Category Archives for "Management"

Building an Integrated Online and Offline Marketing Campaign

I’m planning something big to take place in February.  The challenge is how to market it and this post is the first of a few that will explain what I’m doing.  The campaign will integrate online and offline marketing and this post explains what I started on 1 December 2016.

You will note I haven’t explained what I’m planning for February and I’m not going to – just yet!  If you start early enough, a little mystery or intrigue helps your campaign.  I’m hoping you will hop on board, follow what I’m doing and pass on the message to anyone you know who may be interested.

There will be plenty to take part in online, even if you are too far away from Sheffield to take part in the live event in February.  My consultancy offer is available to all coaches, consultants and local businesses, wherever they are based.  At the same time, I’m working with others to promote best practice locally.

Facebook Live

First, I’m doing a series of 30 daily Facebook Live broadcasts.  You can see all of them on my Community Web Consultant Facebook page as they appear.  I shall add a 1 to 2 minute video, daily.  I’ll probably break over Christmas but the idea is to build a presence or following, engaging in debating local economics.

You can take part in the debate by commenting on my Facebook Live videos.  Each day I shall share one simple idea and together these posts will seed a powerful online conversation.  I have the 30 days mapped out but will respond to comments either direct or in one of my videos.  I can be diverted to explore relevant themes, which may mean I extend the series – we shall see how we go.

One of the issues I’ve had planning this is, the time of day to record the videos.  It is possible to view them live.  To do this it is ideal to have a regular time.  My problem is I cannot find a time when I can absolutely guarantee I can post every single day.  I may be able to find such a time as I get into the series.  However, I’m not too worried as I suspect the recordings for most people will be more accessible than the live performance.

These posts will be an opportunity to promote other activities.  So, I may encourage people to like my Facebook page or visit this blog or attend my series of Webinars.

Webinar Series

I’m planning a series of three webinars, opportunities to explore some of the themes in the Facebook Live series in more depth.  I’m aiming for 1 – 2 minute soundbites through Facebook Live and so the Webinars will be about 20 minutes, including and followed by comments and questions.

I’ll record each webinar on YouTube and it will available as a replay.  You will be able to comment and ask questions on the replay too.

The first webinar is “It’s Where Your Feet Are: How Businesses Benefit from Supporting the Local Economy”.  One thing I’ve noticed is we often discuss how businesses can support community but rarely ask how businesses themselves benefit from their commitment to their locality.

The benefits have to be mutual.  A business that went out of business because it supports its community would be neither use nor ornament.  When the benefits are mutual is an opportunity for sustainable local regeneration that includes local businesses as well as the amenities that make it possible for everyone to take part in their neighbourhood.

I have lots of plans for webinars following these first three about the local economy.  Stay with me as this is likely to become very interesting.

I’ve found an approach to webinars that is cost-free and you will see it does not involve a commercial webinar host. It is hosted on my website.  I shall write about this in more detail once I’ve tested this method.  But if you’re interested in trying this approach yourself, it is worth considering and I’m happy to answer your questions.

Conclusion

You will note I have said little today about offline marketing.  The mysterious event in February is an offline event.  And there will be offline aspects to the marketing as well.  I shall review how I’m approaching that in a few weeks’ time.

Have you used the methods I’ve described here?  What other online approaches do you use to promote events?

Why Coaches Must Love Marketing

Coaching and running a business are not the same thing.  To do the former you need to be a good coach and enjoy the work.  To market you need other skills that may not be nearly so attractive.  The problem is without those skills you don’t have a business and don’t get to do any coaching!  Is it possible you could love marketing as much as coaching?

Here are a couple of thoughts you might find helpful when facing the challenges of marketing your coaching or consultancy business.

Marketing can Enhance Your Coaching

Many coaches are wary of marketing because they see it as selling.  Selling is a part of marketing and obviously essential to your business.  It is not the entirety of marketing.

Marketing is essentially educational.  It is an opportunity to spread your message, to explain what you offer and why it is of value to your market.  Remember, even though you may not be addressing your market direct; an engaging and entertaining talk, for example, may help people understand your offer and think of contacts who may be interested.

And don’t forget, if you are good at educating your audience, it will raise your profile.

Marketing is Your Priority

The trap many coaches fall into is their pursuit of brilliance.  The concept of imperfect action is lost on them.

Let me illustrate with a keynote talk.  You develop your keynote talk and set aside 5 days to perfect it.  You already have an adequate talk; you know the type of talk that says what it needs to say but is not terribly compelling.

The temptation is to spend your time developing the talk.  But the big question is, who is going to hear it?  Would it not be better spending the time promoting the talk, ensuring you have opportunities to deliver it to a viable audience?  The biggest reason talks fail is because no-one turns up!

And if you know 30 – 100 people are going to turn up, you’ll find time to improve that talk!

How have you found congruence between your coaching and your marketing?

How to Write Copy

After several weeks of guidance about copy, today I finish this section with a few things you can do to improve your writing.

Remember, on websites people have a shorter attention span than they do for print.  They tend to scan the page, so anything that helps them is helpful, eg subheadings, bullets and numbered lists, short paragraphs and short sentences. Loads of subordinate clauses are generally not a good idea.  Consider how you can:

  • minimise distractions on the page, eg reduce complicated background images and patterns. Usually a plain background or gentle gradient is all you need. Avoid things like sliders that present changing images; you’re presenting more than one theme on the page.
  • talk to the visitor. Use “you” rather than “we”. I find this is really helpful. Lots of sentences with “I” or “we” mean I’m talking features and not benefits. Copy needs to be relevant to the visitor.  Your avatar(s) will help you do this.
  • make sure your text is readable. It should be black on a white background in a clear font of a reasonable size. It is incredible the number of sites that ignore this basic guideline. Sometimes it is carelessness. Other times it is trying to be different or groovy or something. If it is difficult to read your visitors will not read it.
  • recognise some of your visitors may use screen readers. So, include alt text in all your images. Also be careful with tables. Use them sparingly, eg for statistical information, but remember it is hard to follow them using a screen reader. Never merge rows or columns, as this can derail screen readers so that they miss information.
  • use diagrams or other images. They can be a problem for screen readers but you can include a long text description for complex diagrams. It is about balancing the pros and cons. A good diagram might help most readers and seriously disadvantage a screen reader user. So, it is always worth considering an alternative (either in the sense of substituting something else or providing something alongside). There are several standards for accessibility, dependent upon how important accessibility is to your organisation.
  • use video and audio as an alternative to text. If you have a lot of text, an audio version could be played as the visitor reads the text. Assuming the copy is interesting this may help some people follow it to the end.
  • test your copy, once you are getting visitors to your site. This is a topic I shall explore in detail in later.

Have you any practices that improve your site’s readability?

The Call to Action

The call to action is the point of the copy on your webpage.  Everything you write should lead to a call to action that brings the current page to a logical conclusion.

It is often mishandled. Something like this on the home page: a h1 heading followed by the words “click here to download our newsletter”,  is a missed opportunity.  Let’s take a look at what’s wrong with this call to action.

  • It is too soon. You have said nothing about the purpose of the website or the newsletter’s content. Why should I want to download the newsletter?
  • The words “click here” – usually set up as a hyperlink – do not encourage anyone to click here – it is a very poor call to action. Something like “Sign me up for the newsletter” would be better and naming the newsletter would be even better.
  • Simply downloading a single copy of the newsletter is a missed opportunity. It is better to offer a sign-up to an email list, which means the visitor will receive a regular newsletter.

Some Ground Rules

So, you need to think carefully about your call to action.

  • Each page should include one and only one call to action. It may be a link to another page or it may be to sign-up to something. On a few pages it may be a purchase.
  • So minimise the distractions on the page.
  • The call to action should follow copy that prepares the reader. This can be particularly effective if it includes testimonials.  So, if you want visitors to sign up for a newsletter, tell them about the newsletter and especially its benefits.
  • Be very clear about exactly what you want the visitor to do. “Fill in the form and press the button” may seem obvious but it works. “Click on the arrow to start the video” is better than “Watch the video” (Yes, most people do know how to start a video but the former still works better!).  Don’t be afraid to state it clearly and starkly, visitors respond to being told what to do. No visitor will thank you for faffing around; they want clarity.  They haven’t got all day.
  • If it involves the visitor providing information, eg an email address, include reassurances about how you will use it. These can be added as a link to a security page or a simple assurance it won’t be shared with third parties. Evidence suggests reassurances increases responses, even when they are not read!
  • Think about the overall impact of your site. Note this is about your site, not your organisation. Don’t rely upon your real life reputation. If you have a good reputation, prove it on the site and then ask for a response. Don’t assume visitors will sign up because they already know you. Most of them don’t and even if they do, they are likely to respond to the site in front of them and not their knowledge of your work.

How do you encourage visitors to respond to a call to action? What do you think is the secret of your success?

Testimonials and Case Studies

Testimonials

“Your business exists to generate testimonials.” That is some advice I received. If like me you are just starting out, testimonials are essential and somewhat elusive. In time, as you work for customers, you will be able to collect them.

The first thing to remember is: ask for them! You may receive them unsolicited but you may be waiting forever. I ask for a testimonial as a part of my proposal documents, so the customer knows it is a part of our agreement. Indeed, even where I am working gratis, I still ask for a testimonial. Sometimes I ask for comments on a particular aspect of the work.

You can ask for a written testimonial and it is also worth exploring whether there are photos you can use, of the customer or of something to do with the work. Some customers may even be able to prepare a video. The advantage here is that you are less likely to be suspected of editing the testimonial!

Some websites have a special section for testimonials. This is not a good idea. Why should anyone visit your testimonial page? It’s always going to sound a bit “salesy”! It’s much better to add testimonials into your copy, alongside the benefits of your product, service or cause.

Case Studies

Case studies are a fuller account of the work you’ve done for a customer. I’ve just started to think about this seriously.  I’m finding I’m often working on existing websites.   I’ve realised I should be taking screenshots before I start work on them, so that I can illustrate the changes I have made! If I keep a record of the work I do I can turn it into blog posts. If the customer is happy to contribute to the case study, so much the better. A case study is an obvious place to include a testimonial.

This is just as important with causes as it is with selling products or services. If your aim is to persuade new people to take action, you must persuade your visitors to take part. If your cause is in support of a third-party, eg you collect donations to help some group, then your evidence can cover beneficiaries as well as those who contribute to the cause.

I shall be introducing testimonials and case studies to this site over the next few weeks.  The first appeared last Friday, with Hope for the Future and there more will appear in the near future.  What approaches have you found to illustrating the effects of your work on customers, users or beneficiaries?

Features and Benefits

So, you have designed your avatar! You sit down to write your first email to your new imaginary friend. You can use your avatar to distinguish features and benefits.

The point of the avatar is to humanise your writing. Have an image of a person in mind. Write to them as you might write to a real person. Your writing will come alive when people who share the characteristics of your avatar read it. So, if your avatar is a twenty year old woman, your writing might appeal to other twenty year old women. But hopefully, as your writing will be more human, ie free of jargon, it might appeal to sixty year old men as well!  So, if your avatar is not very clear, don’t worry too much, focus on writing to a human being and not a committee or a machine and your writing will be much improved!

Examples of Copy Using Features and Benefits

Here are two extracts from imaginary copy – the avatar is a twenty year old woman who likes frogs.

“Amphibiana Plus provides a system dedicated to the welfare of the garden frog. The pond meets the latest industry standards in spun polyester pond linings. It comes in several designs and provides security from predators …”

“You have been delighted at the recent plague of frogs and knowing how these beautiful creatures can control pests and enhance the interest of your garden, Amphibiana Plus has some exciting ideas. Just imagine sitting beside one of our beautiful ponds, with a unique design, watching the frogs swim around, knowing they are safe from cats and herons.”

Comparison of These Examples

Now, I’m not necessarily the world’s greatest copy writer so don’t be too critical! Do you see the difference between these examples?

  1. I wrote the second with a twenty year old woman who likes frogs in mind. I’m not a twenty year old woman and so this may be a bit odd but hopefully you can see the difference it makes.
  2. The first passage is about Amphibiana Plus and its product. It is copy based on features, what the product is like. There is a place for this, once the customer has decided whether they are interested.
  3. The second is about benefits: frogs control pests, enhance your garden, the pond is something to sit by, frogs are entertaining and you have peace of mind that cats and herons aren’t going to get them.
  4. Note the language of the first is objective, describing a product in the third person. The second is in the second person. This feels a bit strange at first but it seems this style does connect with most readers. If nothing else, using ‘you’ means you are addressing your avatar!

You need to be clear about the difference between features and benefits. People buy benefits, whether by paying money or supporting a campaign. They respond to the benefit. This may be a benefit for themselves or for some other group of people with whom they have sympathy.

People sometimes talk about WIIFM – “What’s in it for me?” This may seem crude but why should anyone be interested in Amphibiana Plus? I’ll buy a frog pond if I can see the benefit to me, not Amphibiana Plus!

How do you respond to copy online? What makes you buy?

How to Design Your Avatar

I find avatar design really difficult. Indeed, as I contemplate this post, I wonder what I can possibly say that would help the reader, other than “Go and read something by someone who does know how to do it.”  However, before you do wonder off, perhaps there is something I can usefully say about how to design your avatar.

If you are serious about working online you have to make a start and keep going. This applies to just about everything. I’ve been struggling with my avatar(s) for several months now. I know how difficult it is.

One reason it is difficult is if you do find an avatar it needs to be tested. You need to work out how to use it. If you don’t know how to use it, how can you tell whether your latest avatar is an improvement on the last?

So, designing your avatar is part of a marketing campaign that goes something like this:

  • Design your avatar
  • Write copy and design products and services for your avatar
  • Market your copy, products and/or services
  • Get feedback from those who purchase it
  • Re-design your avatar in the light of the feedback (or design another avatar)

You may find you need more than one avatar to cover your market and more possibilities may come to light as you market to an earlier avatar.

There are three characteristics you need to think about when designing your avatars.

  1. Their primary need or pain, that is the reason they are going to respond to your website. Let’s say your site encourages visitors to write to their MPs about a particular issue. Why might someone do that? Are they concerned about the issue? Or are they motivated by politics, for or against their MP’s political party? You may prefer the former to the latter (or vice versa!).
  2. Their secondary perspective. They may share a concern about the issue and support your letter writing concern. But what will really motivate them to sit down and write the letter? Concern about the issue may not be enough. Some people might use an outline letter, so they have less work to do. Others might make a social occasion and write with a group of friends. Some may have a distinctive view, that builds on (or undermines) yours. Clearly, you want someone who agrees with the issue but once you look at what will get them to write a letter, you may find you have a number of distinct groups of people.  They share the primary need but will respond to different approaches to getting them to write a letter.
  3. The third characteristic is: what makes your avatar a distinct human being? This covers things like age, sex, nationality, religion, sexuality, health, family … These help in two ways. First, they humanise the avatar. You will in time name them and have an image of them in your mind as you write for them. So, even a fairly arbitrary characteristic might help the avatar become real for you, so that your writing has more life in it. Also some of these characteristics have consequences. So, a younger person might write via social media and be less willing to write a letter on paper, find a stamp, etc. A few young people might enjoy an afternoon with a group of older people, writing letters and eating cake! Your question is whether such a person is typical. Such younger people do exist, but do enough of them exist to make a dedicated avatar worthwhile?

My first avatar is in the pipeline, not quite ready to go public yet but I will keep you informed. In the meantime, do you have one or more avatars? How did you build up a picture of them? How do you use them?

Your Avatar

Your avatar describes your potential customers.  When you design your site for customers or activists, for the people who are going to buy your products or services, or support your cause, it helps to have a specific image in mind.

How do you design a site, especially its content, to build relationships with potential customers or supporters?

Avatar is a technical name for what most people call an imaginary friend. This is someone whom you imagine; s/he is not a real person although you may base your avatar on one or more real people. The more you know about your avatar, the better. Work out what would motivate them to respond positively to your site and then write for them.

It is important to think of your avatar as a friend. If this person were your friend, how would you write to them? This is not a reason to be over-familiar but it is a reason to avoid jargon and corporate–speak.   If your copy reads like a letter or an email to a friend, the chances are it will appeal to your site visitors.

You can have more than one avatar. You may find you have a number of potential markets, eg if you want people to write to their MP, you may need an older and a younger avatar. Older people might be more likely to write, they may be prepared to send a letter by post and be better able to relate to their MP. Younger people may rather use email or social media, they may be more reluctant or sceptical about writing and more forthright in expressing their views.

You might offer different incentives and resources to these avatars. Of course, you’ll have to work out how to get the right visitors to the right place on your site. So, a landing page for people who access through social media might suit younger people whilst a page accessed via flyers handed out at meetings might be designed for older people. But note this is not an exact science.

You could of course ask whether your visitor would rather use email or send a letter. As always, the rule is make a start and then figure out how to improve what you’re doing.

Do you have an avatar? How did you design him/her? If you have more than one, how do you manage them on your site?

Types of Site Visitor

Who are the right people?  The people with whom it is important to build relationships? Last Tuesday I reviewed the purpose of the copy on your site. Your copy should aim to build relationships with the right people.

So, it is important to know your market, find the people who belong to it and build relationships with them. This is essential whatever your site is about. There is little point in running a site if it does not address the needs of your market.

Three types of visitor will land on your site:

  1. People who are not interested in your site. People arrive through all sorts of accidents and so you need to manage expectations. You don’t want the wrong people to waste their time or yours on the site. Some will leave almost immediately. Others may take longer to work out your site is not for them. Some may start a relationship and then work out your site is after all not for them. Mostly these visitors are not a problem unless you get someone who takes up a lot of time by trying to persuade you to change your purpose to meet their needs. In the extreme these people are known as trolls. A very small number of visitors will be so extreme, so it’s helpful to know they exist!
  2. Other visitors become faithful supporters or customers. The evidence is if someone makes a purchase they are more likely to make a repeat purchase. This does depend upon them being satisfied with their purchase of course. The same applies if they respond in other ways, eg by joining in your campaign.  To turn visitors into customers or supporters you need to build trust through your site. This may not be easy where communication is largely one way, from you to them.
  3. The third type of visitor is sometimes called the second customer. These are people who never make a purchase or do whatever it is you want them to do. They sign up to your email list and take part in the free activities on your site. If you want visitors to write to their MP, for example, second customers will sign up to your email list, make return visits, read your material but never write. However, they may publicise your site on social media, tell their friends about it and generally market your work. This can be immensely helpful. Encourage it!

So, the message is ignore type 1, design your site for type 2 and encourage type 3. The good news is you do not need to worry about losing the visitors who are not interested in your site purpose.  You do need to worry about losing your type 2 visitors though!  If you attract type 2, the chances are you will also attract type 3.

Next time I’ll explain how to find type 2, your potential customers or activists.

How do you design your site for type 2 visitors?

How to plan copy

Today I shall dig deeper into how to plan copy. Some businesses pay copy-writers vast sums of money because they generate massive returns. It is unlikely you have such skills but bad copy is very easy to write. You can learn to write better copy, even if it is not the best possible!  The best way to learn is to start writing and respond to feedback.

I’ve already written about copy for donations (follow the link and scroll down to find the first in the sequence) and you will also find my posts about the awareness ladder helpful. Today I shall discuss the purpose of copy and then on future Tuesdays offer some pointers to effective copy.

There is one purpose to writing copy online; to get the visitor to your site to do something.  (If you don’t want them to do anything, why do you have a site?)  Not everyone who visits your site is going to do it. You do not want them to! All sorts of people may turn up but only some are likely to take a long-term interest.

You need write only for the people you want to reach. The others soon understand your site is not for them. You want to be sure the right people do respond to your site.

So, who is the right person? More about this in my next post. Let’s for the moment assume you know who the right person is. The next question is: what do you want them to do and why will they want to do it?

The first question is important. What do you want the right people to do? Here are a few ideas:

  • To build a long-term relationship with the right people, persuade them to join your email list.
  • Invite them to join your cause, which may be to sign a petition, write a letter, pay a membership fee, etc.
  • You might want to persuade your visitors to attend an event.
  • You might want to sell them a product or service, either online or by visiting your premises.

Note I do not include reading documents or watching videos. Content can be freely available and your visitor might take a look, then disappear forever.  You may however be able to persuade them register on your email address so that you can keep them up-to-date with changes on your site.  One option is to offer more content once your visitor has registered their interest.

Content is the most important material on your site. It is what makes or breaks your site. People will visit to read your content because it offers something they want.

Working out what content to make freely available and what is subject to certain restrictions, is a big challenge for any site owner.  If you want to sell content, then you need to be clear what is free, what is in exchange for information, eg an email address, and what is subject to a charge.  Free stuff helps people understand what you can offer but why should they buy more of it from you?

Be careful about social media.  If your visitor clicks on a social media icon, they leave your page and possibly never return.  Social media can drive visitors to your page.  However, if they choose not to register for your email list, they might at least follow you or like you, and this may have some value.

How do you marshal the material on your site? How do you build a relationship with your site visitor?