promotions, and more. Why is that? For no other reason that, as Bly says, "it WORKS."

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Importance of Tone

Mini-Nothings represent a whole new eating experience. With 100% genuine artificial cheese and your choice of toppings, Mini-Nothings are the perfect snack food to serve to guests or co-workers.

Mini-Nothings! The party's going on - in your mouth! Take a bite, and you're on your way to cheese nirvana! Get the guys up off the couch raving for your Mini-Nothings this Sunday!


Same product. Same features, same benefit hints. So what's the big difference? Tone.

A dictionary definition of tone is as follows: "The quality of something (an act or a piece of writing) that reveals the attitudes and presuppositions of the author." In other words, what I think and believe is imparted in the words and sentences I create.

Or at least, that's what the reader is supposed to think.

Part of the act of copywriting is creating a company tone. In terms of conversation, this is how you want your company to sound to your customers if the two of you were sitting eye to eye at a coffee shop somewhere. When people read, words are pictured in their mind, just as they would be if they were hearing them. This means there's a sound quality inherent to your writing. The mind fills that in with its perceptions of tone.

For some companies a clipped, very professional tone is appropriate (usually B2B, white-collar stuff like banks and securities). Lots of facts, clear benefit statements, logical progression of thought. Somewhat cerebral, this kind of tone appeals to the customer's sense of reason and credits them with the wherewithal to make educated decisions.

Other companies may want a more fast-paced, enthusiastic approach (typically B2C, new products, something the teens can create new trends from). Quick-and-dirty benefits, a spoonful or two of hyped-up language, market lingo. This tone spurs the herd mentality, kickstarts the need for belonging, relies heavily on spur-of-the-moment emotions.

There's a lot to explore in terms of tone, both for companies overall and for different types of writing. In fiction, tone is often what makes the difference between a dull, boring read and a late-night turn-the-pager. It could even be the difference between your next marketing campaign falling dead out of the gate, and racing across town so fast your phone's leaping off the desk.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Why I Went to LinuxWorld

LinuxWorld is an ultimate geekfest. Tons of information about Linux, open source, new business strategies & technologies. Industry experts across the board talking with enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, engineers and company reps who got sent there because the boss was curious about using Linux. It's an event wherein everyone eats, sleeps & breathes state-of-the-art IT.

So why would a copywriter go there? I write on marketing communications - the companies there are interested in tech relationships with other companies.

I had a few reasons.

1. I'm a former IT administrator, as I've said in the past. The 'tech bug' is one of those things that never leaves you. I love seeing the technical leaps and bounds made each year. Talking with experts, getting information, and listening to presentations keeps me on the bleeding edge.

2. Many of my clients either are tech companies, or work with them. An informed copywriter, one who understands their industry lingo, their priorities, and their communications problems is an extremely valuable resource.

3. Sometimes I meet very good contacts. For example, one I made at LinuxWorld was a VP of marketing for a firm in San Diego. She mentioned that their company often works with freelancers like myself, and even showed me some very well-done materials they'd produced. I'll be contacting her next week to talk further. I never would have met her - and made a contact that could easily become a profitable business relationship for both of us - if I hadn't gone to LinuxWorld.

4. I like free stuff. Come on, everybody does. And LinuxWorld is a great place to collect free stuff of ANY kind. I particularly like this very stylish leather zippered binder I won in a presentation by HP.

Technology conventions are definitely not for everyone. Only those who love technology, or love what cutting-edge technology can do for their businesses, will really enjoy an environment like LinuxWorld. If you meet either of those criteria (and since you're reading this on a blog, you likely do), then I'd recommend the nearest tech convention to you!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Why My Company Has "Communications" As a Plural

I'm asked now and then how many employees are in my company. In response, I like to joke that Boo the Blue Ferret does my PR for me. However, I never thought about why people were asking me that question.

Until today, of course. It was prompted by a discussion thread on the Well-Fed E-Pub Yahoo Group List about pluralized company names being misleading and/or dishonest. My company name - Blue Ferret Communications - is indeed plural.

After deciding I wasn't intending to be misleading with the "CommunicationS" part, I remembered the reasons I chose "Communications" in the first place. Let me explain:

1. I provide several services. Writing, editing, consultations, speaking, project management. All of these involve communication. Hence, for a unifying term, communicationS.

2. It helps explain what I do. I help companies communicate better - in their marketing materials, online, even in their positions & branding. The multiple is inherent.

3. I don't have employees, but I do have partners. Printers, graphic designers, web developers, even other writers. Strategic partnerships are specialized and efficient - no bureaucracy, no Multiple Desks Syndrome. Plus, it's a lot of fun sharing the perspectives and creating unique working relationships along the way.

While I can readily understand how, in some cases, using a pluralized company name for sole proprietorships would be dishonest, I'm sure that's not the case all the time. I'm only asked that question about a third of the time, so maybe that's representative. In any case, there are some good reasons for using a pluralized name, IF you hold to the services and positions you evoke by it.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Communication, Business Blogs And Things That Go "Whrrrrrrrrr"

Two links today, two topics.

Japanese Develop 'Female' Android
I find this to be extraordinary for two reasons. The first is, of course, the leap made in recognition and robotics. An android that is intentionally designed to act and react like a human - and can actually do it!

The second is the unique reaction to 'her.' She can communicate with humans, and respond to their requests. But what's amazing is that she can fool some people into thinking she's human! Granted, the creator says it's only for a few seconds. But remember the old saying, "You don't get a second chance to make a first impression?"

Anyone who interacts with this Repliee Q1Expo android, and is fooled at first into thinking she's human, is going to have the first impression, "She's human." Even when the truth is revealed, that impression stays. It colors the perceptions from there on in, quite possibly making a big positive change in how people will address and interact with androids like Repliee Q1Expo.

This is what I find so astounding about Repliee Q1Expo. She foments human-to-technology communication on a level only thought of until now. She's a big opportunity for studying how we communicate with technology, and by inference, how we communicate with each other. And even better, how to improve those communications.


Now, more along the lines of my copywriting work, I present a thoroughly useful article on business blogs: Corporate Blogging Made Simple

Fair warning, you will need to register on MarketingPower to read this article. But registration is free, and their newsletter is a thorough digest of headlines and articles. Like this one.

Don't let the title fool you - it's more than a step-by-step lesson on corporate blogs. It talks about everything from the technology behind blogs, to naming conventions, to RSS and blog promotion. It's a great all-around introduction to those new at business blogs, and a nice refresher for those of us already "wading through the swamp."

"Corporate Blogging Made Simple" is a helpful primer on corporate blogging, and is detailed enough to catch a lot of those little questions people think of, but don't voice for some reason or another. If you're interested in starting a company blog, or have one that's just sitting there whining, "Post to me..." then take a look here.