Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Do people read long-form content?

Friday, March 24th, 2017 | Success & Productivity

We are told that everyone on the internet has the attention span of a gnat. You have to write short copy and get to the point immediately or people will leave.

This is not true.

What is going on here, and why do we have this misconception?

How do we know it is false?

Website spy on you.

Not in a freaky “we’re watching you through a camera” CIA way. But they are watching.

They use session recordings. Services like Hotjar, CrazyEgg and Inspectlet track what visitors do. Every click, every scroll, every interaction with the page is sent back to their servers so that the website owner can watch it later.

Everyone is doing this. Well, not everyone. I am not doing it on this blog, for example. But for big companies, e-commerce websites or anyone with an analytics team, they probably have it installed.

This should not freak you out. It is all anonymous: you haven’t told them who you are. The session recording they watch could be anyone.

Unless you are on Facebook. Then they know exactly who you are. Every time you hover over that pro-Trump article or dietary video ad, for example, Facebook makes a record of it. But then, you’ve already told them all of your secrets and uploaded all of those private photos…

Anyway, I do have the software on Worfolk Anxiety. Specifically, I use it to see what people do on my landing pages. When I pay for an advert, I want to see how effective it is.

What do people do? Find out below…

What does turn people off?

First, let’s look at what _does_ turn people off.

It is true that people do get bored easily online. It is not necessarily because we have a reduced attention span. But there is a lot of competition.

Back in the day, you bought a newspaper and took it home. If you got bored, you would probably keep reading anyway. The alternative was to put your shoes back in, walk back to the corner shop and buy another newspaper.

Not so with the online world. If you are bored of that Guardian article, the Telegraph is two clicks away. Or dog videos. Lots and lots of dog videos.

With all this competition, people have upped their game. They make content easier to read. They use short sentences. Regular sub-heads. They get right to the point and keep the content interesting.

All of these things should be done in any piece of writing. But with the online world being so cut-throat, online writers have been forced to do it much faster.

So what do people do?

When you do get down to practising all of these good writing habits, people read your content.

The sales letter for our free 30-day anxiety challenge is over 1,000 words long. That is longer than 95% of the blog posts I write. It is two pages of A4. But people read it.

There are two types of visitors that hit that landing page. The first reads the headline and then leaves immediately. The second slowly scrolls down the page reading everything.

And almost nothing in between. Once people start reading, they read it all.

The pros get much better results

I have spent a lot of time working on my writing. But, not being a naturally gifted one, I still have a LONG way to go. I am not under any illusion that it is otherwise.

So I highly doubt my content is some magical exception to the rule because of how good it is. People just have longer attention spans than we think.

Better writers know this. And use it.

Sean D’Souza’s sales page for his article writing course is over 7,000 words, for example. Someone was telling me about a Ramit Sethi sales letter that was 47 pages long: and didn’t even have a call-to-action until 75% of the way through.

Conclusion

Whether you are blog posts, articles or sales copy, one thing is clear: people will read well-written stuff. If they are interested in the subject matter, they are willing to invest the time in consuming it.

If you are losing readers, then it is not internet attention spans that are at fault: it is your writing. Make it more readable, and you will hold people’s attention to the end.

Influence: The Science of Persuasion

Sunday, March 19th, 2017 | Books

I will admit it: I’ve been a bit prejudice. When I was recommended a book called Influence: The Science of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, I thought to myself “wow, that is a very Machiavellian-sounding name.

However, as I read the introduction to the book, I was soon corrected. Cialdini is a professor at Arizona State University. His research on influence stems from his own confusion as to how he continues to end up with magazine subscriptions, kitchen appliances and charity direct debits that he never wanted.

He is an academic, trying to make sense of a world in which compliance professionals (sales people, charity chuggers, marketers) keep hoodwinking him. Of course, a true master of the Machiavellian art would disarm me by leading to believe this. But, if so, fair play: I’m sold.

He did his homework, applying for sales jobs and following people around to see how they worked. In the book, he describes many commonplace situations that many of us have probably found ourselves in. Everyone should read this book, if only to understand what has happened to us so many times over the years.

He breaks the tactics down into a series of topics. I will discuss some of the most interesting below.

Contrast principle

Sell someone a less expensive item after selling them something big. For example, why are extras on cars so expensive? The answer is that once you have spent £20,000 on a new car, £500 for a slightly-better-looking tyre seems like small change.

Reciprocity

When we are given a gift, we feel an obligation to give back. It is wired into us. This is a tactic used relentlessly by the Hari Krishna movement. They thrust a free gift into your hand, and then ask for a donation later.

I have a copy of the Bhagavad Gita on my shelf. And yes, I gave the guy a donation after he gave it to me.

It even works when you do not want the gift. At airports, Cialdini observed the Kristina’s in operation, scooping their gifts out of the bins people had thrown them in, to re-use on the next target.

I also fell for this in Milan. Around the major squares are groups of African men who put bracelets on tourists and then ask for money. Before I knew what was happening, there was a bracelet on my risk. And yes, I did give him a euro.

Cialdini points out that the defence strategy we most often use is to steer a wide mark around such people. Why? Because it is to hard to resist our natural urge to give back.

Concession

Concession is about asking for more than you want and then backing down. Say you want to borrow £50. Ask for £100. Then, when they say no, ask for just £50. Because you have made a confession, the other person will feel like they have to make a concession also. It also makes them feel like they have set the terms.

This can often be seen in extended warranties. “Do you want the 5-year super-protect plan? No? Okay, just the 3-year basic plan then?”

Declarations

Companies love to get you to declare that you like their product? Why? Because people are driven to act in a way consistent with what they have said.

Charities do this all of the time. They will give you a free sticker or ask you to sign up for free information. Why? Because once you have expressed that you are in some way a supporter of them, when they ask you for money, you are far more likely to feel you have to.

Written commitments are the best. These were used extensively by the Chinese communists during the Korean war. They would get American prisoners of war to write essay contests and give away small prizes. Once someone wrote something positive amount communism, they would have them read the essay out. Maybe even put it on the camp radio. Step by step, American soldiers were broken down as their guards asked for more and more.

Likability

Bad times for ugly people: being attractive helps. People are more likely to help out and be more generous to attractive people. Shared interests are important too. Salespeople love to find out your hobbies so that they can pretend they do them too.

Similarity is a big key here. You identify with people similar to yourself. So, if you want to market to a certain demographic, you need to use an actor from that demographic.

Finally, compliments are also powerful. Cialdini tells the story of a car salesman who earned more than almost anyone at the entire company. What was his secret? Every month he sent a postcard to all of his previous customers with three words on the front: “I like you”.

Summary

Compliance professionals are experts at getting us to do what they want. We do this because we work on auto-response. There is too much data in the world for us to sort through all decisions and check everyone’s back stories. So we use social cues to shortcut these decisions. Salespeople know we do this and try and exploit it.

Cialdini suggests the best defence is to listen to your gut. If you feel awkward, even if you cannot describe why it may be that you have been pressured into doing something you did not want to do. If so, follow Cialdini’s example and say “I’m not taking your product: no click wurr for me!”

Logotype

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017 | Books

Logotype is a book by Michael Evamy. Here is the description:

Logotype is the definitive modern collection of logotypes, monograms and other text-based corporate marks. Featuring more than 1,300 international typographic identities, by around 250 design studios, this is an indispensable handbook for every design studio, providing a valuable resource to draw on in branding and corporate identity projects.

It is literally just that. A big book of logos. There is nothing else in here. No real commentary on logos or review of what works well and why it works. Just lots of logos.

It comes in a regular and mini size. The regular seemed to be out of stock. The mini size does have incredibly tiny print. However, as someone with average eyesight, I was able to read it fine by moving my face closer to the page. If your eyesight isn’t so good, you will struggle.

Cashvertising

Thursday, January 26th, 2017 | Books

Ca$hvertising: How to Use More than 100 Secrets of Ad-agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone is a book on marketing by Drew Eric Whitman.

In the book, Whitman has essentially boiled down the rules from the great marketing writers, the big ad agencies, and his own experience into a set of simple-to-follow rules. There are constant quotes and references to names such as Hopkins, Ogilvy and Cialdini.

Be begins with a short introduction to psychology, goes on to state the basic principles of marketing and then systematically goes through the rules he has laid down. It is accessible, implementable and fun to read.

SEMrush

Saturday, January 21st, 2017 | Tech

SEMrush is a competitor analysis tool for online marketing. Specifically, they focus on Google. You can enter a keyword and it will bring up a report that shows you:

  • Volume of traffic
  • Related keywords
  • What the search results are for it
  • Who is running paid ads
  • Copies of the ads they are running
  • A history of the ads for that keyword

Then, if you want to look at a specific competitor, you can bring up a domain report. This shows you:

  • How much organic search they are getting
  • What keywords it is coming from
  • Copies of the adverts they are running
  • What keywords they are bidding on
  • How much they are spending on paid advertising
  • Where their backlinks are coming from
  • Who their main competitors are

They also have a projects feature where you can enter your website and SEMrush will track it. This includes crawling it to find broken links and other bugs, as well as offering SEO advice: does a specific page have too little text or too many keywords?

It is super-useful for marketing. However, it also expensive. Their lowest package, which only allows you to create five projects, is $70 per month. They offer a free 30-day trial (for the pro account, the guru account trial is only 14 days) if you search around for it, which is time enough to evaluate if it will deliver enough benefit to cover the cost.

Unbounce

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 | Tech

Unbounce is a WYSIWYG editor for building landing pages. If you have no coding skills, you can whip up a landing page for your business by dragging and drop elements onto pre-built templates.

I have been wondering whether approaching everything as a coder is a distraction from building my businesses online. Maybe I should use more tools like this and concentrate on building the business, not the website code. It certainly does allow you to get up-and-running very quickly.

It also has some good integrations: I can easily drop my MailChimp account in there, for example. It also supports building a desktop version and a mobile version at the same time. As you drag elements in for one version, they appear on the other. You can then toggle between them and adjust each one individually.

Some things I found frustrating. For example, centring text. When coding, I would make the box 100% width, and therefore it would be in the centre regardless of the screen size. However, Unbounce requires you to create boxes with a specific size and then adjust the size for the different breakpoints.

Also, I did not feel it added too much value. Yes, it allowed me to create a page, add some integrations and create A/B variants. That is all useful stuff. But, I could do that myself. It does not provide step-by-step funnels and chain-linking pages that some of the competition seems to offer. I enjoyed my free trial, but ultimately, I have decided I can do without it for now.

OptIn Monster

Monday, January 16th, 2017 | Tech

Earlier this month, I trialled OptIn Monster. It is a set of lead generation tools designed to help you convert visitors into return users. I have been using it on my personal blog, as well as the Leeds Restaurant Guide.

For my blog, I used their footer bar. As you scrolled down the page, a bar would appear to ask you if you wanted to get the blog posts in a weekly email. I like this because it is a not intrusive way to offer some extra value to visitors. It does not stop you reading but lets you know my newsletter is there. The problem was that when the bar loaded in, it changed the font of my titles.

By the way, if you did want to sign up for that newsletter, it is still available: you can find it at the bottom of each blog post page.

With the guide, I used exit intent offers. These are dialogues that appear just as the visitor is about to close their browser tab. In this case, I offered them the first three chapters of the guide for free. Again, that is still available on the guide’s website. In this case, I couldn’t seem to get the offer to trigger.

The toolset itself is a great idea, but the implementation is not perfect yet.

Scientific Advertising

Thursday, January 12th, 2017 | Books

Scientific Advertising is an incredible book. Why? Because it is the online marketing bible. Everyone in online marketing is talking about it. This in itself would be a pretty impressive feat for a book. But it gets even more incredible: it was written in 1923.

How is this possible? How does the entire global e-commerce industry run on a book written before computers even existed?

The answer is that technology may change, but human psychology does not. The author, Claude C Hopkins, was writing about how to sell products by direct mail. In the book, he lays down a series of principles that had been proven to work. You could replicate them, and it turns out you can replicate the same strategies in the online age as well.

Here is what David Ogilvy said about it:

“Nobody, at any level, should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”

Best of all, it is now available free to download. For anyone looking to sell anything, this is a must-read.

2017: My year of marketing

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016 | Life

In my book Technical Anxiety I write about the important of life-long learning. Continued education and self-improvement is an essential part of keeping the mind healthy. Well, let it not be said that I do not practice what I preach. I am declaring 2017 my year of learning about marketing.

Why marketing? Because it is a skill I really lack, and could really use.

Take the Leeds Restaurant Guide for example. Sales have been underwhelming. Why is that? It could be because the quality of the book is poor. I do not accept that. It took us 18 months to put together, we went round over 250 restaurants, painstakingly reviewing them, and everyone has a high-quality photo taken by me.

Assuming it is a good product then, the next likely explanation is that the marketing of the book has been poor. This is probably true. It was not that I did not try. I set up a lovely website. I ran Facebook ads. I made certificates for every four and five-star restaurant in Leeds and hand delivered them. A few of them went up in windows. I contacted prominent Leeds foodie bloggers. I sent copies out for review.

Despite al of this, it did not end up as a Yorkshire Evening Post best seller (I assume they have a list, to compete with the New York Times).

You could also argue that maybe I just made a product nobody wanted. This could also be true. Maybe people are happy with the quality of the reviews on Trip Advisor (for reference, here is why you should not be). But in this case, too, the problem is marketing. After all, product design is one of the four Ps of marketing (product, price, place, promotion).

So this year I am throwing myself into learning about marketing. I said 2017 to give the post a punchier title, but I have already begun. Luckily, marketers, being in the business of marketing, make it easy for you to find them and offer some great content, often for free. My reading list is stacked high once again and I have enrolled on a course too.

I might blog more about different things I am reading, but for now, here is a list of cool stuff to check out:

Scientific Advertising by Claude C. Hopkins. This is the bible of internet marketing. All of the big marketers talk about it. But here is the craziest thing: it was written in 1923! Nearly 100 years later, the rules Hopkins laid down for marketing are still incredibly applicable today. Technology may change but human psychology does not.

The Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza. Sean is the best teacher I have found so far. He is a lovely guy (also a big foodie, which is perhaps why I like him), gives loads of stuff away for free, and answers all of his emails personally. He as a website, PsychoTactics, and a podcast, Three Month Vacation. The best way to get a feeling of how popular he is is to read these reviews of rival marketing school Zero to Launch.

Podcasts: I am really enjoying Digital Marketer which gives you some great advice on Facebook advertising, and Self Made Man by Mike Dillard.

Sex, Love & Marketing

Friday, July 31st, 2015 | Events, Humanism

Leeds Skeptics recently invited David Frank to present a talk entitled “sex, love & marketing”. It looked at how people market themselves on online dating and what interesting information we can gather from large scale data releases by major online dating networks.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Online dating is rapidly becoming a mature industry with wide social acceptance – most people think it is a good way to meet people and 11% of Americans have used it
  • It is predominantly used by middle-class urban dwellers with some university education
  • “Do you like horror movies?” turns out to be a really good predictor of compatibility

And some tips for using online dating:

  • Get your friends to pick your photos as you will instinctivly try and pick mirror images of yourself rather than the best photos
  • Get your friends to peer-review your profile, just like you would a CV
  • Use an interesting username that is neither boring nor contains words with negative connotations
  • Use pictures taken on DSLRs – whether it is the skill of the user, the higher quality camera or extra care taken, the produce much more liked photos than camera phones
  • If you must use a camera phone, turn the flash off
  • People love some depth of field on profile pictures too
  • Selfies are good for women, but bad for men
  • Smile with teeth is best, followed by no smile, smile without teeth. A smirk is the worst thing you can do.
  • T-shirts or casual shirts are the way to go for men – tank tops and topless are the worst ways to go
  • Showing cleavage works for women, and this becomes even more successful as they age
  • Do not talk about god in your profile
  • Basically everyone hates misspellings, grammar, and short replies

Overall a really interesting talk. There was also a section on sex and fetishes. The entire thing was well supported by stats and evidence. You can find the full slides on David’s website.