What Email Does Best and Who Should Write It

Monday, October 12th, 2015

A September 2015 article from Direct Marketing Magazine says small business owners report that . . .

  • Email marketing is their prime lead-generation tactic, but
  • While it’s fairly easy for them to execute, they struggle with content .

Email messages for B2BHow is your company using email marketing?

And where do YOU get your content?

Here are three options to consider for uses and sources.

1. Newsletters — Still Reliable!

If you think that newsletters have become “old news,” take another look!  Newsletters perform as well as they ever did, particularly for B2B marketers. An added bonus? Delivered via email, they are far less expensive than the old print versions.

The reasons for newsletter success are the same, too. Since you can never tell exactly when a prospect will have need of your services, a regular newsletter can make sure you are top of mind when that need suddenly develops.

As for content, a newsletter has to have “problem-solving” information for potential customers, but it can also provide rare intimacy by sharing internal company news. It can make useful observations about your industry, and offer juicy tidbits and tips. But a newsletter is not an educational piece. It is a marketing communication that positions your company as timely, expert, and approachable.

If you are like most business owners you will find writing a regular newsletter to be a real chore, if not a pain. And it definitely takes time. So don’t succumb to the temptation to write it yourself. Contract with a professional writer, preferably for several issues at once. Together, you can come up with an appropriate format and tone, how much interactivity is required, and a rough creative calendar. Then, let the writer do his or her work while you get back to running the business.  Expect to pay an accomplished business writer upwards of $2,000 per issue.

2. Inquiry Follow-up — Takes Planning.

When your networking efforts, your social media activities and your website result in inquiries about your services, your next step in the lead generation relationship is likely to include a series of personal emails.

This sort of writing is completely different from newsletter writing! First, to the extent possible, your email must be personalized and customized – so it’s not at all a one-size-fits-all solution. However, it must still be part of a systematic marketing effort that provides the prospect with the right information at the right time.

Rather than you or a sales person coming up with content on the fly, you can simplify and strengthen your inquiry follow-up emails by creating what we’ll call a “letter bank.”  The letter bank contains well-crafted sentences and paragraphs that can be used over and over again, wrapped in a custom salutation and close.  More important, the elements move the prospect forward at each step in the sales process. Inquiry follow-up emails may be delivered by autoresponder or by individual salespeople.

A skilled direct response copywriter can create “building blocks” or entire autoresponder series that you and your sales people will use with confidence.  Obviously, this writer needs the time to understand not only your business but also your business culture. Costs vary depending on the experience and background of the writer, but expect to pay $500 to $1,500 or more for each of these building blocks emails.

3. Building Relationships — Essential Tool.

Email is also one of the best tools for developing real personal relationships, whether with prospective customers, current customers, or valued colleagues.

You need to write your own personal emails. Asking someone else to write them (an assistant?) will backfire the first time that person makes a mis-step. If writing graceful and friendly emails doesn’t come easily, there are many tools and even full courses available to give you the skills you need.

Something as simple as a rough outline for every email may be enough to keep you on the right track. An example:

  • Subject line that summarizes your message and helps your reader file or be inspired to respond
  • Greeting that brings your reader back into the conversation by mentioning the last contact or a recent development
  • Body with information that moves the action/relationship forward
  • Call to action – what you want from your reader, or what he or she can expect from you as the next step
  • Friendly close, followed by your signature (with contact info for convenience)

A relationship-building email is not a dashed-off note, or a tweet. While it may be short, it is still a letter with the traditional letter structure, capital letters and punctuation, etc. that make sure real communication takes place. (Something feeling not quite right? Ask a colleague to proof your draft – preferably someone who is a great speller and grammarian!)

The value of writing your own email isn’t measured in dollars. Rather, it’s measured in the opportunities you are creating by developing these personal relationships. No one else can do it like you can!

Only Three Ways . . .

These are only three ways email is used in generating B2B leads and deepening relationships. Of course, many refinements can be applied to each form of communication to be sure it is as effective as possible.

What is included as “content” is only one aspect to be considered.

What’s more important is whether your email turns the corner from being a simple outbound message to becoming part of a dialog.

That is when email delivers!

Virginia

 

Does My Website Need an FAQ Page?

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions

If your website is selling something – whether it’s products, services or concepts — the answer is, “YES!”

How can I be so definitive about that? Because I distinguish between the “sales narrative” and “customer service.” Let’s take a look.

Generally, your website sales copy includes a description of the problem your reader is facing. It may also include references to common solutions to the problem that don’t really work. Finally, it includes the reasons why your product or service fits the bill better than any other, followed by a call to action.

All that is SALES copy. Visitors to your site expect it and appreciate it when it’s well done.

Good sales copy answers a lot of questions, but often . . .

Sales copy raises questions.

Sometimes the questions are tied to your visitors’ previous experiences. Sometimes they concern specific, small details. Sometimes visitors are looking for confirmation – or denial – of a problem they’ve heard about – but don’t find reference to in the sales copy.

Sometimes visitors don’t even read the sales copy, but arrive in a hurry to get pre-existing questions answered.

Before serious prospects can take the next step toward the buying decision, they need answers.

That’s where FAQ come in.

FAQ answer, briefly and succinctly, all the frequently asked questions that people have . . . about your product or service, about you and your team, about your history, about how to pay and how to get their money back, etc.

These details are essential – but you can’t fit them into the sales copy, and you certainly can’t anticipate just when they will come up in the visitor’s mind.

A well-designed FAQ page answers these questions, reassuring prospects and moving them further along toward the buying decision.

FAQ shorten the sales cycle and make life far easier for your sales agents.

FAQ also make visitors more confident about entering into the sales conversation, because they are exposed to whatever special vocabulary your product requires. People hesitate to engage in a sales discussion when they aren’t entirely familiar with insider “lingo.”

FAQ can supplement other tools on the site.

An authority site, where visitors are expected to spend some time, needs a number of basic tools: a search function, a way to filter blog entries, and footers that cover legal issues. How do your FAQ interact with these tools?

  • Search. Your search box can take people to properly-tagged blog posts or pages. Usually, however, the search function is activated by only one or two words – and your visitor’s choice of search words may not correspond to your tags.

  Your FAQ, on the other hand, are couched as complete questions that will be easily understood by all.

  • Categories or Favorites. If you have a blog, you may also have sorted certain posts into particular categories. Again, while helpful, the list of blog categories is likely limited and may not include things like “payment options” or “cautions” that your visitor wants to know about.FAQ are the perfect place to make sure frequent “troubleshooting” questions are asked and answered. Don’t worry that you are revealing flaws in your product or your procedures; any readers drawn to that information are likely already familiar with potential glitches or hang-ups.In fact, giving people a heads up about a potential quirk in your product will add to their sense of comfort and trust.
  • Footers. While your footers can answer other important questions — like details of your privacy policy – most readers have been trained to skip right over website footers, rightly assuming they are legalese that’s not pertinent at the beginning of the relationship. Still, if your product or service has a particular legal feature, use the FAQ to make that information easy for readers to find.

FAQ can expand on key concepts or descriptions.

The value of many products is enhanced by their historical background; other products or services require an understanding of particular technology. Your FAQ can provide that material, almost like an aside. In fact, you can even direct the viewer via a link to other even more comprehensive resources, if necessary. (Preferably not to a competitor!)

Some FAQ questions can be answered via a short video or with an interactive device that would distract from the flow of the main sales message, yet when appearing in the FAQ will educate or engage your reader.

People who already know this information can simply skip over it.

Finally, your FAQ is a treasure for Search Engine Optimization.

Given the format of your FAQ, you can easily introduce important key words into your questions and answers, adding to the findability and/or ranking of the page and your site overall.

Make your FAQ easy to use.

FAQ have been around since the early days of computing, and their format has been pretty well standardized. Consider these guidelines:

  • Organization. If you have an extensive list of FAQ, take the time to group the questions logically and use a subhead to introduce each group.
  • Format. Make it easy for people to scan the groups, the questions and the answers by using different fonts and font weights to identify each separate part.
  • Jump links. You may also consider adding internal links that take readers from the top of the FAQ page directly to the group of questions they’re interested in. Another link in the body of the page that takes them “Back to Top” may also be useful.
  • Conversational tone. Your questions should be questions that people really ask, using the words they actually use. Obviously, if you don’t have an idea of what questions to include, poll your sales or customer service team for the questions they get over and over again.

So, three questions to finalize your decision.

  1. Do you have sales page/s on your website?
  2. Do your sales team members get some of the same questions over and over again?
  3. Are you interested in shortening your sales cycle and/or reducing complaints or returns?

If you answered, “Yes!” to even one of these questions, consider adding a FAQ page to your website. There’s no reason not to, and the benefits may surprise you!