How to write text ads that generate leads

In school we have learned how to write a summary in 5 sentences max. Isn’t this exactly what we need to create (newsletter) text ads that are meant to generate leads? Let’s see…

The last nine years working with customers on, we have seen hundreds of bookings for text ads in our newsletters. In most of the cases these were meant to generate leads as we say. Now sure, leads is a powerful and impactful term ensuring the future of business, sales opportunities and save the job of responsible decision makers in marketing or sales departments.

Lead generation can be seen as collecting addresses (contact generation), profiling customer needs for products and services (interest generation), or using the direct offer for real sales or bargains (lead generation). For this post we make no distinction on the three different categories and just want to focus on the 5 sentences formula.

The number one…
The one-sentence headline is the door-opener, the eye-catcher, the first impression on your customer and your access to lead opportunities – and revenue in the end. If you fail there, the rest of your text ad will be deleted immediately in front of your customers eyes. An effect we call the ‘Skip this ad’ view…

As customers -hopefully- spend some time reading your headline (remember that this is a gift customers hand over to your business…), you should give them some kind of benefit in return from the start. So my advice is, find successful openings to create a basis for your lead generation idea from the start.

The offer. This must be written in clear words and addressing the customers needs, desires … or purse.
Examples: Get your free paper… Use 25% offer… Profit from money back…
The rhetorical question. All things that appear to be clear to customers but raise attention and/or curiosity. In Twitter days, we realized that people with rhetorical text messages generate big interest. My most-read post ended ‘… future of the business, or business of the future’. Using oxymoron is just fabulous…
Example: Don’t you want to win the lottery? Don’t you think firewalls are necessary? Don’t you think washing hands saves your health?
The advice. The world is full of questions and everyone is eager to get more insight in tools, tactics and trends which leads to even more questions. The more valuable ‘coaching effect’ we offer, the better our reputation becomes – and with that our convergence. ‘How to’ is the answer to those questions… and the reason for the headline of this post.
The ‘buzz verb’. Indicate with the first words what the (potential) customer is intended to do and what your business expectation is. This is a direct approach which is most often used for real lead generation.
Examples: Read now…, Buy now…, Follow up…, Enter data…
The ROI view. Especially in times of recession everybody is looking for better profitability. If there are ‘easy-to-receive’ options, people are open to use those and leave their data with your business.
Examples: Become more productive…, Save money by…, Increase sales with…

Body text
Sentence two to four (max.)…
The body text outlines the benefit and explains the customer how and why using the offer is desirable and makes sense. In my theory this should be done with the following 3 sentences, or optional as main ideas for your body text. Addressing the customer that is already leering to the point-of-sale (POS) …

Problem. Customers who see their responsibility have more urge to get in touch with your offer and business benefit than those who are just tangent to the issue as a tiny part of a (business) system. Target the people you are interested in by describing problems, duties or responsibilities your target group wants to get rid off or find an ease in – and which are on an open plate in public (business) talks.
Examples: How your live can change…, How your sales can benefit…, How your wife is happier…
Opportunity. Use stats or testimonials that your customers can identify with. These should illustrate your problem statement. In case you haven’t invented a complete new product, offer a comparison which puts the benefit in pictures like a metaphor.
Example: People that have used this have lived 3-times longer than…, People that bought this product, saved 25% off their time…
Scenario. The conclusion of the previous explanation, leading to just one intention. Wanting to ‘own’ the product, service, etc…
Example: Seeing these facts, you have the proof why…, Reading this you have not many options… (not ‘no’ option – no teacher mode!)

PS: The body text framework is also a successful structure that works for Google text ads.

Last sentence, number five…
Don’t leave the user in the scenario mode. Tell the (potential) customer what he/she needs to do now. Take him/her by the hand and push their eyes with ONE sentence to ONE action point (=URL). No confusion, just conversion!
Example: Click here…, Download now here…, Save now with one click….

Spot On!
Generally speaking: One break per ‘block’ (headline – body text – call-to-action). The shorter the message, the more open customers are to have a glance at it.

PLUS: A text ad is not a branding tool! Mentioning products more than once is useless. Trademark as well as copyright signs have no right to exist in text ads. Please use banners if you are after branding and awareness.

Brevity is the soul of wit. And if you need help, just let me know…

News Update – Best of the Day

Social networking is a challenge. If you need some inspiration, read the 12 stories by David Spark, and you know how to continue and professionalize your social networking efforts.

Did you know that web 2.0 is over? No, check it out at Geek and Poke

Do you need extraordinary emoticons for your mails? Well, according to the Official Gmail Blog there seems to be a need for some people…

PS: Did you ever try Twitter in real life? Believe me, this can be quite amusing…

Study: Twitter used as a learning tool – not for ego-boosting

According to a recent study by the research firm MarketingProfs in early and mid-April, the main intention to use Twitter is learning in more or less real-time, then comes social networking benefit or pushing the ‘digital ego’.

The results of the study revealed that almost…
– 100% of the respondents said they value “getting information in a timely manner” and “I find it exciting to learn new things from people”
– about 80% like to be connected to lots of people.
– 70% answered “I find it gratifying to have people follow me,” and “I want to generate new business.”

The question that divides the Twitterati population is if a large number of followers makes you more respectful, or not. On this statement…
– 39,9% strongly or mildly agree
– 45% strongly or mildly disagree

Seeing the large number of followers as a perception of intelligence was tested with the question “People who have a large number of followers are smarter than those who don’t”…
– 81,7% strongly or mildly disagree
– 5.9% strongly or mildly agree

In the eyes of Evan Williams, CEO of Twitter, the benefits are …

“Twitter lets people know what’s going on about things they care about instantly, as it happens” (…) “In the best cases, Twitter makes people smarter and faster and more efficient.”

And yes, Twitter is turning around the media world if we look at the eMarketers summary ‘Twitter tally’.

Spot On!
But, hold on… One question makes me think about these results of the MarketingProfs study in combination with the authenticity of the answers and the first idea of the micro-blogging tool. The question “I feel bad when I tweet something and nobody responds” was answered as follows…
– 52,7% strongly or mildly disagree
– 24% strongly or mildly agree
– 23,3% neither agree nor disagree
Now, if Twitter is like a mobile phone for text message dialogues, meant to communicate with followers we like and rate, is this communication not going back to being a monologue then? So, are we really sending out some kind of information just for the sake of informing others? Don’t we await an answer if we send a text message with a mobile phone? If we tweet ‘I am in the tube’ or ‘Just got breakfast’, then probably nobody expects anything. But not if people are writing scientific papers of 500-750 words – and then tweet the headline and the link. In my opinion Twitter is moving from a communication tool to some kind of personal branding tool. Otherwise, we might ask: Why do people spend an average of 2¾ hours per day on Twitter (average using time for Twitter according to study!), instead of being productive, picking up the phone or meeting up with clients for lunch or in the bar? This is real communication, and not limited by 140 characters. And if someone has written the scientific paper it is on the web, it’s public, so if people are interested, they will find it. But Twitter spreads the word much faster. And is not this the reason why people love and use Twitter?

News Update – Best of the Day

Companies still don’t know whether to ignore Twitter or being aware of a Twitterstorm might save the brand’s value. David Sarno and Alana Semuels show good cases why major brands learn they’d better respond quick – focussing on Amazon, Skittles, Domino, Coca-Cola and Hasbro.

How to explain the social web to your parents? Obviously, all of us who engage in the social web world have faced this problem. In May, I have decided to speak at the Webinale on ‘career 3.0 – split between productivity and personal branding’ which will give some insight how successful companies might work with the social web of the future. Jeremiah Owyang did an excellent storyboard explanation on the social web and compares the industry with a ‘Social Reef’.

“…see this space like a reef, a complex ecosystem that has so many variables and changes, each day is different.”

Still thinking on how to behave on Facebook the right way? No worries, here is the answer and a wonderful advice by YourTango and their film ‘Facebook Manners’.

Internet keine Konkurrenz für klassischen Journalismus

Eine aktuelle Studie des Instituts für Kommunikationswissenschaft der Universität Münster besagt, daß das Internet für den Journalismus mehr als Ergänzung denn als Mitbewerb oder Konkurrenz gesehen werden muss. Im Rahmen der Studie wurden 183 Internetredaktionen aus Deutschland interviewt, womit sich 44% aller ermittelten Redaktionen an der Erhebung beteiligt haben (nach vorheriger inhaltsanalytischer Auswertung von rund 1.200 Internetangebote).

Schon lange stellen sich die klassischen Medienhäuser die Frage, inwieweit Weblogs, Twitter und soziale Netzwerke die traditionelle Medienwelt beeinflußt. Früher konnten Redaktionen von Presse, Rundfunk und Fernsehen exklusiv die ‘Medienmache’ ihre Expertise nennen. Inzwischen wird der Medienmarkt durch Firmen oder Privatpersonen zusätzlich mit verschiedensten Plattformen bedient. Inwieweit das Internet den Journalismus verändert, wurde in einem zweijährigen Forschungsprojekt am Institut für Kommunikationswissenschaft der Universität Münster untersucht.

Laut Studie lässt sich das Ergebnis auf die folgende Formel bringen: „Ergänzung statt Konkurrenz”. Noch dominieren die Online-Angebote der traditionellen Massenmedien. Weblogs und Nutzerplattformen stellen insgesamt 5% der als journalistisch identifizierten Internetangebote – eine noch niedrige Zahl. Dennoch ist die erweiterte “Partizipation” und die “Technisierung” (Automatisierung der Nachrichtenauswahl durch Google News und andere Suchmaschinen) inzwischen deutlich sichtbar und beeinflußt den modernen Journalismus. Der beruflich ausgeübte Journalismus werde deshalb aber nicht verdrängt, ziehen die Studienverantwortlichen den Schluss.

„Weblogs und Redaktionen beobachten sich gegenseitig, sie übernehmen Themen und kommentieren einander”, beschreibt Prof. Dr. Christoph Neuberger, der Leiter des Forschungsprojekts, die Beziehung.

Zur Recherche nutzen rund drei Viertel der Internetredaktionen Weblogs und 99% die Enzyklopädie Wikipedia vorwiegend als Nachschlagewerk (83%). Ihre Zuverlässigkeit schätzen sie als hoch ein.

Spot On!
Der traditionelle Journalismus ist dennoch in einer schwierigen Transitionsphase. Auf der einen Seite müssen Medienhäuser sich im Internet engagieren, andererseits fehlen zukunftsträchtige monetarisierende Geschäftsmodelle. Die heutige Aussage von Fried von Bismarck überrascht nicht, kostenpflichtige Inhalte als Businessmodell zu evaluieren – trotz hoher Reichweiten und der Vorbildfunktion von Spiegel Online.
Allerdings muß man auch die Kehrseite der Medialle sehen: Der Nutzer ist aufgrund seines Einflusses wichtig für den Input und somit die Qualität des zukünftigen investigativen journalistischen Outputs. Muß der User Zahlen, ist fraglich, ob der User generierte Input weiterhin so zahlreich bleibt, oder schwindet. Denn: Wenn die von der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft finanzierte Studie zeigt, daß viele Redaktionen mit den Möglichkeiten der Web 2.0 Nutzerbeteiligung experimentieren, ist das ein klares Zeichen der Wichtigkeit, des Einflusses und Zukunftsträchtigkeit der modernen und sozialen Medien für den Journalismus. Hierbei profitieren Redaktionen laut eigener Aussagen von Kommentaren (20% lassen diese bereits zu) sowie von eigenen Weblogs, Videologs oder Podcasts (55% setzen diese ein).

UK: Internet users love browsing social media – less shopping

A recent study by Hitwise reveales that UK Internet users are spending more time browsing online media than ‘going’ online shopping. In March 2009 9.8% of all UK Internet visits were directed to social networking websites and 8.6% to online retail websites. Compared to 2008, the figures turned around (online retailers 9.7% – social networks 8.2%).

In the passed year, online retailers sawe a downsize in traffic from paid search like sponsored or paid for links on search engines (i.e. like Google, Yahoo!, Live and Ask) – 2009: 8.9% and 2008: 10,1% of visits to online retailers came from a paid search listing.

“The growth of social networking, online video and the continuing popularity of news websites has meant that an increasing proportion of consumer’s online time in the UK has been devoted to online media,” commented Robin Goad, Hitwise’s Director of Research.

The traffic that Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and the likes generates for online retailers increased in one year from 5.2% to 7.1%. And social networks now generate 58.3% more traffic than webmail providers (Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail and GoogleMail). The best performing categories in 2009 were Auctions, Fashion and Department Stores.

“Social networks are a relatively small but fast growing source of traffic for online retailers,” commented Goad. “At present, only a minority of retailers pick up a significant amount of traffic from social networks, but many of those that do have seen a positive impact on traffic. For example, fashion retailer ASOS has a strong presence on Facebook and in March received 13.3% of its traffic from the social network. Another example – in a very different market – is online bookseller Abebooks, which currently receives a quarter of all its UK Internet traffic from social networks, more than it gets from search engines.”

Spot On!
Is this showing a trend that people are willing to buy products in social networks? In the UK, it sounds possible. It could be the next step. We all know that the easy purchase process is a winner – for companies and customers. Thinking of the future of social networks, companies should consider engaging with customers much more on social networks while also integrating ‘light’ e-commerce opportunities in their Facebook Fan pages or in their company profiles at XING. Or at least indicate and lead the way for customers to some good offers or marketing activities. And re-thinking efforts on big spendings for paid search is definitely something that needs to be thought about…

News Update – Best of the Day

If you have a vision for some trend or future business, it makes you happy to see that people pick up similar thoughts and spread them on the web. When I had the idea of creating the personal web manager, I thought this will be ‘utopia’. Now, Virgina Heffernan writes about the ‘necessity’ of Twitter and finalizes…

“I wish I was rich and had personal assistants.” Right on. And those assistants, presumably, could do our Twitterwork for us.

Thank you Virgina, this is just what I want to see. The New York Times blog supporting my vision… ace.

Internet Protocol TV (IP TV) is winning in recession times in the States. Sites like Hulu, iTunes, Amazon Video and are on the rise and changing the common world of the television industry. AdAge interviewed Verizon CMO John Stratton on the future of TV – and asking if IP TV is a threat for the old TV industry.

Will Internet users be paying for content in the future? Chris Poley throws in a thought that the web world will not touch – but definitely should focus on in the future.

“The economy has forced the Internet’s hand to act as a serious business, with all the responsibilities that go with success. For us as end users, it will take some getting used to, buying the milk when the cow was once free. But in these troubled times, we have little choice but to accept the inevitable. As President Obama’s chief of staff is credited with saying, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

PS: This reminds me of my ‘The Social Globe‘ idea…

News Update – Best of the Day

Just good Hi5 links…

5 elements to create a successful Facebook Fan Page…

15 SEO elements companies need to win in search engine ranking fights…

50 corporate website designs that stand out from the crowd…

PS: 500 robots and 10.000 students head to Atlanta for the First National Robotics Championship….

B2B Study: Marketers Strategies and Spendings for 2009

A recent study from Marketing Profs and Forrester Research amongst 300,000 marketing executives and other management professionals, conducted in late 2008, offers insight in the latest b2b marketing strategies, budgets, tactics and attitudes.

The key findings are that marketers have three deeper needs for the future: measuring effectiveness becomes increasingly important (i.e. webinars and search provide great tactical benefit), understanding customers deepest needs and wishes, plus exploring and learning from best practices for daily business implementation is crucial.

The report makes clear that top marketing business decision makers are relying much more on digital marketing tactics. With a high percentage of respondents saying that their company web site (91%) and email activities (81%) are the top media used for their tactics. Still, it is interesting to see that a lot of marketers work with traditional tactics like public relation (72%) and tradeshows/conferences (70%) as very important lead generation tools.

With the increasing importance of web 2.0 and social media platforms and tools for customers, companies are changing their media mix from ‘[more costly] traditional media and toward [less costly] new tactics’. Nevertheless, the marketers knowledge on tactics for the new social media platforms is still in an ‘infancy’ status.

In average, the budgets are still spend in an ‘old-school’ manner with tradeshows/conferences (20%) and TV advertising (18%) leading the marketing mix spending, followed by inside sale/telemarketing (16%) and print advertising (13%) – the leading field only interrupted by one digital marketing activity: direct mail (14%).

Spot On!
The report reflects in some way the economic crisis when the executive summary is talking of reducing spending and focusing efforts on a narrower segment of their target markets. Meaning… the so called ‘watering can’ marketing strategy is vanishing and marketing strategy will be focused much more on the digital ‘1-to-1’ as well as ‘1-to-many’ approach. The real (or potential) customers, their environment and the people influencing them has reached the marketers mind – so social media is not too far away for them to understand, and offers great opportunity to learn much more needs and wishes.

News Update – Best of the Day

According to a Microsoft research the time peole are online in Europe will be more than the length of time they spend watching TV – and this will already be the case in June 2010. The outlook of the software giant predicts that people will spend on average 14.2 hours a week online and 11.5 hours a week watching TV.

Although YouTube is ot the easiest site for Google to bring to advertisers minds, it still does some good results – and has increased ad selling from 6 to 9% – in terms of its video views. Nevertheless, revenues are still low – as for all competiors like Hulu or MySpace, said AdAge. Again it shows, content is king from revenue perspectives…

“The gain in YouTube’s U.S. business is the result of a number of factors, including more content agreements with partners such as CBS, MGM and, more recently, Disney, expanding YouTube’s partner program to thousands of indie and small producers and successfully guiding YouTube visitors to content it can sell to advertisers.”

Some fashion spots are just cool… and find a great ending.