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Copywriting, How to Increase Conversions on Your Website and Marketing Campaigns, Website Optimization

How to Increase Conversions on Your Website and Marketing Campaigns

Zig Ziglar’s Five Pillars of Sales in the Age of eCommerce

Usually, when I mention Zig Ziglar, I’m referencing the heavy priority he placed on trust as a key factor in sales, but there is a total of five obstacles on which he based the bulk of his philosophy. If you’re not familiar with Zig Ziglar, he was one of the most successful and celebrated salesmen of his time. His theory was that if a salesperson could overcome these five obstacles, the deal was done, and that theory is still just as successful in today’s internet era. As you work to increase conversions across your website and marketing campaigns, check that you’re addressing each of these issues that could be preventing your success.

Start with a Design That Works

This isn’t one of Ziglar’s famous sales obstacles, but it would have been if he’d lived in this digital age. How you present your content is just as important as the content itself. You need to make sure your web design is ready to convert your audience. It needs to be pleasing to their eyes and easy to read. Generally speaking, you’ll want to keep it simple. Direct your visitors to the desired action by limiting distractions and providing clear CTAs. If you have a page, email, or ad with a high bounce rate, start here.

I don’t need it.

When a potential customer thinks “I don’t need this,” it’s either because you haven’t adequately explained the utility and benefits of the product or this person is not in your target audience. Identifying, locating, and reaching your target audience is an ongoing and vital process in achieving success as an eCommerce business.

Who buys your product? Who is it made for? Imagine the ideal specimen for your business and figure out where he or she spends time, gets his or her news and information, and what influences his or her decisions. Then direct your marketing accordingly.

How to Show Your Audience They Need Your Product.

Your content needs to address a pain point. Remind the reader of the problem he or she has that will be solved by your product or service. And remember that there are a million other people out there doing what you’re doing (usually). Don’t just answer the question “Why do I need this?” Answer the question “Why is this the best solution to my problem?”

I don’t want it.

If the language and visuals you’re using to promote your product don’t make your target audience want it, they’re not going to buy it. Pretty simple concept. People don’t buy what they don’t want. The standard approach to this problem is to use descriptive language to tell the reader how his or her life would be improved by your product. Help people visualize themselves being happier, healthier, wealthier, more attractive, more successful, etc.

How to Make People Want Your Product

Imagine your ideal customer again. Now imagine your ideal customer has purchased your product or service. He or she couldn’t be happier. It’s so perfect, it creates a ripple effect that influences other parts of your customer’s life. He’s got more money, more confidence, more comfort. She’s happier, healthier, and enjoying more free time. Benefits, boss. Don’t tell me what your product can do. Tell me why I want it to do that for me.

I’ll just get it later.

This one is tough. What’s stopping all of your visitors from putting off that purchase until tomorrow, next week, or never? A sense of urgency is often necessary to pull a conversion because once they decide to wait a week, you no longer have any influence on their decision. They’ve closed the page, walked away, went to bed, and now they’ve decided they don’t really need it or want it and there’s nothing you can do about it.

How to Create a Sense of Urgency

The easiest way to do this is to offer a limited-time discount or promotion. Order now and get free shipping! Offer good till midnight! If you don’t buy it right now, you’ll end up paying more for the same thing! Don’t pass up this amazing opportunity! Act now before it’s too late! Deals like this don’t come around every day! Sound familiar? I’m channeling every car dealership commercial I’ve ever heard.

Other ways to create a sense of urgency involve a bit more effort. If your product or service will save people money, the sooner they buy it, the more money they save. If your product or service will make people happier, they shouldn’t wait another day being miserable. Think about the benefits of your product and then explain why the benefits are even better if they hurry.

It’s too expensive.

Money. The biggest hurdle there is. This one can’t always be won with words because your reader might really just not have enough to spend on things like your product. That’s why it’s important to maintain fair pricing from the start. Three customers paying ten dollars are not better than ten customers paying five. Set a decent price and then explain to your readers why your product is worth that.

How to Convey Value to Your Readers

Value is the ultimate key to conversion. Does your product or service have value? Can you convey its value to your readers? Start by describing what makes your product better than the cheaper guys. Why should someone spend more money just to buy from you? If you are the cheaper guy, what product details might convince someone your product has value? Being too cheap can be just as detrimental as being too expensive. Are you using quality materials and reliable craftsmanship? Are you properly trained to provide your service? Are you experienced? Tell me why I should buy from you.

I don’t know about this seller.

The reason I talk about this one all the time is that the ability to evoke trust is the difference between crappy copywriting and effective copywriting. It’s my job to address each of these obstacles in a way that makes the reader feel comfortable and confident in the purchase because it just doesn’t work otherwise.

How to Get People to Trust Your Brand

When a visitor comes to your site, they’re generally looking for more information. Even if they know what they want already, they need to know if it fits, if it works, how long it will last, what color it is. They want to know about your company and whether there’s any evidence that you know what you’re doing. Should they choose you or the other guy? Why? The information they’re looking for has to be presented effectively and accurately. If it’s not there at all, you lose the sale and if it’s there with bad delivery, (drumroll) you’re going to lose the sale.

Check out some best practices for writing the pages on your website or your marketing campaigns. Make sure you have all the pages or sections you need to satisfy your readers. If you want to make it really simple, buy a template for the content you need. If you suck at writing, hire a copywriter to boost your conversion rates with content that’s backed by consumer psychology.

How to Fit All of This on the Page

There’s some debate about whether it’s better to have a high word count for the SEO machines or keep things short and sweet so your audience doesn’t get bored and wander off. My humble opinion is that it’s much more important to have original, quality content than to have any specific word count on web pages. Google is getting better every day at figuring out who is plugging keywords and who is delivering valuable information. They decide who is an authority in each domain based on how the content is received, not how many words it has. Minimize the fluff and use quality copy.

On sales letters, marketing emails, and ads, you really want to hit the selling points and back off. I still don’t set word limits, but you want to be concise. Draw them into the next level of the marketing campaign by getting straight to the point. When you proofread (please proofread), remove unnecessary words. Use Grammarly (it’s free) to check spelling, grammar, and concision. Make the material skimmable with bullet points and headings. Hit these five points with concise, well-written copy and you’ll see a measurable increase in your conversion rate.

Copywriting, Current Events, How to Protect Yourself from Covid-19, Website Optimization

How to Protect Yourself from Covid-19

A Survival Guide for eCommerce Businesses in 2020

It’s pretty clear at this point that a recession is on its way. Businesses are being forced to close and a lot of them won’t survive the downtime. Layoffs are well underway. There’s not a single market in the United States or around the world that isn’t being affected by this heinous new strand of the coronavirus. If you haven’t prepared your business for this type of emergency, now is the time. Fortunately for eCommerce businesses, we’re uniquely positioned to not only avoid a lot of the devastation but possibly even thrive throughout this ordeal.

What is Covid-19?

This might seem like a silly question, but if we consider that the general public response has been to stockpile toilet paper, I think you can humor me while I address some of the idiocy we’ve been witnessing.

Covid-19 is a new strain of the coronavirus. It is not the common cold. I know some genius found out the common cold is also a type of coronavirus and decided to tell everyone the government is trying to steal your chickens or whatever… but this is not the same thing. Covid-19 is more infectious than the flu, is a novel virus with no vaccine, has a long incubation period, and causes severe respiratory symptoms that can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure.

The symptoms of Covid-19 are cough, fever, and shortness of breath. Not everyone who has it is going to show symptoms and not everyone showing symptoms will show these symptoms. Many confirmed cases don’t involve fever at all. Some have been experiencing chills, fatigue, and other flu-like symptoms. For everyone under 40, it’s a lot like a cold or flu and has a comparable fatality rate.

For those over 40, the death rate starts to climb from around .2% to more than 20%. The elderly are at high risk, which is why countries around the world are closing businesses, banning events and gatherings, and enforcing quarantines. These precautions, though necessary, are going to have a huge impact on the economy and we should all be getting ready yesterday.

Panic at the Costco

As recently as November 2019, USA Today was predicting a non-stop stock market climb up to election day, but on March 9th, 12th, and 16th, we experienced the three worst point drops in US history. The imminent recession, the looming plague, and the oil war that’s driving crude prices down to their lowest point since the early 2000s are triggering everyone’s flight response.

In preparation for martial law, quarantine, and job loss, many families are “panic-shopping” (hence the toilet paper shortage). The CDC recommends maintaining a one-month supply of food and essentials, but it seems to be human nature to lose your ever-loving mind and sell off all your stocks to buy enough hand sanitizer to last several years because we’re all still touching our faces.

The CDC has also recommended that we avoid crowds of more than 50 persons, which is getting mixed responses. While we shut down events, worship, and even school, we’re still flocking to the grocery store in droves. The psychological element of Covid-19 is so unpredictable and severe at this point, I’m hesitant to dismiss any fearful predictions about the coming months, no matter how unlikely.

Covid-19’s Effect on Your Business

Due to the international nature of eCommerce and the large reliance on China, we were one of the first industries to take a hit from Covid-19. The impact so far has been a bit scary, if I’m honest. At least once a day I think, “Will I still have a job in this recession?” But it looks like eCommerce might come out ahead in the end just by being the incredible network of convenience it always has been.

The most obvious issue for online retailers right now is restocking inventory. A lot of us have been cut off from our suppliers completely. Manufacturing plants have been sitting idle due to worker illness or quarantine in major epicenters of trade. Now that China is coming back online and Europe has become the focal point of the corona outbreak, the issue in reestablishing supplies is in transportation from factories to Chinese ports, which is expected to continue being an issue for the next several months.

But don’t fret, eCommerce entrepreneur. While your inventory may be shriveled, your audience is certainly growing. Quarantine, martial law, fear, and the shutting down of local businesses means people are staying home. Even 27% of the panic shoppers reported they would be avoiding shopping centers, and that figure climbs to more than 70% when the outbreak hits the respondents’ areas. That means you’re going to have an entire planet of consumers sitting at home glued to their electronic devices.

How to Take Advantage of Other People’s Misfortune

This year is going to be one for the record books, but you can keep yourself and your family afloat if you have -or can make- a decent online storefront.

1.    Diversify Your Suppliers

Step one is your inventory. There’s never been a better time to diversify your manufacturers and distributors. Have a backup, even if you don’t need it right now. If your products or materials don’t allow for such diversification, stockpile enough to get you through if something happens to your facilities or supply lines.

2.    Diversify Your Top Sellers

Make sure your revenue isn’t dependent on too few products. Take a look at your top three sellers. If those products were suddenly unavailable for several months, would your business survive? If not, you need to introduce new products or promote some existing products that are acquired through different suppliers, preferably in a different country if you purchase internationally. Not only will this protect you in case of an emergency, but it can significantly improve your bottom line in the meantime.

3.    Optimize Your Storefront

The competition is about to get pretty tough. Existing online retailers are going to buckle down and get serious for this recession and a lot of brick-and-mortar retailers are going to be forced to open up shop in your domain. Get your storefront looking good and converting well. Usability, clarity, and good copy are going to be your best friends here.

4.    Maintain Fair Pricing

For the love of dog, do not price-gouge. It might make you a quick buck during the panic phase, but it makes you look like a total POS and any customer you gain will not stick with you because you suck. Maintain fair pricing for what you’re selling. If you catch a break on shipping prices because of oil being so low, pass the savings on to your customer base. It’s a recession. You’re not the only one hurting. Be a decent person and your business will be rewarded. (Shoutout to HEB for donating $3 million to community support during this crisis.)

5.    Record Your Processes

If you’re the only one who can do your job, what happens if you can no longer do it? Anything you do repeatedly needs to be written down in the event you fall ill. Write it as if you’re writing instructions for a stranger to stand in for you. Write down each process separately and make the instructions as easy to follow as possible.

6.    Keep Your Employees

As much as is possible, avoid losing employees to layoffs and illness. Modify your policies to allow valued employees to stay home when they’re ill without being punished. Discuss pay cuts, scheduling, and other alternatives to corporate downsizing. This will allow you to bounce back faster and will save your employees from being jobless in the coming economy.

Live Happily Ever After

Okay, let’s be real. This year is going to be hard for everyone. If the effects are still lingering when the holiday season comes around, we’re in for a rough 2021, too. You can help your business survive by getting online or by optimizing your existing online presence. Take a break from social media and check the CDC’s recommendations for staying healthy, while you’re at it. And for f*ck’s sake, stop buying toilet paper. Good luck, everyone.  

Coding, Coding? Coding!

Coding? Coding!

This will be a short personal update. I’m trying to find the time to write more, but I probably don’t have to tell you about the severe shortage of hours in a day. As I’ve mentioned, writing for myself is kind of a nightmare and most days I just don’t have anything to say. When I do have something to say, I usually tell myself I’ll say it tomorrow. Bad habit, I know. I’m working on it.

Anyway…

As a copywriter, I work hand-in-hand with designers who build websites for bloggers, eCommerce stores, small businesses, etc. They make the site; I write the words. It’s been a great arrangement and I love my job, but I’ve suddenly become very excited about the possibility of doing the whole damn thing myself.

I was sitting at Starbucks the other day when a friend showed me a website that teaches coding for free. Totally comprehensive curriculum. The thought of learning this stuff had crossed my mind a time or two, but looking at this program, it started to seem less daunting and a lot more realistic.

Being able to create an entire website, content and all, without contracting would more than double my income, and I know you guys remember how awesome you felt when you went into the HTML on your Myspace page and changed your font colors or copy/pasted some awesome theme.

Also…

For those who don’t know, I paint and draw a bit. Designing websites feels like some kind of marriage between my job and my passion. I know all the best websites have some serious coding going on underneath and it won’t be easy to learn it all, but I know I would love the challenge of creating something awesome that works, just like I do with writing and [try to do with] art.

Of course there’s still the issue of time that I already struggle with. Will I sacrifice my painting, beach-going, and gym regimen to learn coding or will this be an opportunity I miss out on? Or will I take it slow and build my first website in 2027? Who knows? Not me. Keep ’em guessing; that’s my motto.

If I do happen to be successful, I plan on making a follow-up post to celebrate and to share the free coding program with you. I don’t want to share it now and then tarnish their rep by being a total failure. So here’s hoping there will be a post in the relatively near future to announce some new services at FMSkeen.

Cheers!

Copywriting, One Easy Way to Boost Online Sales, Product Description, Website Optimization

One Easy Way to Boost Online Sales

Let’s say you manage an online storefront and you want to make more sales. You have decent traffic or you’re increasing your traffic with marketing campaigns, but you want your conversion rate to be higher on your product pages.

It’s long been established that trust is one of the biggest factors in sales. If potential customers have questions about your product or service that they can’t find answers to, they’re going to become skeptical of your business and look for a website that offers more information.

When a visitor is eyeballing your product page, you want them to feel like they have everything they need to make a confident and comfortable purchase.

You do this with product description.

A proper product description is going to do two things:

  • Inform
  • Entice

Your reader needs to know if the product is what he or she needs, so it’s crucial to provide enough information that he or she can say, “Yes, this is the one I want.”

Simultaneously, you want to paint a picture that allows the potential customers to envision themselves with the product, imagining how much better life will be once they have it.

They’ll look and feel amazing in those clothes. They’ll be safer and more fearless with this gear. Traveling will be more convenient with this bag. This lawn care service will make them the envy of the neighborhood. You get the idea.

Let’s say you’re selling a lady’s handcrafted ring. The customer needs to know the size, the color, the material, the weight, and any physical features, whether apparent in images and video or not (not all of your visitors can see your images and videos, but they can probably hear a screen reader).

Now your customer knows the ring won’t turn her finger green. It’s the right size, not too heavy and the filigree sounds charming. Your conversion rate is okay, but we want better than “okay,” don’t we?

So, you deliver those simple details in a skimmable blurb -written at an 8th-grade reading level- that leaves Ms. Buyer dreaming of the dinner party she will soon be attending, at which this stunning accessory will accentuate the blue of her eyes and sparkle softly in the intimate lighting.

Your reader is now picturing herself wearing the ring and instead of talking her into the purchase, it’s a matter of whether or not she will talk herself out of it. If the price is right, your chances are looking good.

Now you’ve made the sale, you’ve got a boost in SEO from your new original content, and your conversion rate is looking pretty damn good, which means your sales, revenue, and profits are up and Christmas is a little merrier this year.

With a little practice and study of consumer psychology, you can save yourself some pocket change and write your own product descriptions. But if you’re not a writer or you’re busy managing your business, a copywriter like me is always happy to oblige.

There are so many of us nowadays, rates are more affordable than ever, and you can generally be confident in the quality you’ll receive just by looking around the copywriter’s website and reading a bit of their writing, publications, and reviews.

Consumerism, Don't Trust the Internet

Don’t Trust the Internet

The internet is an incredible place, full of knowledge and information to which previous generations never dreamed of having instant access. I myself am a contributor to the wealth of content available online.

So why am I bashing this beautiful resource?

For those in search of knowledge, who can easily identify a credible source and differentiate between fact and opinion or speculation, the world wide web is an oyster. That same diligent researcher, however, can be caught off guard when they’ve replaced their scholar hat with their consumer hat.

Most of us, as consumers, look for a few key bits of information once we’ve located a product we want. Are the reviews good? Can I afford it? Do I trust the seller?

You may not consciously ask yourself the last question, but theories in consumer psychology teach us that trust is one of five crucial factors in a purchase. If a brand can make you feel comfortable, they can make you buy.

The problem arises when we think we have the correct answers to the questions we’re asking, but we actually don’t have nearly enough information.

Reviews

This might be old news to many, but I only learned about fake reviews when I started my career as a copywriter. I used to receive inquiries every day, mostly from Amazon sellers, asking me to write blatantly false reviews for their products, usually to counteract bad reviews left by real customers.

Amazon requires purchase for review, so those sellers wanted to pay me to buy the product first. Other retailers didn’t seem to care if I had ever actually seen their product. They just wanted those five stars.

Some even had the review written and just wanted it posted from an unrelated account. Fake reviews can get the seller banned from Amazon, but it’s worth the risk to those who are peddling garbage products.

To be clear, I myself like to provide incentives for my clients to leave feedback. This might be a discount or whathaveyou, but under no circumstances would I ever pay someone to leave a positive or dishonest review or copy/paste a review I had written for myself.

It takes hard work and repeated failure to launch from nothing, but if you’re honest and persistent with a good product or service, you don’t need to cheat.

When I read reviews now, I recognize the language and form of these fake reviews and let me tell you, they are everywhere. When you’re reading reviews about something you might spend your hard-earned money on, remember to consider the details of poor reviews (what exactly was the problem?) and the number of reviews.

It might also be helpful to look for other information that can help make your decision. If you want to know how durable something is, for example, find the product specifications and look for materials, etc.

Affiliate Marketing

Most of us have jumped online at some point to search “best walking harness for dogs that pull” or whatever it is you’re looking for. That search will lead you to a bunch of blog posts about the type of product you want. It’s important to note that many of these are written by bloggers who have never used the products.

From buyer’s guides to listicles, blog posts that push products can be some of the most deceptive forms of advertising. Affiliate marketers have an agreement, giving them a cut when they send traffic to the retailer via links in the post.

A lot of affiliate marketing is honest. Many bloggers only recommend products that they have thoroughly researched and truly believe in, but you have to know where to go for that kind of honest review. Look for a blog or brand that is known for making reliable product recommendations.

With the recent rise in the popularity of affiliate marketing, the majority of “buyer’s guides” and product listicles are written by bloggers who are just trying to get traffic to the retailer with whom they have an arrangement.

Dropshipping

This one is difficult for me to write about. Many of my clients are drop shippers and they offer easy access to otherwise hidden products from all over the world with information about those products that might be hard for an English-speaking person to find.

Unfortunately, the growing popularity in dropshipping has attracted money-hungry retailers with no quality standards, and these are the people I have to write about, because I am so disgusted with this scheme.

Common drop shippers will find cheap products manufactured in Asia and dress them up on a pretty website with American price tags. Then they hire someone like me to write compelling product descriptions that make you think this cheap thing is worth that price.

The crazy part is that they don’t ever actually touch the product. You’re paying a markup that’s two to ten times the original retail price just to use a middleman. The drop shipper will send you the product straight from Asia and guess who pays the outrageous shipping and customs fees. You do.

The fastest way I’ve found to avoid this insanity is to reverse search the product image. Drop shippers usually use manufacturer images, so you can locate the original retailer with a quick skim through the other prices related to that image (Hint: it will be the lowest price).

Web Content

This part is a little complicated, because it’s not something most of us consciously consider while shopping, but it is arguably the biggest determining factor of whether or not you make a purchase. Do you trust your retailer? And if you do, is that trust based on a lie?

Personally, I don’t write for clients I don’t trust. When you read my content on a client’s site, you’re getting the real story. The purchasing confidence you feel is born of the retailer’s own commitment to quality, written using my skills in sales copy and web content.

But then there are those who come to me and say, “I need an About page,” and when I start with my usual questions about their brand, story, tone, etc., I am met with, “It doesn’t matter. Write what you want. Make it up.”

Nope. Not me.

But they will find a writer. That means any trust you develop with that brand is false, and that deception will most likely be reflected in the quality of the product or service.

Unfortunately, if the client is able to find a good writer, it can be nearly impossible to tell if the content you’re reading is genuine. You might look for a portrait of the founder on the About page or check that the contact number area code makes sense with the story.

Most of the time…

…you’ll get the product or service you ordered, it will be adequate and everything will be fine. But if you want to lower the risk of wasting your money, buying garbage products or just being duped, take charge of your consumerism and watch out for this new age of internet salesmen.