Posts by Geordie:

Eight Questions To Ask Before You Start A Business

36 Comments Written on June 24th, 2010 by
Categories: Business

Are you thinking of starting a web business? Starting a PPC Management agency? Setting up your own site and selling things, or building a web publishing empire?

Before you start, ask yourself the following eight questions. The advantage of this Q&A is that you can quickly see if the idea you’re going to throw your money and soul into is likely to work.

1 . What Do You Do?

Define what service the business provides. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to be all things to all people. They may well have a wide range of skills, but resources spread too thinly often leads to failure.

Try to focus.

McDonalds could, no doubt, provide up-market meals, but they focus on selling quick, cheap food.

That is what they do.

2. Who Do You Do It For?

Who are your customers?

Create a mental image of your typical customer. Make a note of their income levels, and particularly their “itch” i.e. that problem they really need solving, and will gladly pay money for you to solve.

3. What Makes You Different?

What is your unique selling proposition?

If your customers can buy the same services for less elsewhere, or more easily, they will. Your customers will compare you against others. What is that one thing you can do, that offers considerable value, that no-one else can do? What makes you special? What makes you remarkable?

There is a tendency to model yourself on others. To copy existing models. Try to avoid doing so. The people who come up with these models are probably already onto the next stage i.e. refining their service, changing direction, heading somewhere else. You’ll always be the person in their rear-view mirror, one step behind. Why be Bing when you can be Google? πŸ™‚

This is not to say doing something wildly new or different is any guarantee of success. One winning strategy is to take a successful business model, and twist it a little. You have the ready-acceptance of a proven model (safe), and the opportunity to talk about something a little new (interesting). For example, Steve Jobs did not invent the PDA, but he put a new twist on it in the form of the iPhone. He took something that most people were already familiar with (safe) and made it more approachable (interesting).

4. Do You Know What Cashflow Is?

This point is so important, it really should be number one. Cashflow is the movement of cash into or out of a business. It sounds like the dullest thing in the world, and many budding entrepreneurs overlook it, but it is the one thing most likely to kill your business.

Businesses may have great ideas. They have customers signed up. They execute well. They’ve even sent the bills out. Growth is happening, and all is well with the world.

Then the bank manager calls.

The overdraft has hit its limit and you can’t meet payroll this week. You can’t make rent. At this point, you’ve out of runway.

Running out of cash stops you dead and makes you utterly vulnerable. Address cashflow from the start. How much capital will you need? How much overdraft will you need? How long will it be before client money appears – cleared – into your bank account? How much do you need to operate each week?

There is no fooling cashflow. The score of any business is the bank account balance.

5. What Employees Do You Need?

Will you be doing all the work yourself? If you’re doing the work yourself, when will you have time to sell new work? Should you be wasting time doing menial clerical tasks?

Consider outsourcing all non-core tasks. Whilst you may be able to do everything, often it doesn’t make sense to do anything other than the things that bring you the most money.

6. How Will You Manage Customers?

Keeping existing customers is a lot cheaper than finding new ones. How will you manage your customer relationships? How will you structure your activities to ensure repeat business? Do you have a process whereby you can find out customers wants and needs?


Create a process that allows you to adapt to your customers.

7. What Are Your Goals?

Set company goals. Set personal goals. How much do you need to earn, and in what time frame? How will you exit your business? Who will you sell to?

Use the SMART system when setting goals. Using the smart system, goals must be:

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Realistic
T = Timely

For example, a goal might be “to gain 20 new customers in one year”. The specific, measurable nature of the goal means your planning will be more effective. Specific goals beg questions i.e. “Where will I find 20 new customers”? and lead to specific actions.

Failure to be specific results in vague goals such as “to operate a successful business” or “to be happy”. It’s difficult to decide on actions that will lead to such goals.

8. Do You Really Want To Run Your Own Business?

Having gone through these questions, you’re may be a) raring to go or b) feeling a little overwhelmed.

Ask yourself why you want to be in business for yourself? It’s more work than being a staffer, there is more risk involved, the money is non-existent to start with, you swap one boss for many bosses, and each new contract becomes a job interview.

On the plus side, it is enormously satisfying, you are responsible for your own destiny, and all benefits return to you.

Taking one hour to consider these questions can save you a lot of time, money and grief if you jump in unprepared.

Jump in. With due consideration πŸ™‚

Those who have made it through your first year of business, what things do you wished you’d considered before you took the plunge?

Project Management Tips For PPC

No Comments » Written on June 24th, 2010 by
Categories: Business

Whether we work for ourselves, or we work as part of a bigger business, we should always be accountable for what we do. Clients, bosses, and bank managers will always want to see us demonstrate that we are working steadily towards achieving goals.

Project management has become a specialized task in it’s own right. Dedicated project managers delegate tasks, ensure people complete those tasks, and generally keep projects on track. However, project management should permeate all we do. We’re all project managers, especially those of us involved in long and complex tasks, like PPC campaigns.

The principles of project management are simple. A complex task is broken down into a series of manageable, measureable steps leading to a desired outcome, achieved in an acceptable timeframe. If we manage ourselves – or others – well, we free up time, and save ourselves a lot of grief.

Here’s how to manage a PPC project:

Define The Outcome

Whether you’re dealing with a client, or undertaking your own project, you have to know exactly what you’re aiming to achieve.

Write the objective down down, as clearly and succinctly as possible. If a client is vague about outcomes, it’s best to push them to get clarity at this point. Once a project is underway, it becomes difficult – and time consuming – to change course.

Define The Process That Delivers The Outcome

Once you have an outcome – a destination – defined, you should now plot a high-level course showing how you’ll get there. If the project is short i.e. a day or two, then your don’t really need to define a process. However, if the project takes a while – and most PPC campaigns do – then a process becomes important, because the client will want to see you demonstrate that progress is being made.

The benefits of having a clearly-defined process is that it shows the client what is involved, and when things are likely to happen. It reassures the client that things will happen in an orderly, accountable fashion i.e. there is less chance of being surprised, and that the client is in control of the process.

For example, a PPC process might look like this:

  • Establish and define objectives
  • Create written reporting plan, setting out milestones. Client to approve reporting plan and milestones.
  • Report on each milestone. Client to review and provide feedback at each stage.
  • Deliver final milestone. Provide final project report.
  • Sign off

Break The Project Down Into Steps

Climbing a mountain begins with a single step. And then another. And then another. Eventually, we’ve scaled the mountain.

Likewise, a project is made less intimidating if broken down into a series of small steps. The client doesn’t need to know each technical step. However, the steps lead to each milestone.

The benefits are two-fold. One, a complex task becomes a lot more manageable. Two, reporting is built into the process. Clients almost always appreciate progress reports, which also provides you with an opportunity to seek valuable feedback and clarification.

Say What You’ll Do, Do It, And Tell Them You’ve Done It

If you do what you say you’ll do, even if it’s a small thing, you will build trust.

Sometimes, it’s easy to think that because you know what you’re doing, that the client will automatically perceive it. This isn’t necessarily so. Demonstrating competence, at regular intervals, is often required in order to build trust.

Integrate Feedback

No matter how well we plan at the early stages, there will always be tweaks and adjustments that need to be made.

By integrating multiple opportunities for feedback, we can also alter and add steps we may have missed, or didn’t define clearly enough.

Focus On The Next Step

After the first step, comes the next step, and so on. At each stage, we keep the client informed, integrating feedback, redefining and adding tasks as necessary. Each stage leads us closer to our goal, and everyone is clear about what needs to be done, and what the outcome will be.


Repeat the steps/reporting/integrating process until the desired outcome is achieved.


Consider making the first milestones easy-wins, especially if the client is new. This helps create trust, which may be needed if other milestones become difficult.

Make a note of which tasks require other people, and get buy-in from them as soon as is practicable. In many ways, other workers are like clients in that they benefit from feeling they have an element of control.

The more complex a project – especially projects that require multiple people to hit time targets before others can start – the more useful project management software becomes, however a lot of project management software is simply overkill for PPC.

No surprises – for anyone πŸ™‚

Should You Outsource PPC?

4 Comments Written on June 22nd, 2010 by
Categories: Business

Should you hire an external PPC consultant? Or can you do the job better and/or cheaper inhouse?

Large companies – companies with over 1,000 people – typically have less need to outsource than smaller companies. Existing in-house teams can often adapt in order to provide extra services, with a little extra training required. Smaller companies typically benefit the most from outsourcing, as the overheads for each added employee can be considerable. However, the decision whether to outsource really comes down to a cost benefit analysis, regardless of size.

Which option would suit your company best? Let’s take a look at the issues.

PPC Outsourcing:

Consider the following:

Data security – PPC data is valuable. If your business is driven by marketing, particularly internet marketing, then how comfortable are you with this data being in the hands of a third-party?

Control – If the internet marketing function brings in a significant chunk of your business, then your choice of partner is critical. For some, the risk cost will simply be too high.

Incentives – ensure that the performance incentives are appropriate. For example, some PPC agencies bill a percentage of spend. The problem with this model is that it encourages high bidding for clicks, which are only ever likely to increase. The incetives should align with your business case. Be sure to implement a means of tracking PPC traffic to measurable business goals.

Low Spend – small campaigns are relatively straightforward to manage in house if you have existing marketing resource i.e. spending in the thousands per month. The function is typically a part time role, and the time cost can be minimized further by using third-party semi-automated campaign management software and tools.

A PPC agency starts to make sense when the monthy spend is in the tens of thousands and higher, as such campaigns can quickly become complex and/or can be regularly optimized to drive down total campaign cost. We’re talking about good PPC agencies, of course. There are plenty of lousy ones. Which brings us onto…

Management Overhead – third party suppliers need to be managed. They need to have objectives set. They need to report on a regular basis. Performance needs to be monitored. This is also true of inhouse PPC management, of course, however the proximity of an inhouse employee, and the fact they’re engrained in the culture and process, often makes this function easier.

Business Knowledge – any marketing function needs to be closely aligned with business goals. Tyically, PPC managers work on multiple accounts and have a tendancy to focus on numbers, as opposed to wider company objectives. This remoteness can make external consultants less effective than someone who lives and breathes your business and culture each day.

PPC Inhouse

Expertise – PPC management is specialized and ever changing. This requires on-going training and adaptable employees who can wear hats of both marketing and technical expertise simultaneously. PPC agencies are specifically geared for this task.

Lack Of Resource – PPC takes time, and your existing employess may not have it. PPC invariably grows more and more complex, especially if the return on investment grows. Whilst it’s easy to manage basic campaigns – low budget/low numbers of keyword terms – it can become time consuming to manage large campaigns. PPC agencies use economies of scale and specialized tools that may not be readily available elsewhere.

Poor Results – If you’re new to PPC, then you may not have adequate benchmarks to quantify performance. An external agency may have years of experience in your market sector, and be able to provide a wealth of market data.

High Costs – not only is there the cost of hiring extra staff, there is the opportunity cost of having that staff not focus on something else.Β ObviouslyΒ each businesses cost structure is unique, but generally the bigger the PPC spend, the more value you’ll get from outsourcing to a good agency.


Consider inhouse PPC if:

  • You require high levels marketing/business integration.
  • The function can readily be absorbed using available staff and management resources
  • The level of complexity is manageable. Typically, campaigns in the tens of thousands per month featuring thousands of keywords are best managed by a dedicated specialist.

Consider Outsourcing PPC if:

  • You have a high level of spend i.e. in the tens of thousands per month and above
  • You don’t have readily available resources
  • The PPC function is not a mission critical part of your marketing mix.

12 Pyschological Triggers

6 Comments Written on May 28th, 2010 by
Categories: Marketing


Psychological triggers are a very powerful marketing tool.

Psychological triggers are the mechanisms of thought by which people make a decision to view your ad instead of others, or convert from tire kicker to buyer.

Let’s take a look at twelve common psychological triggers that you can weave into your ad copy and landing pages.

1. Engagement

People love to feel a sense of engagement.

Offline, people engage by picking up the item they are thinking of buying and manipulating it. Touch is a powerful form of engagement. If people are buying services off someone, they’ll want to look them in the eye.

The alternative – disconnection – is a barrier to the sales process. Given the remote nature of the online experience, disconnection can be a real problem. Look for ways you can create engagement.

For example, consider the “will it blend” approach. They take an item the buyer is already engaged with, and probably has direct experience of, and blend it. The visitor is also engaged by the fun of it. It’s something the visitor would probably like to do themselves, and the video immerses her in that experience. It feels tactile.

Engagement isn’t a real-time chat widget. Engagement is making the visitor feel a connection with what you’re selling. Put the visitor in the scene. Think about their existing experiences and link your product to them.

Make it tactile.

2. Greed

Greed is a pejorative term, but it is a human reality. We’re all a little greedy, just some are much more so than others. Your buyers are a little greedy, too.

Greed is a very powerful motivator. How many things have you bought that you don’t need simply because they were a bargain? It could be said that internet commerce is driven largely by price. People perceive the internet as the place to shop around for bargains, and will forsake the safety of a store purchase if the “internet price” is low enough.

Think about ways you can convince people they can get more for less by shopping with you.

3. Demonstrate Authority

“Largest”. “Biggest” “Best” “Specialist”. All appeals to authority.

If you’re going to buy something, and prices are the same from various suppliers, you want to buy it off the seller who conveys a sense of authority. Do they look like they know what they’re doing? It’s a form of reassurance and especially important on the web where people can’t look behind the curtain.

Authority is easiest to spot when it is absent. What to you think about pages written in pigeon English? Pages that contain spelling mistakes and grammatical errors? Pages that look like they’ve been designed by a child?

4. Demonstrate Satisfaction

This is the classic “money back if not satisfied” guarantee.

In case-study after case-study, offering money-back is a sure fire way of increasing conversion rates. Buyers do not want to make mistakes. If you can reassure them it’s not possible to make a mistake at the point of sale, then this removes a major barrier to purchase.

The beauty of it is that you aren’t giving them anything to which they aren’t already entitled by law. If a person really isn’t satisfied with a product or service, and they’re angry about it, they can reverse charge their credit card. Consumer law in many countries allows for a cooling-off period for buyers, particularly on items that are delivered by mail.

5. Timing

Right time, wrong place? Wrong place, right time?

The success of many products and services comes down to timing. Is the market ready for what you’ve got? Has the market moved on, and you’re too late?

It’s important to frame things as being “of now”. Many companies release yearly versions of products i.e. “updated for 2011!” in order to sound contemporary.

Another way of doing it is to relate your product to an event. For example, if hurricanes feature a lot in the news, then, say, relating your building products to hurricane preparedness is a good idea.

6. Association

Take something the user already does, or knows about, and associate your product with it.

For example, email is a killer app partly because it can be explained in terms of something a person already does – writes letters. That’s why it’s called “mail”. Social networks are popular because they take something the user already does – chats with her friends – and puts it in an online context.

7. Consistency, Honesty And Integrity

Your copy needs to be consist, honest and show integrity.

If just one statement you make doesn’t ring true, then it compromises the integrity of everything else you do. Avoid making outlandish claims unless you can demonstrate them to be true.

There’s another element to consistency, and that is consistency in buying behavior. Note how Amazon suggests other books you might like during and after you make a purchase. I’m sure they sell a lot more books this way.

They are making offers consistent with the original purchase. The pitch has integrity because it’s related to the original purchase. It’s also a great point to provide extra value to the visitor, as Amazon often bundles offers together at a discount price.

8. Feeling Part Of Something Bigger

We all want to belong.

Think about ways you can show this in your copy and in your sales process. Tried-and-tested ways include testimonials, reviews, and revealing other buyers activity i.e. 20 people bought this today!. It may be irrational, but it feels safer to go where others have gone before.

Use the terms “we” and “you” frequently. Be inclusive. Show images of real people – in groups. Avoid stock-images of plastic-looking people (see consistency, honesty and integrity above). Frame your product in a social context. See how Apple does it.

9. Curiosity

Arouse curiosity.

This is especially important to get the click-thru. The ad has to be relevant, of course, but if you can manage to work in a curiosity angle, too, it becomes that much more powerful. Once the visitor has clicked thru to your landing page, continue to arouse curiosity to keep them reading.

Common techniques include posing a question and not answering it immediately, telling a story, adding an element of mystery, and sharing a secret.

10. Urgency

Use a sense of urgency to get over the common buyer resistance point: “I’ll think about it”

Give reasons why the buyer should buy now rather than later. Careful not to be dishonest about it. Many sites mistakenly create a notion of scarcity that is false i.e. only ten copies of the e-book available! If this claim doesn’t ring true, then people will back off.

11. Fear

Fear of missing out. Fear of being left behind. Fear of the consequences if you don’t act. Fear of the unknown.Fear of losing control.

It’s said that all consumerism is driven by fear. Like it or not, it’s a fundamental truth about the way marketing works in modern society. Look for insecurities and supply the visitor with symbolic substitutes to address those insecurities. The entire make-up industry runs on this concept.

12. Exclusivity

Everyone likes to feel special. A cut above the rest.

Is there an exclusive aspect to your products? It may seem counter-intuitive to limit availability, but it can serve to drive up the price and make your product even more appealing.

Once you’ve identified people who buy on this psychological trigger, you can make them further exclusive offers on other products you sell.

15 Steps To Improve Your Copywriting

6 Comments Written on May 25th, 2010 by
Categories: Copywriting


Good copywriting isn’t just about writing.

Good copywriting is the process of convincing someone to take action.

Good copywriters convince a person to exchange their cash for a good or service. A poorly written landing page, however, can earn a back-click. In PPC, there is no click more expensive than the back-click.

Could your landing pages convert at a higher rate with a simple rewrite of your copy?

Let’s look at the proven tricks and techniques great copywriters use to achieve high conversion rates.

1. Become A Product Expert

You probably already have a considerable advantage over a generalist copywriter. You are a product expert.

Product expertise is essential for good copywriting. It is difficult for a copywriter to convey meaning if they don’t truly understand the product they’re selling. If you don’t know your product, take time to learn it thoroughly.

2. Figure Out The Essence Of Your Product

Once you know your product, isolate the essence of the product.

The essence of a product is the reason people should respect and love your product. If people love and respect a product, they are more likely to buy it.

What do you think of when you hear the word “iphone”? Is an iphone a plastic, high-priced pocket-sized PDA made by Apple? That’s a product description, and it is technically accurate, but it isn’t essence of the iphone.

The essence of an iphone is that it is a social tool. It is a membership to a club. It’s a reflection of a set of values to do with simplicity, design and desirability. Oh, and it’s also a phone!

The essence of the product informs the way you write about the product. In the case of Apple, it would grate if they talked about the iPhone in technical terms. Instead, they talk about the iphone in social terms. They use the word “you” a lot. They relate the phone to social and personal situations and applications.

That’s the essence of the product.

3. If You Can’t Get Love, At Least Earn Respect

Getting “Love” is ok for Apple, especially from the fanboys, but what if you’re selling something mundane, like life insurance?

You might not get people to “love” your product, but they should, at very least, respect it. Use testimonials and examples of social proof i.e. images of other people using the product, positive branding, positive news reports, reviews, and other validations that give people a reason to respect your product.

If you can’t convince people to either love or respect your product, there is little chance they’ll pay for it.

4. Know Your Customer

This is an obvious point, and no doubt you’ve heard it a thousand times before, yet it’s surprising how many advertisers answer this question with “people who want to buy my product x”.

Can you visualize your customer? Who are they? How old are they? Where do they live? How much money do they earn? Why are they buying online? Male? Female? Who is a typical customer?

It’s important to know, specifically who your customer is so you can speak their language and set the appropriate scene for selling.

5. Speak The Customers Language

In social situations, we often change our speech depending on our audience. The way we speak to our friends is different than the way we speak to people whom we don’t know. We should pitch our speech to our specific audience on our landing pages, too.

For example, would you trust a Doctor who used the term “Dude” to finish every sentence? It wouldn’t signal authority, which is needed if you’re to trust the doctor!

Consider different market segments have very different value systems and ways of talking. If your customers are baby-boomers, it is more likely than not they will be responsive to appeals to authority i.e. reviews from qualified, professional people and organizations. If your customer is young, chances are they want the talk to be about them and the message to come from someone who is likely to be in their peer group. They are less enamored by authority than those in the baby boomer demographic. If you customer is in the trade, industry jargon will make your site sound more credible. If your customer is not in the trade, industry jargon is likely to confuse them.

There are countless examples of the characteristics of different market segments, but how do you learn your customers language?

Once you’ve identified who your customer is, go to places where your customer hangs out. Amazon reviews, forums, Facebook groups, Twitter. Go to stores. Go to industry seminars. Read consumer reviews. Buy the same newspapers and magazines. Pay careful attention to the use of language. Is it authoritative? Personal? Is the language uneducated? Or specialist? Is the language informal or formal?

6. Identify The Burning Need

People buy something because it solves a problem for them. They have a need. The stronger the need, the more likely you are to sell them your product.

What problem does your product solve? What need, as determined by the customer, does you product fulfill? Speak often about the problem, the solution, the need, and how you address that need.

7. Set The Scene

If you walk into a car sales room, what do you see? Gleaming cars. Bright lights. Reflective chrome. It’s like a giant-sized, glittering jewelry box. This is scene setting. It makes you feel like buying, more so than if you walked into a dim, messy basement with cars covered in dust. The scene matches your expectations.

Keep the same thing in mind when crafting a landing page. If you sell based on discounted price, then your page should look like a discount flyer. Highlight prices, prices crossed out – typically in red – and the new bargain price featured prominently. If you sell based on high value and desirability, you page should be more sober. Clinical. Less circus, less shouty, sedate. Price is seldom mentioned. If you’re selling something for a million bucks, your pages should look a million bucks.

People will get an immediate feel for the scene. If the scene is dissonant i.e. you use a sober, high value approach when the visitor is expecting a discount i.e. your Adword text might have indicated low pricing, then you may lose a click. A dusty, messy car showroom would feel dissonant because the scene setting is not what the audience expects.

8 Notice I Haven’t Talked About The Mechanics Of Copy Writing Yet?


9. Only Once You Understand The Product, The Market, The Customer, And The Need Should You Start Writing

Write the first draft quickly.

Typically when we write, we have two competing voices in our head. One is the creative voice imagining what words to write next. The other is the editing voice, the voice that worries if the sentence reads well. Combining writing and editing is a slow cumbersome process and can make your copy sound stilted.

It’s better to separate those two functions out.

Write as fast as possible without editing, even if what you’re writing is gibberish. When you’ve finished your page, take a break, and then edit. It’s much easier to reduce than to produce.

Tip: When you edit, try removing the first paragraph. Make your second paragraph your first paragraph. I’ll bet your page reads a lot better.

10. All Page Elements Have One Function

Headings, sub-headings, pictures, diagrams, copy, logos, buttons and layout. What function do they all have in common?

The common function is to get the visitor to read the first sentence of the copy.

The first sentence is the place we are all conditioned to start. The first sentence is the gateway to everything else on the page, so it needs to be compelling. What’s the best way to make it compelling? Keep it short. Short sentences suck people in. They are easy to digest.

So what’s the purpose of the first sentence?

To get visitors to the second sentence.

And the function of the second sentence?

To get people to the third.

And so on.

Traditional copy writing manuals tend to say that the purpose of each sentence is get you to read the next sentence, which is true, however we need to be careful when translating this idea into an online environment.

Online, people don’t tend to read linearly, at least not for long. They scan. For this reason, paragraph headings become even more important than in print. If people don’t find what they’re after in the first two or three sentences, they tend to scan to a point that does interest them.

Compare a print magazine page to a web page. Notice how dense the print layout looks. Ensure your landing pages are less dense than a magazine page. Break up your copy into headings, bullet points, images, video and other elements that are easy to scan.

11. Create Harmony

This is an old sales technique, but still works a treat. The aim is to get people to agree with you regarding a series of minor, obvious points. This puts people into an agreeable frame of mind leading up to the point where you ask for an order.

When writing, aim for that same reaction.

Make sure you first paragraph includes a couple of points that are generally true and therefore easy to agree with. People will be a lot more responsive to your sales message if they agree with it.

Be honest. If something you say is factually wrong, you run a high risk of losing people. Speak essential truths your audience will deem to be self-evident.

Your voice should be consistent. Don’t jump around between the personal and impersonal voice, or the formal and informal. It doesn’t ring true. When you read the copy aloud, does it sound like you? If it doesn’t, rework it until it does.

It will sound “true-er”

12. Fall Towards Desired Action

Everything you write must progress the reader to desired action.

The reader should be able to read and scan down to a desired action. Nothing should be superflous or confusing or get in the way of this graceful, downwards momentum. Each concept must build on the next.

Use curiosity to advance people through the copy.

13. Curiosity?

Want to see a copy of all the pager messages that were intercepted in New York on the morning of 9/11?

Are you reading this sentence in the hope I’ll show you?


Ok, here πŸ™‚

Arousing curiosity is the most powerful way to pull people down into your copy and keep them reading until they get to the desired action. All landing pages are stories – the reader should always be cusrious about “what happens next”?

This never happens in corporate reports, which is why corporate reports go unread.

14. Test & Retest

The above points have a “truthiness” quality about them, huh. But how do we know they really work?

First of all, this copywriting theory has stood the test of time. If it didn’t work, it wouldn’t still be used.

Secondly, and most importantly, testing is essential to the copy-writing process. If one style of copywriting fails with your audience, then try another. The best copy is arrived at through rigorous testing and iteration.

The online advantage is that testing is easy. Run copy for a few days and look at the results. As you don’t pay for printing costs, it’s easy to tweak, adjust and restest. Copy that doesn’t convert isn’t good copy, no matter how many guidelines we follow.

15. “Steal”

Ok, perhaps not steal. Borrow some ideas πŸ™‚

While every project is unique, many of the same conversion and copywriting concepts apply to all projects. Here are some master-class examples of copywriting and landing page conversion in action:

  • Conversion Rate Optimizer Blog – contains some great case studies of landing page optimization.
  • Copyblogger – scroll down for landing page makeovers.
  • Marketing Profs – requires a free login to access some articles, but worthwhile. Take a look in the “Landing Pages” and the “Copywriting” categories.
  • FutureNow – a collection of white papers on conversion.

Mix and match ideas, test what works, and keep pushing further into doing more of whatever is working well for you. πŸ˜€

How To Charge Top Dollar For Your PPC Services

6 Comments Written on May 11th, 2010 by
Categories: Business


In a market downturn, there is always pressure to cut your prices. Trouble is, the same pressure applies in an up market, too!

Can you ever win? Either the client won’t pay what you’re worth because of tight budget constraints, or so many competitors enter a flush market that there isn’t enough money to go around.

Here are some ideas on how to achieve premium pricing for your PPC services.

1. Focus On Sales

As we discussed in a previous post, What Is The Key Skill Of The PPC Consultant, apart from search marketing expertise sales is the most important skills an independent PPC consultant can possess. Without sales, nothing else can happen.

How do you generate sales leads? How many leads do you have right now?

If you have few leads, then you need to put a lot more effort into sales, and think about increasing the channels by which you market i.e. PPC, conferences, cold-calling, agency partnerships etc.

You should always strive to generate far more leads than you ever use. This way, you’ll have your choice of clients, and won’t feel under pressure to cut your prices. Of course, this is easier said than done, but the important thing to think about is how much effort and resources you currently devote to the sales side of your business.

If you’re a sole operator, you may not have much time to devote to sales. One way around this problem is to partner with marketing and advertising agencies. Small agencies may not have enough work to be able to hire a dedicated search marketing specialist, but would certainly like to offer such services. If you sign up three of four such agencies, they’ll do much of the selling for you – typically to their existing customer base – and take a commission on your work. This commission usually works out to be way cheaper than hiring dedicated sales staff yourself.

2. Make Your Client Money

If I said to you “For every dollar you spend on my services, you’ll make three“, would you hire me? How about if I said “For every dollar you spend on my services, you’ll save three” would you hire me?

Of course.

ROI – return on investment – is a very powerful sales tool. In your proposal and pitch, demonstrate exactly how you will provide ROI. For example, you might approach businesses who market only on radio and demonstrate how PPC can generate more leads/visitors/responses for the same spend.

No business will turn down a positive ROI proposition, no matter what the state of the economic climate. The economic climate is actually in your favour at the moment – money is moving out of traditional media channels, such as television, newspapers and radio, and onto the web. This is soely due to the positive ROI proposition offering by internet marketing.

3. Carve Your Own Niche

Are there too many generalist PPC consultants?

How about owning a niche, such as travel, construction, clothing, retailing etc?

Look for businesses in niches that predominately use traditional marketing channels to advertise their goods and services and construct proposals that compare the ROI of PPC vs these traditional marketing channels.

The niche needs to be big enough for you to make money, but small enough to have escaped the attention of bigger marketing agencies. Big agencies with high overheads often avoid small niches because they are too small for them to service and still make a profit. Such niches provide rich pickings for the independent consultant who typically has lower overheads and can adapt quickly.

4. Become “The” Guru Of Your Niche

People like dealing with people they perceive as being notable experts. If you’re already known to your potential clients, or can point to independent validation of your guru status, then you have a massive advantage over unknown consultants.

This is also a reason why focusing on a niche can be such a great strategy for the independent PPC consultant. The world is awash with PPC gurus who have been plying their trade for a long time, speaking at conferences, writing articles for major publications etc. Instead of competing with them directly, choose a niche and become a superstar in that niche. There will be many trade publications that have NEVER had a PPC consultant write an article for them.

Why don’t you become the first?

5. Provide More Value Than The Next Guy

Always be on the lookout for areas where you can add more value than what the client pays you to provide.

For example, say you have an interest in usability. You note that the client has a few usability problems that could be easily solved. Write up a detailed report and give it to the client as a bonus. View the time spent on this report as a marketing cost i.e. you’re trying to forge a deeper relationship that will lead to ongoing business.

Clients will never fail to be impressed by value-added services.

Under promise and over deliver.

What Is The Key Skill Of The PPC Consultant?

1 Comment » Written on May 10th, 2010 by
Categories: Business


If you’re great at PPC, then why would you sell those skills to others? Why wouldn’t you become an affiliate marketer, or set up your own site selling goods and services? What’s the point of working for a string of new bosses as an independent PPC consultant?

There are a few reasons why becoming an independent consultant can be a great idea. Lucrative, too.

1. You Get To See Deep Inside Other Businesses

Market research – good market research – can cost a fortune, but the consultant gains an intimate knowledge of their clients market. Not only do you get to see the data, you get to see the marketing and business processes that you can then apply elsewhere. Not so much spying as a valuable apprenticeship and research opportunity, for which you get paid.

2. Flexibility

The independent consultant gets to choose their own hours and projects. Unlike an employee, the independent consultant can choose their “bosses”. Don’t like the boss? “Fire” the client.

You can also choose your hours of work, when to take holidays, and where you work.

3. Focus On Core Skills

Crafting solutions can be a lot more fun than implementing them. Delivering goods or services can be a hassle, and require a lot of back-end processes.

PPC is mostly a high level marketing function, and the responsibility typically ends once the visitor moves to desired action.

The Big Problem With Consultancy

The world is chock full of PPC consultants!

Anyone can call themselves a consultant, so many people do. Assuming the consultant can do the work to a high standard, the most critical skill of the independent consultant – entering a saturated market with no barrier to entry – is the ability to sell.

How do you sell your services?

1. Identify Your Client

Do you want to work with big organisations or small? The approach you take will differ depending on your target market.

Small businesses tend to like dealing with other small businesses, as they appreciate the direct level of contact. Big business have larger budgets, but can be harder for the new consultant to engage – many large firms will work with preferred suppliers, and with established agencies.

Tailor your pitch and approach accordingly.

2. Craft A Point Of Difference

Why would they choose you? You may be great at what you do, but how do you convince others of your worth?

Points of difference can include:

  • Geographic locality i.e. you can go and see clients in person.
  • Industry vertical i.e. specialize in one particular industry
  • Experience – have you got unique experience that you can highlight? Have you worked with people/clients of note?
  • Awareness – if people have seen you name before, you stand a better chance of landing deals. This is why consultants speak at conferences, write blogs, write op-ed pieces for newspapers and other publications.

3. Demonstrate And Offer More Value Than Your Competitors

What are your competitors doing? More importantly, what are they not doing? Are there areas you can provide more value to clients than your competitors do?

Think about the points of resistance for a client. Put yourself in their shoes. One major point of resistance for the new independent consultant is perceived risk. Without a track record, the risk proposition for the client is high.

One idea for getting around this perceived risk is to give your services away for free.


One local consulting agency I know of sold out to a competitor for a a tidy sum. When they started, they decided they needed a client list, so they offered their services, for nothing, to a list of preferred clients. The agency viewed this as a marketing cost. Once they had proved their worth, clients tended to stay on their books, and at very least, provided valuable experience and referrals.

Of course, you can’t work for nothing/discount rates over the long term, but such a strategy works well if you need to get a few good names – preferably industry leader names as opposed to unknown small businesses – under your belt.

4. Say What You’ll Do, Do It, Then Tell Them You’ve Done It

Actors often say you’re only as good as your last movie. In consulting, you’re only as good as your last gig. A bad reputation can be gained easily, and persist for a long time. So when you execute, stay focused on delivery.

The most effective selling method, by far, is good word of mouth. Each new gig gives you a chance to increase good word of mouth.

I hope this article provides you with a few ideas on selling your services.

The techniques you use very much depend on your own skills, history and ability. If you’re new to PPC, in terms of operating as a business, it’s often a good idea to work for a PPC agency before going freelance. This gives you valuable insight into the business of selling search, experience, and the opportunity to build up contacts.

Your Competitive Advantage Won’t Last Long!

3 Comments Written on April 29th, 2010 by
Categories: Business


Look at any competitive PPC area today, and you’ll notice many of the ads are selling the same thing.

This is a fundamental problem.

No matter how great you are at PPC, it the product or service you’re selling is flooded with competition, the more your margins will be squeezed. The more your margins are squeezed, the less you will be able to spend on advertising.

Long-term, that isn’t a recipe for success. Those with the deepest pockets will eventually win.

The Need To Differentiate

Theodore Levitt, an American economist and professor at Harvard Business School, said “There is no such thing as a commodity. All goods and services are differentiable”

If you’re pitching very similar products to those offered by other advertisers, you need to find valid points of difference that encourage visitors to choose your product.

If you have control over the product/service you’re selling, you have a number of options available to you. You could differentiate based on an emerging consumer trend. For example, some people are concerned about the origin of food. If you were selling coffee, you could draw attention to the source of the coffee as a valid point of difference. You could use fresh imagery to breath life into an old product, like celebrity endorsement. You could reduce price.

Simple stuff, conceptually.

If you don’t have control over the product, your options are more limited, but you can still differentiate. You could offer a different level of service. You could bundle the product with something else. You could leverage your existing reputation in another area.

The problem is that even if you’re successful with your differentiation, people will soon copy you.

What do you do?

Three Choices

At the point where copyists move in – and this happens fast on the internet – the vendor faces three options:

  • Lower the price and accept lower profits
  • Maintain the price, but lose market share, and ultimately profits
  • Find a *new* point of differentiation and maintain price

Option three is going to be most preferable.

The Need To “Innovate”

You can see this at work on the likes of Clickbank.

Clickbank facilitates the selling of the same old get-rich-quick schemes that have been around for years. But “new” products keep selling, and the way vendors do that is by using new imagery, descriptions and context, and leveraging off older product lines. The price – typically $97 – has been maintained for years. The big selling vendors are often the same old faces who have been selling via that channel since it began.

The lesson here is this:

In order to maintain long term profitability, you cannot rely on your current advantage being maintained over time. Copyists will errode it.

Instead, always be in search of your *next* advantage. You can achieve this by constantly adding value, and/or new valid points of differentiation.

Keep in mind the value of “the new”. Or more precisely, the perception of the new.

There are many examples offline. Car companies introduce new models. These models are pretty much the same as the last model, but if they package them up a little differently, they have a new point of differentiation, and a new story to tell.

Soft-drink companies, like Coca Cola, leverage off their existing brand reputation to introduce new lines. Again, these new lines are bubbly sugary drinks, and aren’t really radically new or different.

The fashion industry changes every season. Microsoft introduce yearly – well, almost – versions of Office, even though a word processor hasn’t really changed much since the 80’s.

Notice a pattern?

Consumers love the new.

Notice another?

This stuff isn’t really new at all!

It’s just perceived as being new.

Being new is an easy point of differentiation to implement and thus maintain strategic advantage, so long as you have a plan to always introduce the new. When we consider that the new isn’t really new at all, and comes down mostly to cosmetic or subtle changes, it becomes even easier.

Do you have a plan to introduce the new as a point of ongoing differentiation? This might be something to consider if your competition is offering all offering the same thing, and stuck in a rut.

Take you product or service and give it a new twist. And have a long term plan to do so regularly πŸ™‚

Usability & Design Last

No Comments » Written on April 28th, 2010 by
Categories: Conversion, Copywriting

Arrows and blocks

Usability is common sense. Good design is common sense. After all, there is no point building a site that is unusable, or a site that isn’t designed well.

Typically, talk of usability orients around function i.e. ensuring websites are easier to use by streamlining content and making navigation clearer. The problem, like with any set of functional guidelines, is that usability is about much more than functional interaction.

Both usability and design are about communication.

The Steps You Need To Take Before You Think About Form & Function

Form and function are important.

But before form and function comes purpose. The purpose of a website is to attract and retain interested visitors. The purpose of a commercial website is to sell.

No matter how well designed, or how usable a website might be, if it doesn’t address a need, then great usability and great design will not help. The web is littered with examples of beautiful form and function that serve no purpose.

Let’s say we’ve identified a market niche. We’ve found a need in the market that isn’t met elsewhere, or we can meet that need better than competitors. Let’s look at five ways to ensure we communicate our message effectively on the web, even before we start to execute.

1. Focus On The User

Do you know who your buyers are? What they want? Where they live? How old they are? If they have credit cards or not? Are they well-off, or poor? Educated?

Usability often talks about creating personas – a characterization of different types of users. This can be a useful exercise in identifying your market, as it gets you thinking from the users point of view.

However, personas they have their limits. People aren’t cartoon characters and will act differently in different situations, so what we’re really looking for is a commonality most of your users share.

What is your core message to your typical user? Write it down. In bold. Weigh every decision you make against that core message.

Almost everything you do should enhance communication with your common user. Your terminology, graphics, pitch and approach should be in sync with your typical users. Communication, and trustworthiness, is enhanced if all aspects of your site are consistent in terms of approach.

2. It’s Not About You

A visitor does not have to be on your site. A visitor is one click away from leaving your site. A visitor has made almost no time investment in getting to your site.There are plenty of other sites.

They have all the control. If you do not meet the visitors needs, they are gone.

Makes you wonder why so many sites spend so much time talking about themselves, huh? No doubt you’ve seen such sites, where the first thing you hit is a mission statement, followed by a summary of how great the company is.

No one cares.

Do you understand what your typical visitor wants to achieve on your site? Can the visitor find what they need quickly and easily? Does you page affirm to the visitor their needs are met and they are in the right place?

3. Storyboard It

Hollywood uses storyboards to graphically show what happens now, and what happens next.

A plan for a website can be laid out in similar fashion. Map out, on sheets of paper, the steps a visitor must take in order to reach conversion. Are there too many steps? Are there any steps that are unnecessary, or divert the visitors attention? Note down at each step the internal dialogue a visitor might be having. What questions do they have in their mind? Are you “answering” them?

Relegate diversions, the equivalent of sub-plots if we’re to extend the movie metaphor, to areas on the site the user can access only if they want to – about us, mission statement, contact details, etc.

You can use flow-charts as well, of course.

4. Your Copy Is Central

Even a site based entirely around a video presentation uses copy i.e. the script.

The words you use help persuade a visitor to take action. They can just as easily put a visitor off, so must be chosen with care.

Use short sentences and paragraphs. People will not start reading a lot of dense copy unless they have an existing, positive relationship with you. Pay careful attention to the hook i.e the headline and first paragraph. Talk about the visitors needs and wants. Use the active voice. Use simple sentence constructions – verb + object. Proof read very carefully.

The copy should proceed logically from one concept to another, leading a visitor towards taking an action of some kind i.e. clicking a button, filling out a form, bookmarking, or reaching for the phone. Make sure you know what the desired action is, and – conceptually – write “backwards” from there.

5. Now Read Up On Usability & Design πŸ™‚

Only once your user-centric concept is nailed, storyboarded, and written should you build.

A great concept can be ruined by poor execution, particularly when it comes to design and usability. A lot has been written on both topics, but the 80/20 rules applies: Keep design simple and functional. Remove anything unnecessary. Be sparing with the use of graphics, navigation options and distractions from your central message. Orient around your core message. In terms of non-core pages, people need to be able to get to your contact page easily.

Here’s a set of great design and usability resources that cover the essentials:

How To Solve Shopping Cart Abandonent

3 Comments Written on April 26th, 2010 by
Categories: Conversion

It can be frustrating, and expensive, to lose sales at the shopping cart stage.

Thankfully, shopping cart issues are typically a result of poor usability and poor process, and therefore reasonably easy to fix. The key to solving most shopping cart problems is to provide greater levels of transparency.

Let’s look at eight ways to super-charge your shopping cart conversions. We’ll use a cart you’re probably familiar with – Amazon’s – as an illustrative example.

1. Include Indication Of Progress


Without a progress report, a buyer can’t tell where they are in the shopping cart process, so it’s a good idea to spell it out.

Look at the way Amazon does their shopping cart, giving a graphic indication of the buyers position in the process. The buyer should also should be able to move forwards and backwards in the process in order to make changes.

2. Keep The Product In Front Of Buyers


When we buy in the offline world, we’re always connected to the item we’re purchasing.

It would feel strange to put a product we’ve decided to buy back on the shelf, go pay for it elsewhere, then come back to it a few days later. The disconnected feeling doesn’t provide a sense of ownership and belonging.

On the web, we can keep the product in front of buyers by providing an image/description of the product at all steps of the sale process, or a link back to the product page. When the buyer makes a purchase, send the buyer an email detailing their purchase.

Also, buyers like to re-check their purchases just before they hit the buy button, just in case they have made a mistake, or they’ve just thought of a feature they forgot to check. Make this back-navigation exercise difficult, and users will likely abandon the sales process.



Keep the sales process simple and obvious.

The sales process is not the place to let your designers get creative and cryptic. It should always be clear what action the visitor needs to take next in the form of “next” buttons or text. Whenever a user sees a new screen, that should be left in no doubt where they are in the sales process.

This is where testing is important. Watch how people step through the process, watch where they look, and watch for times where they appear indecisive.

4. Be Upfront About Shipping Costs


Many buyers won’t enter into a shopping process until they know the final cost in advance.

Let the buyer know the likely shipping cost before they enter the process. If shipping costs need to be calculated based on an address they give, then provide a link to a chart of typical shipping costs.

5. Make It Easy To Edit


Can the shopper edit the shopping cart?

One common reason for abandonment is the buyer feels they have made an error, but can’t see an easy way to rectify it. It’s best if the buyer can edit quantities and options at every stage, rather than having to navigate back.

If this is not possible, assure the buyer that they will be able to edit quantities etc on the final page before completion.

6. Address Security Concerns


The shopper is giving away personal information AND credit card details. A little voice inside their head will be warning them against sending such details to someone they know nothing about.

Think about ways you can reassure people. Make privacy policies available. Use secure processing. Use badges from business associations, and use third-party validation insignia. Assure shoppers with returns policies and purchase guarantees.

7. Include Your Phone Number

No matter how simple and complete you make the process, there will always be people who will be confused, or want to ask further questions.

If possible, give people the option to call. Alternatively, use a chat widget.

8. Save Option

No matter how streamlined your shopping process, people get distracted.

They may need to check some product details and come back. Does your shopping process allow people to save their progress? How about capturing their email address early, and sending them a reminder if there are items left in their cart, with instructions, and further incentives, to complete the process.