Best of 2012: January

As we have 11 working days left before the Christmas break, I thought it might be an idea to round up – and possibly update – the best of the articles published here in previous months this year, one at a time. I’ll provide links so that you can go back and take a look at any which might be particularly interesting. So today: half a dozen things we learned in January…

1. In this age of search marketing, it’s time to stop using generalisations. You might provide sensors for some customers, controls for others and displays for the rest, so to bring them all together, you long ago decided to market your company as providing “measurement solutions”. The problem is, no customer has ever gone out to look for a “measurement solution”. Get specific or you’ll never be found.

2. Your website needs to be filled with material that proves you know what you’re talking about. If the only thing holding you back is time or writing ability, then it’s time to get a decent writer on board. If you’ve spent this year commissioning or writing a dozen definitive articles on the state of the art in your field of business, they’ll be bringing you in prospects for years to come. And all for the price of the stand at that trade show you’ve been meaning to pull out of for years.

3. Picking out three items to give specifics about is your opportunity to use the “power of three”. If you have a thousand widgets available, do you say: “We offer a range of widgets of every colour for every application, do contact us to discuss what you need?” rather than highlighting the really interesting products, and giving your prospects something they can get a grip of? I’d be much more interested by a supplier which said: “We’ve done all the hard work in evaluating the widget market, and can offer you red widgets for low speeds, white widgets for standard speeds and blue widgets for high speeds”. That’s something I can make a selection from.

4. A web page (indeed, any marketing piece) needs to end with a call to action. If you want people to download that data sheet, then sell it! Firstly, tell them why they ought to click on the link: “See why the Blue Widget is so great in this datasheet” is much more like it. Secondly, make the link attractive. A big red button is a lot more exciting, and has been proven conclusively to work better in almost every situation. If you can show an image, illustrating the result of the click, even better. A label, such as “PDF Download”, is not a call to action.

5. I doubt that you ever post out anything to your prospects or customers without properly personalising the main correspondence. So why do so many companies think it’s acceptable to do this with emails? Usually it’s a combination of laziness and technical ignorance – and another manifestation of that massive error which so many companies make, somehow associating the cheapness of sending out emails with a lack of need to put any effort into them. That’s crazy.

6. Even if “colour separation charges” in magazines were ever legitimate, they quickly turned into a way for publishers to sell “editorial” without actually saying so. And I have no problem with “advertorial”, I just hate the way that it’s been hidden, by selling it with a description which has lost all meaning over the years (“colour separation charges”) and using that as an excuse not to label it as advertising on the page. We had a great discussion on this perennial topic.

And my quote of the month? It’s this:

“The story of “Trigger’s Broom” has made it into Wikipedia, as a modern-day version of the “Ship of Theseus Paradox“. In an episode of Only Fools And Horses, the scene-stealing character of Trigger, the street cleaner, wins an award for owning the same broom for 20 years. He points out that it has had 17 new heads and 14 new handles, but insists that it’s still the same broom. A great gag; but surely that’s also a better way of running a website.”

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