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Making FAQ worth reading

portrait of a happy young businessman using laptop on street

An FAQ that makes someone laugh is a positive for your business

Looking at options for some software, I viewed a few FAQ pages lately (FAQ being Frequently Asked Questions).

Some FAQs are better than others, and some were great – informative and easy to understand.

Using humour

An FAQ page is full of facts, otherwise what’s the point of having it? But that doesn’t mean you have to make it all staid and boring.

Here are some examples for amusing FAQs I have spotted:

Q: How do I invite someone?

A: The basic invitations are simple SMS messages. Naturally, you have other options to bring your friends here. Try sending them a download link via any other messaging service: email, Facebook, WhatsApp, an actual telegram — you name it.

Q: Will you have ads? Or sell my data? Or steal my beloved and enslave my children?

A: No.

Q: will these faqs ever end?

A: well it always has before!

Q: You didn’t answer my question. How come?

A: Probably because this FAQ was written by a marketing person. Please ask us your question using our contact us form.

 

A bit of humour and lightness makes the whole page easier to read – and more memorable, too, and every business wants to be remembered.

How can you add some humour to your FAQ page?

 

*Image courtesy of  Frugo at 123rf 

Control pop up ads

I just visited a blog for the first (and probably last!) time.

As soon as I got to the URL, a pop up opened to promote something I assume they get a commission or payment for. There was a x on the pop up so I was able to close it fairly easily at least.

I hate pop ups at the best of times (and am annoyed that many get past pop up blockers but that’s another story!) so it doesn’t make me like a site when I get a pop up so quickly. But I sigh and move on.

girl yelling through megaphone at boy reading

People learn to block out too much noise and refuse to be distracted.

Frequency of pop ups

On this particular site, I closed the pop up and then clicked on a link to see the most recent blog post.

As soon as the blog post opened, so did another pop up.

As soon as the about us page opened, so did another pop up.

As soon as the registration page (clicked on by mistake!) opened, so did another pop up!

Seeing the same pop up that many times is NOT making me more likely to click on it let alone spend money on whatever is being advertised.

Topics of pop ups (and other ads)

I understand that running a blog has costs and people want to make a bit of money back from their blog if possible. Ads and affiliate links are one way to cover some blogging costs.

But surely it’s more effective if the ads are aimed at the target audience of the blog?

In my example above, the site is about cooking but the pop up was about web hosting.

Obviously, some people are interested in both cooking and running a website. But can you assume most people looking up recipes and cooking tips will be interested in hosting a website?

I think a pop up for cooking books, online shops for herbs and other ingredients, or even online retailers of cooking tools would interest more of the blog’s visitors. And thus earn the blogger more money – or the advertiser more relevant exposure.

The lesson learned?

Ok, I already knew this but the lesson from my example is to control any pop up advertising on your blog or website.

  1. only show the ad a few times – if someone says no after that, they’ll probably always say no
  2. make your ads relevant to your audience. If not immediately apparent why it should interest that audience, make the ad itself provide a link.

So what do you think of website pop ups?

Do you use (and hopefully control) pop ups on your site? If so, what response have you got from them?

Annual report inclusions…

Some example annual report covers

Annual reports can look very different to each other…

Any time you receive an annual report, is it alone in the envelope (or email these days) or is there something else with it?

More often than not, I bet there is something else with it, even if it is just a covering letter.

Certainly when I prepare and manage annual reports I also prepare additional items to be sent out at the same time.

what goes along with an annual report?

Pretty much anything could be added to an annual report, but the most common examples of annual report inclusions are:

  • a covering letter
  • a flyer about special offer or promotion (even if promoted in the annual report, a flyer can stand out and may stay on a desk longer)
  • a flyer to launch new service/product
  • a form to collect information on something promoted in the annual report
  • a form to support a usual product to order (that is, if many people buy your product at this time of year or when reminded, give them a reminder! Also very useful for services that are often done annually.)
  • a form to register interest in an upcoming event or change
  • annual statement for members
  • information about an upcoming major change or event, especially if there are regulations about how that information is to be presented or it needs to be personalised to each person
  • some sort of marketing item, such as a calendar, notepad or magnet, that will stay visible even when the annual report is filed away
  • perhaps a marketing based magazine although that seems pretty pointless to me as all that could be incorporated into the annual report unless you have a periodic magazine due out then anyway.

 

 

Ads disguised as information is lose-lose

For myself and for clients, I have often had an editor question whether I will provide an editorial (or article) rather than an advertorial. It’s almost insulting.

brand resting on trust

Brand rests on trust.
Dressing ads as information is not building trust.

Editorials are often the expectation

I say almost because I understand why an editor wants that reassurance.

It’s insulting because I wouldn’t ever pass an advertorial off as an article. I just wouldn’t. It is unprofessional for one thing and I would hate it as a reader so don’t do it as a writer/publisher.

Silly, I know, but I also assume others would not offer an article or editorial when planning to provide an advertorial.

This week, I was shown my silliness in believing that.

I read a guest post on a blog to find it was part advertorial. And the first part was advertorial to make it worse.

It flavoured how I felt about the post as I read the rest of it – I was suspicious because I was just waiting for the next sell instead of the next piece of information.

How was it an advertorial?

Let’s use this guest post as an example of advertorial.

It was a bullet list of tips related to a service offered by the guest poster. The topic and introduction did their job, bullet point one was a very generic statement without explanation.

The second bullet point was a sales pitch. “[This] is paramount. If you haven’t done it, I would be happy to help you”

It did not teach me anything, nor entertain.

A subsequent point included her business. Using your own business in examples is fine, and can be an effective way to put your name into an article. However, she did it as an explanation, not an example. And included a boast about her success in that area.

It probably would have come off as a clumsy example if the earlier point hadn’t been blatantly promoting her services.

In short, an advertorial is an ad disguised as an informative article.

What makes an article an article?

A good article (or editorial or technical piece or whatever name a particular site or magazine calls it) is basically the sort of article you want to read.

It will

  1. provide real information or entertainment, maybe both
  2. not overtly promote any business, person or product. It may promote an industry, service or type of product. So I could write about the value of using a professional writer but not directly write about my writing services.
  3. be accurate and correct, although it may be biased in one direction
  4. be written to the writer’s best abilities – and possibly better if the business gets it written or edited for them
  5. build trust and loyalty

 

It’s what I aim at in every blog post and article I write – I want to help people write and communicate well.

Is it the sort of writing you prefer to read?

Do you ever read an entire advertorial?

 

 

Developing interest is a marketing baby

We had a baby in the house last night, and it was lovely. Lovely to have a baby to hold but also to see how it brought our family together to watch and care for baby Sam.

Sam even came to a school event with us.

We got some interesting looks at the school, too. My daughter even got comments about being a teen Mum as she did most of the carrying at school*.

Some people smiled instinctively when they saw a baby or the baby carrier, others smiled in a bemused way when they realised Sam wasn’t a real baby. Many people were obviously curious and a number actually asked us about Sam.

Why a baby?

A imitation baby looks almost real

Obviously not a real baby, but a close resemblance in many ways

Sam was with us as part of my daughter’s school work – individual students are given 24 hours to care for the baby simulator which cries randomly and needs comforting or feeding.

In this case, it was part of learning about human development although some places run this same program as an anti-teen-pregnancy concept.

The fake baby is about the same size as a newborn, although it felt heavier and bulkier to me – probably because of the electronics in the middle and a lighter head than in a real baby.

Sparks of interest

We walked around a course/career expo and got a lot of interest – a lot more smiles than you would normally expect and exhibitors had a different reason to speak to us.

Goes to show what an ice-breaker a baby can be – it is pretty much the ultimate way to spark interest! Even (or perhaps more so!) a fake baby.

It got me thinking though – what could a SMB person do to spark a similar level of interest at an expo or other business event?

If you have a baby (or a pregnant belly) of your own, the answer is easy!

Carrying a baby simulator to gain attention is a bit weird – actually it would be a lot weird – so I wouldn’t recommend that. I wouldn’t think you’d get one cheaply, either.

So what can you do to generate sparks of interest before you open your mouth and give an elevator speech or mention your USP?

 

* The school event last night was aimed at younger students and my daughter had Sam because of an accelerated subject, thus it wasn’t common knowledge or a common sight and therefore generated comments and wonder.

Making your business dough creatively

Over the weekend, we were coming home late so dropped in at a country town for dinner on the way.

We chose the pizza and wine club because it looked nice and suitable for a quick family meal.

A thoughtful surprise

When the waitress gave us menus, I was pleased to see a Little Golden Book on top thinking it would be a distraction for my children while we waited for food.

However, the waitress told us the kids’ menu was inside the book’s cover!

It was a creative way to present the kids’ menu and would serve to make kids feel special (their own menu) and entertained. Of course, older children may be less impressed – our elder daughter didn’t seem to mind though.

The kids’ menu had a small selection of pizza choices and so on.

But it was the message at the end that really caught my eye. There were two offers we could ask for – pencils and colouring pages for entertainment or a ball of dough to play with!

My children chose the dough – no surprises there!

They had a lovely time playing with the dough while we waited for our food. Then, their creations were taken away and baked in the pizza oven so we came home with bread lions, cars, horses and a rose (my daughter made me the rose – it is sitting on my desk!)

A bread rose beside two pink roses

A rose by any other name smells, ah tastes, as sweet…

Making dough

Have you ever experienced something like a restaurant providing dough to play with?

It was such a great idea – it kept the kids quiet so the restaurant was nicer for everyone. Especially the parents who got to relax a bit more.

It was all done with a smile and obviously is done regularly – they had special baking dishes for the purpose.

The cost for the restaurant would be negligible – what’s a bit of dough in a pizza/pasta restaurant?

The reward is great – happy customers and I bet I’m not the only one sharing the story.

My kids have already asked to go back there…

What’s your dough?

Lots of places make pizza. Maybe the other pizza shops in Kyneton make as good or better pizza than the restaurant we went into. But have they attracted a loyal following like this?

Do you ‘offer kids dough’ in your business? What do you do that’s unexpected, creative, simple and appreciated?

It’s the little touches in business that can make a huge difference.

Email list or social media followers – which is best?

Yesterday, I heard Scott Stratten talk about business awesomeness in a webinar run by the Australian Businesswomen’s Network (ABN) and the above statement stuck in my mind.

Traditional or modern?

For many years, building a list was the key to online success according to many marketers and people worked hard to get more email addresses.

Now, the list isn’t mentioned as much but there is much talk of being on social media – and some will certainly imply or say that the more followers the better.

Is it just a sign of the times that social media is taking over from email lists and html newsletters?

Fractional reaction and social media

Scott uses the term fractional reaction to show how limited social media exposure can be.

Let’s say you have 100 Twitter followers and you tweet something important at 1o am. How many of those followers will be watching their Twitter feed at 10am? If they are not looking, there’s a very good chance they won’t see your tweet. How often do you go back very far in your social media feeds to check you haven’t missed something?

Email lists

On the other hand, if you send an email at 10am and I’m offline, it will still be in my inbox when I get online.

Email or social media, I may ignore your message because there are too many things to choose between or because it doesn’t interest me. But Scott is saying more will at least see your email. And your email has more chance of being opened if you have built a reputation of sending emails worth reading.

Of course, the other advantage of an email list is that it is yours.

And thus you have control over contacting those people to build your relationship and business.

So which give the best results?

If you have tried both email marketing and social media marketing, which has given you the best results?

Here are some of my thoughts…

It really isn’t easy to put a (return on investment) ROI on social media as some it is based on relationship building, gaining credibility as a thought leader, exposure and learning as well as direct marketing – social media doesn’t work just as a marketing tool.

Social media can take a lot of time to make regular posts, although often in short bursts, whereas writing emails tends to take bigger blocks of time.

With the use of automated emails, the same email can be used over and over in a way that just can’t apply to social media.

If you leave a social media platform or it stops, you lose those followers. Likewise if the platform changes rules, you may find it harder to stay in front of your followers – for example, if they start charging.

I hadn’t really thought about comparing the two options before hearing Scott yesterday. Yet I can see a lot of wisdom in his words.

Of course, there is no reason to not build both an email list and a social media following but which is worth more time and effort? Is a social media following worth pursuing at the expense of your email list?

I know I have put less effort into building an email list than I used to – and now I am rethinking that. Something to consider at my next working on my business session!

Is this a new perspective for you, too?

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Selling with Valentines Day

dollar sign inside a love heart

Love & money can go together

I know – Christmas has just gone, Australia Day hasn’t even arrived yet and I’m suggesting you think about Valentines Day!

For many businesses, Valentines Day is a huge sales period and they probably plan and prepare for it months in advance.

But have you thought about it for your business?

Maybe you think it is only for those selling flowers, chocolates and cards, having no relevance to other businesses. While there is some truth to that, you can get more out of Valentines Day if you want to.

Adding a Valentine flavour to your business 

Yes, Valentines Day is commercial and it would be great if we showed our love and care for others every day, but it is celebrated every February whether you like it or not. And if you run a business, you can keep it topical through using some Valentines romance.

There are a number of suggestions in my Valentines Day and business article, but here are a few more:

red paper flower made by a child

Paper flowers last longer and, if hand made, are very personal

  • post a Valentine message in your blog. It can be a simple “Happy Valentines Day” or maybe you can find a creative message to show you appreciate your blog readers or customers
  • use pink envelopes or paper on the day or the surrounding week or month
  • pop a chocolate or treat in every package you send out in February – of course, if it’s hot try something less likely to melt! Maybe a paper flower in each order is a better idea!
  • give an eBook or tip sheet with romantic ideas relating to your business
  • put some pink candles in your shop or display
  • run a competition with some romantic prizes
  • add a poem about mum or dad when you send out things for young children
  • send a rose to your key clients – an unexpected gift builds a lot of goodwill
  • Groups and clubs can send paid or active members a Valentines card. It needn’t include messages of love, but it may just be the only card your client gets so it will be appreciated
  • Web masters – think of adding some subtle graphics on your site – just a quick image and the words Happy Valentines Day is enough to convey your wishes without going too far or reducing your professional image
  •  Offer reduced fees for couples booking in at the same time in February. This could apply to a masseur, accountant, hairdresser, dentist, mechanic, coach, gyms, fitness trainers, life insurance sales people and many more.

A drop of honey in your writing works

Some years ago, I opened a saving account with a higher interest rate for the proverbial rainy day. I haven’t used that account much for some time but received a letter from that bank  that I wanted to share.

Threatening feel

Angry man threatening a piggy bank with a hammer

Threatening people’s savings doesn’t create a good impression

With opening words ‘Inactive account’, the letter launched with a long paragraph about money in inactive accounts being transferred to ASIC. The paragraph ended with a ‘by the way, the Government recently changed the inactivity period to 3 years from 7 years’ message.

It went on to define in active accounts.

Followed by a sub-heading “Your inactive xyz account”.

At this point I was angry because I hadn’t been told about the change in law nor that my money would be transferred to ASIC so “how dare they do that”.

The letter then mentioned I could prevent the transfer by using my account before the end of January.

Why not tell me that first as it is actually the most important thing for me to know?

And encouraging me to make another deposit is surely in the bank’s best interests, too?

Why let me get angry and annoyed rather than show me they are trying to help my keep my money?

The harsh letter made me uncomfortable, and as I only had a small amount of money left in there, my response was to withdraw all my money and close the account myself.

This is obviously a necessary letter for banks, but I think they are missing a relationship building and marketing opportunity to write it in such harsh terms.

Even if most people still closed their accounts, they would do so without negative feelings towards that bank…

It could have been personable and helpful

happy businessman offering a hand shake

Being friendly builds goodwill and reduces stress

In contrast I recently wrote a letter for a client along similar lines.

That letter effectively read:

You haven’t made a contribution for some time so your account is about to be classed as inactive.

If you make a contribution by xx, your account will be reactivated. Otherwise, your account will have to be closed.

Another option would have been  to write:

Did you know that any account without transactions for 3 years are classed as inactive? And that we have to transfer money in inactive accounts to ASIC?

To avoid this for your account, please make a deposit or withdrawal by xx.

Or they could have focussed on the change in law as important news:

Did you know it’s been nearly three years since you used your account?

The Commonwealth Government recently changes the law so accounts are classed as inactive after 3 years rather than seven. That means your account could soon be classed as inactive.

By law, we must transfer money from inactive accounts to ASIC.

Of course, you can reactivate your account by making a deposit or withdrawal before xxx.

Which version would you prefer to receive?

 * Images courtesy of kozzi

Is there business life beyond Facebook?

mix of activities that makes a makreting strategy

A strong marketing strategy encompasses more than one option

Like it or not, Facebook is a big site that attracts millions of people to it. Every day. Repeatedly.

As a business, it is important to understand how Facebook could be part of your marketing plan – note I don’t say you have to be ON Facebook but I do think it is a good idea to actively know about it and consciously decide whether or nor to use it for marketing.

Facebook is changing

If you’ve been on Facebook or read many marketing/SEO blogs, you’ll know that Facebook has changed things a number of times.

Recent changes, however, have made businesses wonder if Facebook will be a viable marketing option soon. Updates on business pages do not go into your fans’ news feed by default any more – some do, but fans have to show an interest first and it’s still no guarantee.

Facebook is moving towards charging businesses to be in front of fans.

As a business, it’s understandable that they want to make money. For SMBs, there is a real and justifiable fear that they won’t be able to compete in the advertising stakes against the big guys. A problem social media supposedly overcame for many SMBs.Select to get Word Constructions notifcations in Facebook

At least they have now added notifications so fans can choose to be notified of updates on a page.

What other options are there?

I don’t see this as a small answer. I never thought of Facebook as that important my business relies on it so I already use a number of other avenues.

But some businesses have put a lot into their Facebook page and could be challenged by looking elsewhere.

The appeal of Facebook is that so many people use it. But how many of those people are really your target market anyway? A targetted option may have fewer users but more of them will be interested so it could offer much more value anyway.

To me, the risk of Facebook (and similar sites) is lack of ownership. You don’t ‘own’ your Facebook profile in the same way you own your website. Facebook can change the rules or  disappear, leaving you without all you built up.

One way to keep using Facebook but have less reliance on it is to add ‘like’ buttons to your site.

That means people can still refer to you and your site to their Facebook friends but traffic comes to your site, not your Facebook profile.

Chris Syme offers a number of good ideas in a recent blog post and I’d add a few more:

  •  get involved on some popular blogs – leave comments and interact with the blogger and other readers
  • do some guest blogging
  • find some forums that suit your niche and become active there – it’s a smaller audience but targetted
  • if using any social media, keep a focus on your website so you don’t lose everything if the platform collapses or becomes unusable
  • develop and maintain an email list
  • promote yourself offline as well – ads in local newsletters, sponsor local events and hand out business cards appropriately

What would happen to your business tomorrow if Facebook suddenly wanted to charge too much for your page?

Do you have other viable options already in place?

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