For veteran copywriters and content providers, it’s always gratifying to see research highlighting the effectiveness of text copy to attract online visitors, persuade them to take action, and ultimately drive sales. Text copy will always be a key driver in marketing and sales, but in the evolving online, multi-platform world, it’s no longer sufficient to seek comfort in the “content is king” credo and write on.
Why? For all types of marketers, the true north of actionable content has always been to make it relevant and deliver it to the right audience at the right time. These same principles apply across platforms, whether content is distributed through Weblogs, streaming media or podcasts.
But as people become more sophisticated and diverse in the types of content they consume, the application of simple rules becomes more difficult. Is your content breaking news or old news? If you’re not sure, here are six tricks to ensure your content retains its regal status:
Mind your medium: Today people have the opportunity to interact with more types of media than ever before. Your message could be delivered through an animated billboard, podcast or a branded desktop application. You probably wouldn’t send the same content to a senior corporate executive and a 19-year-old gamer. But many organizations will try to reach both target audiences with the same marketing channel. While television may reach both parties, it may not be the most effective way to reach either one. It’s said that more than $50 billion is spent annually on television advertising, but young males may spend more time playing video games.
In your eyepath: Eye-tracking is an increasingly popular way evaluate web pages because eye movements provide insights into the human thought processes that cannot be derived from surveys and self-reporting. On a very practical level, eye-tracking has confirmed things like scanning behavior and “banner blindness” in web users. Although studies have underscored the relative importance of text versus graphic content, they have also shown that people habitually scan rather than read, skipping large portions of text on every page they visit. Use color, bolding, bullets and subheads to break up copy so it can be easily scanned.
Target your list: Direct response diva Lois Geller champions a quick formula to identify the components of success in direct marketing campaigns: The offer and list are each responsible for 40 percent of campaign success, with creatives accounting for the remaining 20 percent. You may have extremely relevant and valuable content, but if it’s sent to the wrong list, you won’t make a connection. The best practices of direct response marketing have been developed for more than a century, and they still provide valuable direction in the 2.0 world.
Remember the offer: All the persuasive and elegantly written copy in the world can’t make up for the wrong offer at the wrong time. If your campaign is underperforming, and you’re fairly certain you are sending the right creative to the right audience, then you probably have the wrong offer. There aren’t that many moving parts… time to test some different offers to see what’s most attractive. If this offer-list-creative trio is beginning to sound like the old CLUE board game (Mr. Mustard in the conservatory with the candlestick), it should. Put the three together in the right combination and you’ve found the killer (marketing campaign).
Keep it in order: It sounds basic, but a quick survey of print ads, emails or web pages will yield plenty of examples of putting the cart before the horse. The problem of ordering your message becomes more difficult as technology provides people with more and more control over how they consume media. In many cases, a solution is pitched before a compelling business problem is outlined. In others, the proposed solution may follow the problem too closely. Especially in more expensive or complex sales, let your content and campaign establish relationship with successive degrees of involvement. Print, broadcast or interactive, the right content in the wrong order is a recipe for mediocre results.
Consider the source: While telling your own story is an essential skill for marketers, sometimes it’s better to let someone else take the podium. A great rule of thumb from Marketing Experiments is to back up your own claims with data, while leaving qualitative praise for your product to customer testimonials. The same can be said for online credibility indicators such as seals and certificates. Placing the Verisign logo or Better Business Bureau seal next to your checkout form is probably simpler and more effective than creating a long explanation of why prospects should trust you with their credit cards. And if you can get Steve Jobs, Seth Godin or Guy Kawasaki to say anything at all about your product, that would help too.
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