When Great Subject Lines Fail to Deliver

January 21, 2010

Today I received an email with the subject, “I would like to take you to lunch.” Quick and to the point, it got my attention and made me open it. The problem was once I got inside there was a form letter from a man I do not know trying to sell me something that I could not immediately identify. So I deleted it.

Writing great subject lines, like headlines, is a skill. Remember, these are the attention getters that make people want to read more. Like book jackets and magazine covers, these are the advertisements for what is inside. They shouldn’t be an after thought but instead a strategic part of your marketing effort.

If you’re going to compose a great headline, make sure you can deliver on the inside else it is just more spam. Connect your subject, either directly or with a little humor, to the message inside so the conversation continues. Then be direct and get to the point quickly so you can connect with the recipient and deliver on your offer.

On closer inspection, I believe the sender of my message was marketing something to do with events. A face to face made sense for him to market his services but without a clearer articulation of those in the lead paragraph, with a graphic or in a bulleted list or table, he lost me. Think about that next time you’re trying to differentiate your email from spam.


Perhaps it is time for 5 Guys to invest in new content?

January 15, 2010

As I left Starbuck’s this morning (with a tall cup of scalding Awake tea in hand), I noticed the graphics in the window of 5 Guys Burgers next door broadcasting recognition they had received from magazines and newspapers in 1998 and 1999. I did a double take it first. I mean, it is 2010. These awards were from two decades ago!

Awards certainly lend credibility to a business but when your latest recognition is from 11 years ago it leaves the customer wondering: are they still any good? If they were good enough for press in 1998 and 1999, what has happened since? Dare I eat there now?

The same line of thinking goes for your print and electronic marketing materials. If you’re still passing out a brochure that celebrates the tenth anniversary of your business in 2007, it is time for a refresh. And even without dates, if you know that you haven’t re-written the web copy on your home page in more than 24 months then don’t think your prospects and customers haven’t noticed.

Content is king. It is the vitality of your communications (not YouTube) and what allows you to shout from a mountain top your most important thoughts and offers. You don’t need an award from the Daily News in order to have something to say. Your experience is your credibility. Your customers and prospects look to you for information on your area of expertise and you owe it to give them timely and updated content.

So this January in the time of New Year’s resolutions, make a pact with yourself to update at least one of the following:

1. Press Release Boilerplate — When is the last time you read this thing? Is it even current?

2. Web site home page copy — Make it about what you customer needs not what you do.

3. Corporate Brochure — If you need a printed piece, great. But make it sing!

4. Your Voice Mail Greeting — really, this is a super easy place to distribute content that everyone except you has to listen to.

5. Your autosig — Besides your contact info, what other info could you be sharing here? Add a link today to a special offer from your firm or a quick survey.

What Makes a Good Testimonial?

September 29, 2009

We regularly capture content for clients that is fashioned into a press release or case study but one of the things I see clients struggling with is capturing really good testimonials.

All too often clients will want to post testimonials on their website or in their newsletter from favored and happy clients. The problem is that most of these unsolicited testimonies are pretty weak and usually pay compliment to an individual on your staff and not to your organization as a whole. “Suzy is great to work with,” is valuable customer feedback when it comes time to writing Suzy’s review but doesn’t belong in any of your other customer or prospect communications. For testimonials to be valuable, they need to be specific to your organization, product or service offering and ideally include a metric like ROI or time to delivery.

In a post on GadPedal.com today on this same subject he goes so far as to put a limit on the word count of your testimonials as just SIX. I think six will be a struggle for some but it definitely looks good on the web, in the margin of printed material or pushed out as a Tweet. The challenge to you will of course be to provide quality in those six words.

In Honor of National Punctuaion Day: The Proper Use of an Ellipsis

September 24, 2009

Sometime earlier this year I came across a reference to today being National Punctuation Day and quickly put a reminder in my calendar. It kind of sounds like National Underwater Basket Weaving Day or some other nonsensical holiday but for the amount of time I spend answering questions about proper use of punctuation, I decided it was a prime opportunity to share.

For the un-indoctrinated, an ellipsis is those three dots you see in punctuation and not the oval you drew in high school Trig (that is an ellipse).

When used properly, an ellipsis indicates an intentional omission of a word or phrase or an intentional pause in thinking or speech. Most writers use this punctuation properly when composing their thoughts but poorly execute it as punctuation mark.

An ellipsis is always three periods (dots) and never four or five. As a punctuation mark, it is always followed by a space but never preceded by one.

There should be no spaces between the periods either. To make this easy, the most recent versions of Microsoft Word will actually adjust the formatting for you to ensure proper spacing. Try typing four periods in a row and you’ll see the difference.

Because an ellipsis is designed to provide emphases, it is important to avoid overuse. When a writer places one in every sentence or many times on the page it usually signifies that they’re too lazy to complete the thought or too inconsiderate to provide the details.

SunTrust Advertising Implies They are Immune to M&A; Is that a Safe Bet?

August 10, 2009

Call me picky if you like, but I actually listen to the words in the radio and TV commercials and read the ad copy in magazines and on direct mail pieces. My family refers to it as an obsession, but I consider it professional research.

In the car this weekend I listened to a SunTrust ad about a new customer who after finding that his bank had been recently acquired and the new staff had no idea how that would effect his accounts decided to move to SunTrust. Why? Because they’d been in the same convenient corner location that he’d past for the last 5 years on the way to work.

The ad is part of their “solid” campaign and is designed to convince you that they have some greater level of stability than the other banks. Pardon me, but I think that is a risky message. I’m not a banker (nor do I currently have any banking clients) and this is far from a commentary about the stability of SunTrust but about the fact that you need to be careful what you put in advertising so it doesn’t come back to bite you.

Convenience is great and a sound reason for the actor to switch bank. Certainty that they will be the same bank in 5 years is a tough bet. Have you seen the bank failure rates in Georgia lately? And even after a recovery, there’s still no guarantee that M&As won’t continue.  That’s part of the evolution of the banking business, even SunTrust’s evolution. I remember when Trust Company of Georgia merged with Florida’s SunBank to form SunTrust.

But back to my point: be careful what you put in your advertising and marketing materials. Opinions and position papers are one thing and consumers recognize them as such but shouting messages in your advertising campaigns that may not hold water in 6 or 12 months may come back to bite you. And if banking customers are so fickle that they leave every time a bank merges, there is a lot of new account opening business to be had.

AMA Marketing Technology SIG Brings BING, Yahoo! and More to Maggiano’s

July 16, 2009

Event at $35, lunch at Maggiano’s is always an enjoyable thing. Today’s American Marketing Association meeting featured a panel discussion collectively promoted as Clicks to Bricks or how to get more sales out of your on-line presence. Nothing earth shattering about this presentation but I did enjoy the quips of panel member Evan LaPointe of Search Discovery and wanted to elaborate on my favorite.

He pointed out that if performance is 90% what happens after the click then why do so many companies hire and fire based on clicks? The reality is that it’s not enough to bring people to the site if you aren’t equipped to convert them. As a matter of fact, a campaign with a high click through and a low conversion could be down right expensive. So perhaps, as Evan pointed out, a great many people are focusing on the wrong metric.

If you’re hiring a SEM (search engine marketing) firm to help send traffic to your site but aren’t working with them (or your design team) to set up appropriate and reciprocating landing pages then you’re wasting your Google dollars. Sending those dollars to Yahoo! and BING isn’t going to improve things if you don’t provide a welcome reception for the traffic when they get there. 

Time and again we find that a fantastic-looking site can have a high abandonment rate while a really ugly site with rich, up-to-date content will have great stickiness.Regardless of whether you’re talking about search engines or real-live eyeballs, it’s all about the content. If you’re not taking the time to invest in developing quality content that educates your customer on the value of your product or service then you’re wasting your money paying for paid search.

Value in Content Marketing

May 18, 2009

It used to be that you could create a really visually appealing advertising vehicle and in the absence of other competitive noise, people would buy. Today that forum has gotten increasingly busy as the competitive noise from a wide range of media competes for eyeballs and air time. As a result, people are shutting out the noise of even the most visually attractive print, broadcast and electronic displays.  They are quickly looking for more information to help establish your credibility as an expert. In the absence of that information coming from you or your company, they are going to turn to your competition and then to their network of friends to help them make an informed purchasing decision. 

Your task is to serve as the educator. It’s not enough to tell them what you can/will do. You need to tell them how. How you do it. How it will benefit them. How they can buy. How they can measure. How you compare.

This trending response towards providing more information is driven partly by these emerging buying habits and partly by the search engines which crave content. The appropriate response? Feed the beast. Give them more information. Tell them what you know. Don’t be afraid to share what previously may have been viewed as intellectual capital but what today is recognized is content marketing. Establishing your position as an expert in your space is key to the continued success of your organization in an era where content is king.