How To Write Persuasively to Clearly Demonstrate The Benefits of Your Products Or Service

Whether you’re a low-level marketing manager or novelist of 30 years, the writing process can be agonizing, especially when you’re writing about something you are passionate about.

 

Copywriting for marketing is no different. It’s hard. Not only are there very specific things that work and very specific things that don’t work, the things we learned in school are often completely antithetical to what works in the marketing field.

 

That being said, good copywriting is more about unlearning than learning. Unlearning how to write in a hoity-toity academic style, best suited for scholarly articles that no one ever reads. Unlearning how to talk about yourself like you’re trying to get someone to hire you for a job. Unlearning how to make things flowery, poetic, and over the top.

 

The good news, though, is that it’s not out of anybody’s reach. There are some very specific techniques and stylistic methods to making your writing more successful and convert visitors to your website.  That’s why we wanted to include persuasive copywriting as a foundational piece in our online small business marketing course, Digital Marketing Strategies and Tactics to Grow Any Small Business.

 

If you follow these tips, your writing will get better. And not only will it get better, you’ll see more conversions on your website and a greater ROI for your company. Plus, you’ll feel less like a sleazy salesman looking to quick make a quick buck.

 

Before You Write

 

What you do before you sit down to the computer is equally – if not more – important than your writing. Any serious writer will tell you that the research process for their project is what really makes or breaks the quality of the work. Copywriting is no different, except instead of doing research on a historical event or a person, you’re doing research on your own product and your customer.

 

According to Conversion Rate Experts, you shouldn’t start writing until:

 

          • You know everything about the product.
          • You have bought and purchased the product with your own money.
          • You can understand why people buy it.
          • You could sell it to yourself or to your friends.
          • You know all the objections and have great counters to those objections.
          • You’ve gathered legal proof to support all your claims.

 

Now, sometimes it’s not realistic to have bought your own product. People selling $100,000 yachts can’t be expected to purchase their own product, especially on a salesperson’s salary.

 

But you do need to know your product intimately and how to sell it in person before you ever write about it. Your website is, for all intents and purposes, “a robot sales person,” and it won’t be any better of a sales person than you are. If you can’t sell it, your website won’t sell it either.

 

Become Your Customer

 

If you can, buy your own product. Beyond that, go through the entire buying process your customer would go through. Shop around for products like yours. Send your product back. Call technical services. Spend your own money if you can. Is it worth it? What are some of the problems that you find in the process? Can those be fixed? What objections do you have to your own process? This knowledge will become integral to you writing about your product at a later stage.

 

Now use your own product. Take it out, unpackage it, put it together, use it at your own home and in your own life. What are its strengths? What are its weaknesses? What are the things that it offers that competitor products don’t? This is the experience that your customer will have. And if you’re gonna’ write about your own product, you need to know what that experience is like.

 

Ask your current customers directly about their experience. Ask them what areas of weakness you have on your website. Inquire about the aspects of your product that make buying difficult for them. Find out what their objections to purchasing were. You can do this in a couple ways:

 

          • Conduct a survey on your website homepage.
          • Talk to some of your customers one-on-one.
          • Interview a VOC Aggregator.

 

A VOC aggregator is someone that’s heard the customer voice so many times they know the answer to their questions. These are the people talking directly to your customers. They can be a sales person, a technical support worker, or a repair person. They should have the opportunity to let you know what the customers are concerned about in their journey to purchasing your product.

 

The process that a buyer goes through before they purchase your product is called the “buyer’s journey”. During the buyer’s journey, your prospective customer is going to think about a great many things, including:

 

          • If your site is relevant
          • If your product is the best of its type
          • The ease of finding your product
          • If the product is what they really need
          • If your site’s claims are supported by proof
          • Whether their objections are answered
          • Whether the experience was pleasurable and they’d do it again

 

Writing persuasive copy is about answering these questions before the customer does. You want to make the experience of your customer on your website as delightful and informative as possible. By knowing your product and your customer intimately, you’re going to be infinitely farther along than other marketers that don’t do this work on the front end.

 

Enchanting Marketing calls this entire process “writing with your ears”.

 

1950s and ‘60s copywriter Eugene Schwartz said that the ability to listen is one of the greatest assets a writer could have. Instead of trying to create his own copy, Schwartz stole marketing messages from his customers and his prospects instead of inventing them himself. He essentially fed people’s words back to them so they would be more likely to make a purchase. And it worked.

 

By listening to his customers, he was able to write some of the most effective copy of his time.

 

As You Write

 

Now comes the writing process. What you do before you write is very important. But the techniques you use while you write are equally as important. Bad copy on the website can quickly turn a prospective customer away. It can make you look unprofessional – or worse, insincere.

 

But there’s good news here: most good copywriting techniques simply boil down to writing in the way you would actually talk to someone.

 

Use A Structure

 

When people talk about a product that they like, they generally follow a specific format:

 

          • Problem: what was the problem they were experiencing?
          • Solution: what was the product or person that solved that problem for them?
          • Proof: what proof is there of real transformation?
          • Action: how can the person they’re talking to repeat their experience?

 

This is also true for spiritual or philosophical transformations.

 

Here’s a couple of ways this could be expressed in real life.

 

I was really struggling to get good sleep at night now that I have my baby. A friend told me about CBD oil over coffee one day. Though I was a little hesitant, I gave it a try. I’ve had some of the best sleep of my life using it! Even better than I had before my baby! You should check it out. It’s easy. You just search for it on Google.

 

I was really depressed about some of the things I’d done in my previous marriage. It was really affecting my life. A friend of mine invited me to church. At first, I didn’t go because I was skeptical. But finally I attended one week and all that pain came out at the service. I started going more regularly and, though I certainly don’t have it all figured out, it’s really helped me to get out of the rut that I was in. It seems like you’re struggling with the same thing, so I thought that maybe you could come with me some weekend.

 

Every argument follows this same structure. And the good news is that your copy is little different. It should simply follow the same general structure as if you were telling it to someone over coffee.

 

There are multiple structures that different copywriters have suggested.

 

          • The PASTOR method
          • The 1-2-3-4 Method
          • The Inverse Pyramid

 

We here at White Hat Matt use the PASTOR format, so we’ll focus specifically on that structure in this post.  This method was popularized by Ray Edwards and that’s where we learned about it.  Thanks Ray!

 

P is for Problem

What is the problem your customer is having? Are they losing money because of a subpar software solution? Are they getting made fun of because of their acne? Are they spending way too much money on their Internet service only to have it crash on them every weekend because of overuse? Your copy needs to address the problem of the customer.

 

A is for Amplify

What’s going to happen to the customer if they don’t buy your product or service? Will they continue to lose money? Will they continue to experience social ostracization and feelings of negative self-worth? Will they continue to be frustrated by their internet’s sub-par performance? Amplify what’s really at stake here if they don’t accept what you have to offer.

 

S is for Solution

How does your product or service solve their problem? What benefits are they going to get by using your product, both practical and emotional? This is not the place to talk about the specifics of your product. Instead, talk about its benefits. What’s in it for the customer?

 

T is for Testimonial

Who has already experienced these benefits from your product? What did they say about it? What evidence is there that your product works and will work for your prospective customer? People don’t like risk. And the risk of making a purchase is less if others have gone before them and had a good experience!

 

O is for Offer

What exactly are you offering? Are you offering them a free trial of the product? Are you offering them a 10% discount for their first buy? This is where you get down to the nitty gritty of what it is you’re offering.

 

R is for Response

What are you asking your prospective customer to do? What action do you want them to take? Do you want them to fill out an email opt-in form? Are you wanting them to call you so you can talk more about their needs or desires? Do you want them to add your product to their shopping cart? Be specific about what you want your customer to do.

 

There are other copywriting methods than the PASTOR format, but they all boil down to the same thing: problem, solution, proof, and action.

 

Whichever structure you choose, it’s important that you follow it and address every section. If you do, you’ll be writing like a customer thinks. And thinking like your customers is the most important thing in the writing process.

 

Write Like A Human

 

Karl from Conversion Rate Experts says that “the act of writing turns many a genius into a moron.” What he means by this is that as soon as people sit down to write, they stop writing like they talk and start writing like they think they should. (source: How to Beat Most Professional Copywriters)

 

Good writing should sound human.

 

Your writing should sound the same way you actually speak in real life, just more polished.

 

A couple of ways you can do this is to record yourself speaking your sales pitch. Analyze it, then repeat that in your copy for your website.

 

Use as many words in your website copy as you do you selling your product face-to-face. This will probably make your website longer than you are comfortable with. But remember, your website is a robot sales person. If it is going to make sales, it needs to have all the information that you would have in a real life sales meeting.

 

Also, after you’ve written a draft, have someone else read it out loud for you. Where do they get confused? Where did they get it wrong? Where did they get hung up? These might be areas you need to improve.

 

Be Concise

 

Brevity is the soul of wit. Shorter sections and sentences are easier for people to read. People shouldn’t have to work hard to understand who you are, what you’re offering, and what you can do for them. It should be easy.

 

You can do this by using short and broken sentences. Like I’m doing right now. In high school and college, you may have learned academic writing which uses long, complex sentences. Sales copy is different. It has to be easy.

 

So use short sentences. Break up your copy with segments. Short segments are much less terrifying than a giant block of text. This also makes your content skimmable so that people can read it over quickly to take what they need and move on.

 

Be Specific

 

We’ve all been on that website where we’re halfway down the page and we still don’t know exactly what they offer. Don’t be that page! Get right to your unique value proposition with your heading. Be specific about what you’re offering and the benefits your customer will accrue.

 

Bad Heading Good Heading
We Love Web Design! We’ll Transform Your Website Into Your Best Sales Representative!
Cool Art Products For Sale! The One-Stop-Shop for All Your Art Supplies At a Discount!

 

Generic statements make you sound like a sleazy salesperson. Use specific statements to boost your credibility.

 

Bad Statement Better Statement
We’re the best copywriters in town! We’ll improve your conversions by 175% and your ROI by 124% in one year.
We believe in quality as our highest concern. Last year we had only a single quality infraction in over 900,000 products shipped.

 

Keep your sentences simple and to the point and avoid flowery adjectives. Don’t talk about your product being the best at something. Instead, state the facts that prove that it’s the best.

 

Bad Better
With our powerful, affordable product, you’ll see results quickly! Engines that use MagnaPlus oil see a 10% reduction in wear the first month it’s used.
Our Calendar App is the best on the market! Our calendar app had 1 billion more downloads than the 2nd place app last year.

 

 

Be Concise, Be Specific… But Write Long

 

One of the biggest myths in marketing is that nobody will read long copy. People are too busy, you might think, so I’m not gonna write that much on my subject.

 

That’s true if people don’t really care about what you’re offering. But if someone is going to spend $8000 on a new snowmobile, I promise you, they will read your copy.

 

Write as much as you would say in a one-on-one meeting with someone. You need to answer all objections that a customer may have about your product.

 

I had a friend who recently wanted to buy a new laptop. But glossy screens hurt his eyes. He knew that he needed to have a computer that he could fit with a matte screen. If a website did not answer this objection for him, he would certainly not make a purchase from them.

 

Every customer will have objections and questions just like this. You need to anticipate these objections and specifications and answer them in your website copy.

 

Write To Your Audience, Not To Yourself

 

Many business owners are tempted to write what they think would be interesting or convincing, not what their customers would. But remember, you’re not writing for yourself. You’re writing for your customers. Instead of thinking what would make me buy the product, think about what would make them buy the product.

 

You might want your website to have a flowery, inspiring heading. But with that convince your audience to buy? You might understand big words like rotator cuff and antinominal, but would your audience understand them?

 

Instead of using the terms you use to describe your business, use the terms that your audience uses to describe your business.

 

We recently did a website for Mountain Valley Physical Therapy. Mountain Valley Therapy is a company in rural Eastern Oregon that offers physical therapy and other holistic therapy methods, such as pericardial massage and craniosacral therapy.

 

Consider if Mountain Valley physical therapy wanted to change their name to Mountain Valley Holistic Therapy. This might more accurately describe what they do, but to an audience of highly-conservative Eastern Oregon Oregon clients, this name would be confusing, not well searched for on search engines, and maybe even off-putting. For this reason it’s probably better for Mountain Valley Physical Therapy to keep their current name.

 

Remember, writing is about what your customers search for and understand. If you’re writing what you think is powerful copy and that conflicts with what your clients want and are searching for, you’re in for a rough wake-up call when your website doesn’t sell.

 

Write About Your Customer, Not Just About Yourself

 

Make sure that your copy is about the value that will be provided to your customer, not just all the features of your product.

 

Neil Patel used the example of the new iPhone 5 copy to showcase this technique. On the sales page, the word iPhone appeared 81 times. “Apple” appeared an additional 26 times. But the words ‘you’ and ‘your’ were even more prevalent. They appeared 110 times.

 

By writing about your customer, you make them feel at home and cared for on your website. You make them feel like it’s more about what they need than your product. Because it is more about filling their need than it is about your product, right? Only write about your product in regards to what it can do for your customer – not the other way around.

 

Support Your Claims With Evidence

 

The trademark of a charlatan is that they say things without any evidence to back it up. Don’t be a charlatan. Back up your claims with solid, specific evidence. If you make a claim, link to the case study that you’re referencing. This will build trust with your customers.

 

Also, use technical details to show your expertise. Technical details about your product make you more convincing. Showing exact details like names, data, and materials used shows you know what you’re talking about. You might think that these aren’t really all that important. But like Neil Patel says, details sell.

 

You can also bring people into your product with fascinating stories. Stories are personal and interesting ways of proving your product’s value. Do you have any stories you could tell about your product? What successes have you had in the past? Stories are a human way of bringing your prospective customers into your world and entertaining them a little bit.

 

Write Clear, Respectful Calls-To-Action

 

A call-to-action is a call for a customer to take a specific, desired action on your website. This could be a link to another one of your pages. It could be a button bringing them to your Contact Us page, or it could be to download your white paper.

 

A good call-to-action should be specific. It should be clear about what you’re wanting the customer to do and why they should do it. A good call-to-action should summarize the benefits, present the offer, and justify the price to the customer one more time.

 

A good call-to-action should also be respectful. It shouldn’t assume that the customer is ready to take that action. Give your website visitors more than one option. “Start today” should be followed closely by a “Read More About Our Product” option. In this way, more people will continue on their buyer’s journey on your page than just the ones ready to make a purchase.

 

After You Write

 

Woo hoo! Congratulations. You’ve written your copy. And it’s really, really good!

 

But this is just the beginning. Once your copy is up and working for you on your website, it needs to be optimized. Optimization simply means being revised based on data. Going back and optimizing your website copy will continue to make your website better and more profitable.

 

This can be done in multiple ways including:

 

          • A-B Split Tests
          • Heatmaps On Your Site
          • Surveys on your pages

 

I’m not going to go into the specifics about all of these in this blog post except to say it’s  important. According to a presentation with Paris Chopra, the founder and CEO of Visual Website Optimizer, a single word change on a website can lead to a 161% increase in conversions.

 

Visual Website Optimizer re-wrote copy for one company with the keywords that people were searching for on search engines. As a result, this company got 150% more leads, $15,000 in additional sales inquiries, and an increase in annual sales of $500,000. This is not small potatoes.

 

Bottom line, after you’re done writing, use analytics to drive further insights and make changes. Use search tools to figure out the keywords that people are actually looking for. And use surveys to gain insight into what your customers want and are having trouble with on your website.

 

Does all this sound just a little bit too daunting for you? That’s OK. You can hire someone to do this for you. You can learn more about White Hat Matt’s copywriting services on our copywriting page or hire someone locally in your area.

 

But whoever you hire, make sure you hire someone who knows what they’re doing. If you’re going to hire out your copywriting, make sure it’s someone who is getting wins with their copy in a professional setting.

 

Writing clearly and persuasively and thoroughly demonstrating the benefits of your product or service is something that anyone can do. With a little bit of learning, and a lot of unlearning, you, too, can be on your way to writing copy that works for your website.

 

Additional Reading/Listening

 

We recommend you start by picking up a free copy of How to Write Copy That Sells, by Ray Edwards. This may only be available for free for a limited time; if you find this link has gone down, just try searching for the book on Amazon.

 

Otherwise, please check out:

Ray Edwards – How to Write Copy that Sells (on the Smart Passive Income Podcast)

Conversion Rate Experts – How to Beat Most Professional Copywriters

Conversion Rate Experts – Making Websites Win (Available in Hardcover or Kindle Format)


The Unrecognized Value Behind Email Marketing

When we say “online marketing” to small business owners, most respond with, “I’m not that into social media, thanks.” Not quite what we meant, but good to know!

 

While social media marketing is a part of online marketing, it certainly isn’t the entire pie. There are many different aspects of online marketing, including Google Pay Per Click, social media marketing, web design and SEO, and email marketing,  just to name a few. All of them are important, but if you simply advertise on social media you’re going to be missing out on huge demographics of potential customers.

 

Of all the different forms of online marketing, email marketing is one of the most unrecognized and one of the most powerful.  In short, most small businesses we encounter simply ignore the advantages of email marketing.

 

Yes, we hear many objections to email marketing..

 

I don’t look at other companies’ marketing emails.

 

What if one of my emails goes to the social or promotion tab?

 

Commercial emails will irritate my customers!

 

What if my emails don’t get delivered in the first place?

 

(And here’s the big one) Email marketing just doesn’t work.

 

Well, in this blog post we’ll prove to you that email marketing not only works, but also provides certain huge advantages to a small business owner like yourself over social media marketing that should certainly not be dismissed.

Email Marketing Advantages

Is Email Marketing Dead?

 

First, like watching the TV series Star Trek, let’s take a look at the data.

 

This chart by OptInMonster shows key statistics to prove that email as a platform is nothing to sneeze at.

 

Email Facebook Twitter
Total number of users 2.6 billion 1.7 billion 313 million
First online “check” of the day 58% 11% 2%
Use this channel at least daily 91% 57% 14%
Prefer this channel for permission-based promotional messages 77% 4% 1%
Most frequently used channel for personal messages 45% 12% 0%
Users check here for a deal from a company they know 44% 4%
Users who made a purchase as the result of a marketing message from this channel 66% 20% 6%
Customers Acquired 7% <1% 0%
Inbox Placement Rate/Organic Reach 79% 1-6% <1-30%
Open/Click-Through/Engagement Rate 18% OR / 3.7% CTR 0.07% 0.03%
Distribution of Global Content Sharing Activities 4% 57% 18%
Delivers an Excellent ROI 21% 15%
Customer Lifetime Value +12% +1% -23%
Ownership Full ownership Account can be terminated Account can be terminated

https://optinmonster.com/email-marketing-vs-social-media-performance-2016-2019-statistics/

 

Email as a platform still has more users worldwide then Facebook and Twitter combined. Almost all of those users check their email at least once a day; for many of them it’s their first online activity of the day.

 

 

 

According to this chart, email is still a huge, hulking mass of a communications platform that is available to almost a quarter of the people on planet earth.

 

Email also has the highest daily check rate and the lowest never-check rate of all online marketing tools. More people are checking it more often than anything else.

 

 

And it’s growing. According to recent studies, email is still continuing to increase both in number of users and worldwide email accounts every year. This will continue through 2019.

 

https://optinmonster.com/email-marketing-vs-social-media-performance-2016-2019-statistics/

 

The types of individuals that check their email are also different. Unlike social media users, people who check their email are more likely to be looking for promotions or deals from companies that they do business with. According to this article, the amount of users who make a purchase as a result of emails is over three times the amount of Facebook, and 10 times the amount of Twitter.

 

 

Bottom line: email marketing is an established, growing communications platform that continues to lead the planet in users from almost every demographic. And there’s no signs of that changing anytime soon.

 

Or, in the words of the OptInMonster article from which these graphs were taken, EMAIL IS NOT DEAD!!

 

What Are The Benefits of Email Marketing?

 

Now we get the fun part: what are the juicy benefits of email marketing as opposed to social media?

 

Universally Used

Everything on the internet points back to your email account. When you lose your password, you go back to your email. When you make a purchase, you get your receipt in your email. People are required to check their email over and over. And as we mentioned earlier, almost every demographic and age range uses email as a primary means of communication.

 

 

Email Plays Nice With Others

Not only is email ubiquitous, it also plays well with others. No matter what other platforms you’re using for marketing – social media, Google PPC, SEO – email integrates flawlessly. For instance, you can take your email marketing content and use it to craft social media posts without having to start from scratch. Inside your emails, you can have links to your social media pages. You can also use email marketing to promote a social media marketing event, increasing traffic to your page or event. Email is a team player and will happily mix with whatever other marketing activities you’ve got up your sleeve.

 

People Prefer Email

According to research conducted by Marketing Sherpa, 60% of survey respondents chose email as their preferred way to receive promotions and updates from companies they are interested in doing business with. According to that same research, only 20% of respondents chose social media and 17% chose text messages.

 

Also according to Marketing Sherpa, 91% of US adults like to receive promotional emails from companies they already do business with. Many leads and customers are more likely to read and take action from a marketing email because they’re already looking forward to having that type of communication with you.

 

 

Furthermore, if someone’s on your email list, odds are they’re already interested in you as a company or one of your products. HubSpot calls these people “hand raisers”. They are people who have somehow ‘raised their hand’ to say yes I’m interested in what you have to offer. As a result, your odds of converting them to a lead or customer are much higher.

 

A word to the wise, though: businesses that do send unsolicited email marketing messages often sacrifice company image and success for a quick buck. As a result, many of the most reputable email marketing systems recommend not purchasing an email list but generating them organically through your business relationships.

 

Targeting

Social posting is environmental. Email is direct. When you send out a message via social media, you have no idea if the people who see it are the ones who are interested in your product. You could easily get lost in the feed. When you publish something, who sees your post is not only depends on who is on your subscriber list, but also the algorithms of social media.

 

This is not the case with email. When you send an email, it goes to every single one of your recipients every time. Delivery is not contingent on reach, algorithms or SEO. It’s one-to-one: one email, one person, every time.

 

Higher ROI

A 2016 study by GetResponse showed that email marketing delivers the highest overall ROI. Another survey by the Direct Marketing Association and Demand Metric of Marketers in the United States showed that email achieved a median ROI of 122%, which was more than four times higher than other marketing brands, including social media (28%), direct mail at (27%), and paid search (25%). In 2016, email marketing generated $44 of ROI for every one dollar spent, which was up from $38 in 2015.

 

‘Nuff said. The results are in: email marketing will maximize your ROI.

 

 

 

Higher Conversion Rates and Customer Acquisition

Taking a prospect from a lead to a customer is no easy task, but email does it better than anybody else. Mckinsey reports that the average order value of an email is at least three times higher than the average order value of a social media post. Also according to Mckinsey, email is almost 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter in helping your business acquire new customers. With email marketing, you’ll have higher success in attracting that potential buyer and getting them to actually buy than you would with social.

 

https://optinmonster.com/email-marketing-vs-social-media-performance-2016-2019-statistics/

 

 

Increased Visibility

Your emails reach on average 79% of the people that you send them to. On the other hand, Facebook organic reach has declined in recent years to between 1 to 6%. That means only 1 to 6% of your fans will actually see your post at any given time. Email is a much better option for sending out both sales emails and current customer communication emails like newsletters. What good is a newsletter if only 1 to 6% of your loyal customers get to see it?

 

If your business needs a reliable way to communicate with your members and customers, you need a method you can trust. And that’s email.

 

Longer Lifetime

A study by Custora found that customers acquired by email have a 12% higher lifetime value than average. The same study showed that customers acquired through Facebook have only a 1% higher lifetime value than average.  Customers acquired through Twitter tend to be worth about 23% less than average. People who you engage via email are not only more likely to buy, they’re more likely to stick around.

 

http://blog.custora.com/custora-content/uploads/downloads/2013/07/Custora_EcommSnapshotQ213.pdf

 

 

Reduced Time Commitment

Email marketing is effective, but it’s also quick. Once you learn the basics, you’ll be able to put together an email in no time flat. And not only that, there are plenty of email marketing software out there that give you the tools and training you need to quickly learn and design emails (as opposed to the dozens of social media platforms on the market, which all have their own complicated advertising managers that require time and effort to familiarize yourself with).

 

Greater Personality

If you’re going to outshine your competitors, one-on-one communication is going to be one of the biggest guns in your holster. Opening an email is a much more personal experience than coming across a random, generic social post that is addressed to an entire community. Composing personalized emails makes sure customers feel connected to you as a business, which will dramatically increase your likelihood of getting a buy.

 

Greater Customization

Pretty much all social media posts look the same: an image or a video accompanied by text. On the other hand, emails can be customized to match your brand image and aesthetic. Are you a high-end restaurant in Chicago? Make your emails sleek and shiny and highly professional. Are you a flower shop on the Oregon coast? Include color and dynamic images of your spring flora as well as an unlimited amount of characters in the descriptions to really bring your company to life.

 

Email has no restrictions to design and no restrictions to the number of characters you’re allowed to use. It’s about as close to a blank canvas as you can get in the world of digital marketing.

 

Marketing Automation

Using email marketing software, you can design entire campaigns of emails to be sent when someone opts into your email list. That means that if someone makes a purchase, you can send them one email about the purchase, another thanking them, and another about an additional item that may be helpful, all automatically. Social media platforms have no automation powers even close to this.

 

Objections to Email Marketing

 

OK, OK. Email marketing sounds great! But there are some very viable concerns I need to have addressed before I invest my time in actually doing it!

 

Objection: I Don’t Open Other Companies’ Marketing Emails

Maybe you’re not one of the types of people that opens up your marketing emails. Fair enough, but that doesn’t mean that nobody is. Odds are that you’re not the kind of person who opens every letter you recieve that comes via snail mail either. But I personally have older friends and family that sit down every week and do exactly that.

 

The data shows that many people do, in fact, open up marketing emails and do make purchases as a result. Like so many other things in your business, it’s not necessarily about how you function, but how your customer functions. And while you may not be the type to go through each of your emails individually, your customers may be. In business you have to speak the language of your customer. If you don’t like listening to your customers’ wants and needs, why are you in business anyways?

 

Objection: My Emails Will Get Caught In The Social Or Promotions Tab

Many email platforms have distinct inbox tabs that filter out promotions and social emails to unclutter inboxes. And many marketing emails do get filtered into these tabs. That being said, there are plenty of techniques in designing your email that will minimize the likelihood of this happening.

 

Design your email in plain text and use fewer images rather than more. Don’t write a promotional email, just write an email to your customers! That way, when Gmail or Outlook scans your content, it will be less likely to recognize it as a marketing email and send it straight to the recipient’s promotions tab.

 

Undelivered Emails

What’s worse than getting demoted to the promotions or social tab? Your email not even getting delivered. Sometimes poorly designed emails may not get delivered to their intended recipients. But again, there are some best practices you can use to minimize the likelihood of this happening.

 

Don’t clutter your email with too much content. Make it simple, sleek, and easy for someone to read.

 

Also don’t use spam keywords in your subject heading or in the content of the email. Email software and platforms can discover these and remove emails that fall into this category.

 

Remember, even if a few emails don’t get delivered to a couple of recipients, you’re still getting upwards of a 70% delivery rate as opposed to a 1 to 6% delivery rate if you sent the message out via social media.

 

Design Problems

Sometimes emails with too much design have a problem displaying on tablets and phones. You need to be attentive to how your email appears on a variety of devices.

 

One way you can minimize the likelihood of appearance issues is to test your email before you send it. Most email marketing platforms have this option. If you’re not using an platform, simply send it to yourself and see how it looks on your phone.

 

Keeping your emails simple also helps here. Some people opt to receive text-only emails, so keeping your email simple increases the likelihood that these people will see it.

 

Size Issues

Sometimes slower Internet connections have difficulty downloading larger images in emails. Again, keep it simple. Use images that are small in size and only use a few of them. If your email is taking too long to load, you may lose your audience’s interest.

 

Lack of Time And Resources

I don’t have time to send out daily or weekly emails! I have enough on my plate as it is. Learning a new marketing technique no matter how simple can be a bit of a time commitment. Small business owners are already taxed for time and mental resources.

 

That being said, of all the online advertising platforms, email marketing is the easiest to pick up.

 

If you still don’t have the time, many online marketing companies including White Hat Matt offer email services to help overwhelmed small business owners like yourself start their campaigns.

 

Let’s be clear: we’re not saying that social media marketing has no value. It does, and in our recent article Quickly and Simply Start Your Business on Facebook Ads, we outline what some of those benefits are and how to quickly get started.

 

We’re saying don’t throw out the old to make way for the new so soon. According to global benchmarking research in 2017, email still has a very high rating by marketers. 53.6% of marketers rated it as excellent or good, as opposed to social media and search engine optimization which are rated second and third by marketers (social had a rating of 50.9%, and SEO had a rating of 45%). Also, more than half of the companies surveyed in this research said that they were planning to increase their email marketing budget, whereas only 7.5% were planning to decrease it.

 

Email marketing still has massive potential to increase your sales and help your brand image even in the age of social media.

 

Additional Reading

Looking to learn more? Here are some other resources about email marketing that might be of interest to you, including some of the links to pages we researched for this article. There is also a link to the free HubSpot course that will get you started on email marketing techniques and best practices.  If you’ve committed to following the course online, we highly recommend you take the entire Hubspot course.

 

 


8 Website Features You Didn’t Know You Needed, But Now Can’t Live Without

Before you start reading this article, let us preemptively state that we know how frustrating learning new web features can be.  Some people are all about the latest technology and just love adding new updates to their devices, while others just wish we could still use typewriters, for goodness’ sake!  If you’re on this website, we’re going to assume that you at least fall somewhere in the middle.

 

We’re here to tell you that, while we might cringe every time we get a notification for a software update on our iPhone, we really do believe that keeping up with new available features for our clients’ websites will save everyone time, money and sanity in the long run.  And because sifting through the literature on website features can be daunting (and boring), we thought we’d help you out by compiling our 8 favorite (and what we consider indispensable) website features that you really do need to take seriously if you want to see your business grow and prosper in the 21st century.

 

1. Staging Sites

 

Have you ever made an update to your WordPress website only to get a big fat error screen?  It has happened to us in the past too!  This might not be such a big deal if you have a website with very few visitors.  Take 1 or 2 hours, fix the bug, and you’re good, right?

 

Well, what if your website has hundreds or thousands of visitors at any given time?  How well do you think they’ll respond to your broken site?  Probably not very well.  Even worse, what if your site has e-commerce functionality and visitors are impaired from checking out and buying your products while your site is down? Not a good situation to be in!

 

This is where staging sites come in.   A staging site is an exact replica of your site, but it’s not live.  On this duplicate version of your site, you can test changes to make sure they work with your existing tech stack.  Once you’re positive that the change isn’t going to break your site, you can push the changes on the staging version of your site over to the live version.

 

In 2018 we implemented staging sites on all the sites we manage.  Anytime we update a plugin or theme on your site, or even a big content update, we test everything in a staging environment before making the changes on the live site.  This has drastically reduced downtime, errors, and given us much greater peace of mind.

 

2. CRM Integration

 

For the vast majority of us, the main purpose of our website is going to be lead generation.  That is, the goal of the site is to inform more people about our organization, products, and/or services, so that we get more business.  Consequently, a good lead-generation website needs to have a clear call-to-action and a lead generation form, at minimum.

 

Take for example my triathlon coaching site.  I get form submissions on this page all the time:

 

 

But where do all those contact form submissions go? The quick and dirty method is that they go into your email inbox, after which you need to mark those emails and follow up with them later.  But when you think about it, this is a “junior varsity” solution at best.

 

There are at least 2 big problems with this method:

 

Deliverability.  There’s a good chance that email sent from your contact form ends up in your spam folder.  If you set up your Gmail or Outlook inbox properly, this is much less likely to happen, but it’s still a possibility.  This problem is compounded by the fact that most free contact form plugins don’t store the form submission data in your website’s database.  If the message gets lost between your website and your inbox it’s gone for good, leaving your lead wondering why the heck you never followed up with them.

 

Lack of Automation.  If the contact-form-to-email method does succeed, then what? Do you have a system in place to make sure no leads get lost in the shuffle?  What if you get 50 form submissions a day? It’s highly likely that you’ll forget to follow up with at least a couple of those contacts if you don’t have a rock solid follow-up method in place.

 

Enter the glory of CRM.  Using a CRM software tool is just good business practice in our opinion, and one that sets your business/organization up for success from the start.

 

If you don’t know what a CRM even is – oh boy – prepare for an “ed-macation!”  CRM stands for Contact Relationship Management.  At minimum, it helps you manage your contact records and segment them into various lists.  Beyond that, let’s just say that using a CRM is the second best thing you can do for your small business behind owning your own website.

 

A CRM can:

  • Help you project sales and track where various leads are in your sales pipeline.
  • Remind you to complete various tasks, such as following up with leads or customers.
  • Log activities you completed with customers and leads.
  • Integrate your various points of contact.   Think emails, phone calls, Facebook messenger, etc.
  • Helps sales teams of more than 1 person understand what communication has occurred between a lead/customer and other members of the sales team.

 

Marketing Automation is the Next Wave

 

Needless to say, CRM is really, really cool.  But, it’s even better when combined with marketing automation.  According to Hubspot, “Marketing automation refers to the software that exists with the goal of automating marketing actions. Many marketing departments have to automate repetitive tasks such as emails, social media, and other website actions. The technology of marketing automation makes these tasks easier. ” (source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-automation-information).

 

From my perspective, the value of marketing automation is that it provides a one-platform solution to manage your marketing and sales campaigns together.  If you’ve been around digital marketing for a while, you may have an email marketing provider, a social media automation tool, 10-15(!) social media accounts, SEO tools, an e-commerce tool, an invoicing tool, an analytics tool, a live chat tool, a push notification tool, and a CRM.  Yes, it becomes a freaking nightmare really quickly!

 

A marketing automation tool is not just necessary to have all these accounts in one place.  The real value lies in that it allows all these different pieces of software to talk to each other.

 

For example, imagine you’re a small business with physical products and your e-commerce platform didn’t talk with your accounting tool.  D’oh! You’d probably have no idea how much inventory you have on hand after just a short period of time!  Why spend hours trying to reconcile all that when you can have a tool do it for you?

 

Another example: Let’s say you provide a service and you recently began emailing a lead from Gmail.  Later on, you figure out that your lead’s preferred method of communication is Facebook Messenger.  So you start another string of messages on Messenger.  Let’s also say that you’re the business owner; you get really busy one day and have to pass on the sales process with this lead to one of your employees.  How is that employee supposed to know what you’re doing?  It only makes sense to house all your contact records within your CRM, so other people involved in sales and marketing can collaborate together.

 

CRM and Marketing Automation Recommendations

 

Here are our marketing automation recommendations so far:

Case #1.  If you:
  • provide a service
  • have a website
  • directly email and call prospects
  • see yourself using email marketing

Use Hubspot.  They have a great free CRM with limited marketing automation tools you can get started with.  Once you’re successful with their free version, you can always upgrade to a paid plan.

 

Case #2.  If you:
  • Have physical products
  • Have a brick and mortar business
  • Sell online and at your place of business.
  • Want your business to grow

Use Square.  Square will help you manage your customers, process payments, track orders and inventory, and it integrates with your online sales.  On top of all that, you can even do email marketing with Square!  Square is kind of like integrating your CRM, payment processing, and POS in one step.

 

A word of caution about Square:  Not all Square integrations are created equal.  If you’re trying to set up an e-commerce shop, Square provides you with many options. So far, Square does not integrate that well with WooCommerce, which is a popular WordPress e-commerce solution.  We’re also not that hot on setting up your website on Weebly, which is Square’s official recommendation at the moment.  You really don’t want be stuck with a website on Weebly, which for many will be an insufficient platform as they scale up their business.

 

As of early 2019, we have two recommended solutions:

 

(1) Use a native Square Checkout page.  In this case you’d have your own native website with page, products, buttons, and everything.  Then you’d redirect from a page on your site to a checkout page on squareup.com where the customer would then pay and complete their checkout.  Check out Square’s documentation on this subject for more information.

 

(2) Integrate Square with ECWID.  ECWID is a really simple e-commerce solution because it works great with WordPress and can process payments via Square.  It’s also really affordable. All you have to do is set up your online store and products within ECWID, select Square as your payment processor, then integrate ECWID with your website.  You can read more about the ECWID and Square integration here: https://squareup.com/us/en/app-marketplace/partners/ecwid.

 

Case #3, If you :
  • Primarily sell online
  • Need to send emails in conjunction with certain customer activities (i.e. bought a certain product)
  • Want to do a lot of email marketing

Use Infusionsoft.  It’s incredibly powerful and allows you to send emails using their visual email campaign builder.  You can use all sorts of conditional logic to determine who gets what email.

 

3. Easy E-Commerce Functionality

 

You’d think that e-commerce would be a staple feature of every website.  Having the ability to add products to a shopping cart then checkout with a credit card is very much a common experience of our everyday life.  But the truth is that you probably make purchases on much larger sites than your day-to-day, small business website. Smaller website developers who service smaller business owners typically focus on what is called a “lead generation website.”  That is, the goal of the site is to generate leads; actually turning those leads into customers and accepting payment is something that happens later, off the site with a point-of-sale or invoicing/accounting tool.

 

There’s nothing wrong with lead generation websites because most people are not going to want to deal with the added layer of complexity that E-commerce brings.  I can’t blame them.

 

Yes, e-commerce is a pain, it’s expensive, it’s much more difficult to execute than your typical lead gen website. But, we’ve got a solution that’s much easier to implement than your typical e-commerce solution (i.e. Woocommerce).  It’s called ECWID.

 

ECWID is great because:

    • ECWID is inexpensive.  They only charge you an ongoing subscription fee (as low as free, but you’ll likely pay $10/mo), not a percentage of each sale like EVERYONE ELSE (Shopify, Big Commerce, Stripe, etc.).  This is important if you have products that cost $500 or more.
    • ECWID offloads your shopping cart.  This means fewer things that can possibly break on your site, because your shopping cart is hosted externally.
      ECWID makes it easy to add new products, update existing products, or remove products.  Logging in to ECWID is very easy for novice users, especially in comparison to updating your shop within WordPress (as is the case with Woocommerce).
      This is the major one for us: Woocommerce, Shopify, and other e-commerce solutions severely restrict your design possibilities.  That’s why you see product pages that all look the same everywhere on the internet – main image on the left, secondary images underneath, short description on the right, and long description below.  With ECWID the only design element that you can’t 100% control is the button. If you want a big, beautiful product page on another solution, you may be out of luck.*
    • Because ECWID is not restricted to the WordPress environment, it’s flexible enough to run it on other platforms (specifically as Ebay and Facebook stores).   You are not restricted to only selling on your website. What’s more, your store can sync between several online platforms all at the same time.  No need to try to reconcile inventory by hand later.
    • Awesome Mobile App.  Want to manage your online store on the go?  ECWID has a fully functional mobile app, while the Woocommerce app is still in beta.

* Note that the ability to edit Woocommerce pages with some page builders was recently added.  However, you can still only customize certain Woocommerce specific elements even with the page builders.  You cannot add absolutely whatever you want. See the Elementor and Divi releases on the subject.

 

 

4. Off-Site Cloud Backups

 

If you’ve owned your own website for a while you probably know that you need to run backups consistently in case anything ever happens to your site.  In fact, before I had staging sites, I had to revert to a backup on tritheos.com several times. Fortunately, our preferred host, Flywheel, creates a back up of your site every day, so you’ll never be left hanging.

 

But let’s say disaster strikes and all of your host’s servers go down…for good!  Or worse yet, what if your website host went off the rails and locked down access to your site completely?  Well, they’d take your live site AND your backups with them.  What are you going to do then?

 

It’s just good practice to have someone besides your host also take backups of your site.  In 2018 we added a service that allows us to make daily off-site backups of your site.  Anything short of a nuclear war will not stop us from getting your site back!

 

5. Media Library Folders

 

If you’ve ever logged into the back end of WordPress to make web pages or write blog posts, you’ve probably noticed how limited the media library is.  In fact, the core WordPress software does not even provide the ability to create folders within your media library! This is what my site looks like with no library folders:

 

 

You basically have to keep scrolling and scrolling and scrolling, and maybe…hopefully…you’ll find the image you were looking for.

 

You can imagine the headache and clutter this is going to cause.  I consider the lack of media library folders to be the greatest drawback of WordPress.  That’s why Media Library Folders is probably my favorite feature addition in 2018.

 

Now all of our library folders look like this:

 

 

The advantage is evident.  There’s no need to sift through hundreds or thousands or uncategorized media items.  You can easily drop all your images, pdfs, logos, and other media items into folders of your choosing.

 

With the media library folder solution we provide, you can even upload files directly from Google Drive or Microsoft Onedrive.  This means you don’t have to download files to your hard drive and then re-upload them to WordPress! Pretty cool.

 

6. Live Chat Integration

 

I’ll admit that I’m pretty resistant to change, so when I first saw live chat starting to pop up on other websites, I thought to myself, “what a stupid concept; why would I ever use this?!” Of course, I also said that about texting and smartphones (both of which are still stupid for the most part but have their place, by the way). Calling customer support still seemed like a better option to me at the time.  It took me a few months, but now I love the live chat feature you can find on many websites today.

 

Here are a couple of reasons why:

  1. People can communicate the specific questions they have at the exact time they are browsing your website.  For instance, I’ll often ask company reps on live chat about a feature I couldn’t find information about, or if I misunderstand their user-interface, they can direct me to the pages I need to find information about.
  2. From a marketer and designer’s perspective, when people have questions they couldn’t easily find on one of my websites, this means I probably need to make changes to my website and potentially add more information. It’s like free website usability testing and conversion optimization.
  3. Live chat is less of a commitment than calling or emailing sales or support.

According to SuperOffice.com, over half of customers now prefer using live chat over phone support.  In addition, live chat is now the leading digital communication method as well.

 

“J.D. Power found that live chat has become the leading digital contact method for online customers, as a staggering 42% of customers prefer live chat compared to just 23% for email, and 16% for social media or forums.”

(source: https://www.superoffice.com/blog/live-chat-statistics/)

 

I can’t say if live chat is right for you and your business.  It does take commitment in that, generally, someone needs to be available to operate your live chat during the hours you choose.  Still, it is an extremely easy way to help your leads move further down the sales funnel, as well as provide better customer service.

 

7. Custom Headers and Footers

 

We love developing sites in WordPress, but to be honest, manipulating headers and footers has never been an easy thing.  These areas of your site are typically controlled by your WordPress theme, and oftentimes there is not much control over the design and ability to customize your header or footer.

 

Why would you even want to customize your header or footer?  My thoughts on this typically go back to your website user and being able to answer their questions as quickly as possible.  For instance, sometimes adding a phone number and email address up above your primary navigation can be a good way to make it easy for people to reach out to you. Similarly, if someone can’t find what they’re looking for in your primary navigation, they will often look for the link in your footer menu (I do this all the time!).

 

Another reason would be to achieve all of the above, without sacrificing consistency with the rest of your site’s design.

 

Using our site builder of choice – Divi – we now have 100% design control over headers and footers.  Here’s an example of a footer we recently built that includes a slick email opt-in.

 

 

This is a feature we don’t want to abuse, however.  Following some tradition when creating headers and footers is a good thing.  If your header is more a piece of modern art than a functional element of your website, what good is that?

 

8. AMP Version for Better SEO Results

 

There are few shortcuts in SEO, but it’s wrong to say that there are none.  One big shortcut to getting better rankings in Google is to provide an AMP version of your blog posts.

 

AMP is short for “accelerated mobile pages.”  It’s basically a stripped down version of a page on your site, with the absolute minimum in design applied to the page.  This means that the page can also load super quickly.

 

Before you freak out about putting an ugly page of your site onto the internet, remember that these pages will only be served to mobile users.  Most of the time mobile design consists of a simple, one-column format anyway.

 

So what kind of results can you expect from creating an AMP version of your site? Here’s a screenshot of the amount of clicks I received to my AMP pages from my triathlon coaching site.

 

 

 

All told, I received 635 clicks from my AMP pages over a 3 month period.  That’s pretty good for a one-man site!

 

The point of having AMP pages is: If your page loads faster, Google will prefer that page because Google values speed.  Consequently, Google will reward you with higher rankings.

 

Search Engine Journal explains,

“AMP articles are even more special because they are favored by Google. Not only does AMP content appear in organic results, they even have their own top stories carousel at the top of organic searches to encourage more publishers to use AMP. This amounts to an increased SERP real estate for high ranking webpages and can dramatically increase your organic search CTR.”

Source: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-amp-review-seo/209324/

 

Conclusion

 

The next time you’re thinking of hiring a WordPress designer/developer or hosting provider, make sure to ask them:

  1. Do you offer staging sites so that when you are updating my site we can both be assured that it doesn’t break?
  2. Do you offer CRM integration, so I can get marketing and sales results from the site?
  3. Can you get e-commerce functionality without me having to spend $20k?
  4. Are you doing off-site cloud backups so that if something should happen to my host’s servers, we can always retrieve a backup of my site?
  5. Do you have media library folders so that I don’t have to sift through media items from 2015 in order to update my site?
  6. Can you get a live chat feature on my site?
  7. Can you make my header and footer look exactly the way I want it?  Really?
  8. If I really need SEO results, are you willing to go the extra mile and install additional code I might need to succeed?

 

We think the features we added in 2018 are pretty cool, but on their own they do pale in comparison to what we have always offered: a website marketing and content strategy to ensure your site gets results, local SEO so you can rank higher in Google and get traffic to your site, SEO copywriting services to clearly demonstrate the benefits of your products/services to your target audience, results-driven web design where we optimize your site for business results first and aesthetics second, and ongoing marketing services such as email marketing, social media, content (blog) writing, and SEO campaigns. While we always strive to provide the latest and greatest features to our clients, out core offerings will never change.