9 Keys to Increase Website Conversion Rate and Turn Visitors into Customers

by Eric Tsai

9 tips to effectively increase your website conversion rate

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you might remember a post I wrote recently called Why Attention is the New Currency Online. When I wrote it, I had been working to create a process to audit website conversions.

Ultimately it turned into an article about capturing attention online because without attention there would be nobody looking at your links, images, videos and compelling content.

And without people reading your content, you certainly won’t get any clicks. When people read your content online, links and clicks follow.

However; you don’t want just any click, you want qualified prospects clicking on your links, visiting your website and consuming your content.

Let’s be clear, getting attention is only part of the equation to help you increase conversions but it does not automatically equals to conversion.

For those of you who don’t know why qualified traffic is important, let me just say that if you want to increase conversions of your landing page or your ecommerce store, this is crucial.

What is a Conversion?

How does the value of a conversion relate to the return on investment of a marketing campaign?

Basically a conversion is an action a user takes on your site that has value to your business.

Typically it’s a sale but it can also be a newsletter sign-up, a download of a file, viewing of a video, or a request for more information.

If you know what a conversion is worth to you, and the percentage of traffic visiting your conversion page versus the traffic that do convert (the conversion rate), then it is easy to calculate your return on investment (ROI) for just about any marketing campaign.

Conversion Rate and ROI Calculation

From the calculations above, you may think that if you want to increase ROI, you just need to increase CR right?

You’re on the right track but that’s not the entire story here because conversion rates typically depend on two factors:

  1. Qualified traffic – The goal is to capture only traffic that’s more likely to convert. This is where direct marketing is heavily used to grab the attention of the visitors. A valuable piece of content, a paid search ad or recommendations from social media channels are just a few ways you can use to obtain qualified traffic.
  2. Landing page – A landing page is a specific area of your website where traffic is sent (via links from online advertisements, organic search results, social media or email) specifically to prompt a certain action or result.  And since a visitor usually lands on a page after clicking on a link, it’s important that the links you use to send traffic to your website is relevant to what that person is looking for. Once on your landing page, it’s basically a tactic of one-on-one selling so if it’s not what people are looking for, you will likely get a low conversion.

There are tons of strategies to get qualified traffic (paid search, SEO, email, display, affiliate, etc.), but today we’re going to look at things that you can do to your website to help you improve your conversion rate.

These tips are easy to implement and can start improving your results immediately.

9 Keys to Increase Conversion Rate

I’m going to give you my recommendations, I also want to share a few principles that I believe are crucial in building a website that attracts thousands of high quality links.

The following steps can also be used for your landing page audits.

Use a simple scorecard format to quickly determine what you may need to do to increase your conversion rate.

Here is an example of a score card (you can download the landing page audit scorecard here)

landing page scorecard

1. Know Your Audience

The most important thing that you can do to increase your conversion rate is to know who you’re targeting and tailor your content for that person.

When a new visitor lands on your site for the first time and clicks on a link or goes to your product page, and doesn’t buy anything (or fill out a lead form), then you’ve probably lost them for good.

In my own testing I’ve found that addressing your message to a specific demographic can give you a nice life in conversions.

In fact, when I tried to cover as much features and benefits as possible (thinking that’s just adding value), I tend to get less clicks and low conversions.

2. Focus on Positive User Experience

A landing page is tailored to fit the specific call?to?action (that you designated) and is often the first page a visitor sees when clicking on a link. The challenge is to ensure that you are optimizing an exceptional online experience for visitors and also producing high ROI.

So what is considered an exceptional online experience?

It’s basically providing visitors with accurate, relevant and useful information to meet their needs. But do it in an entertaining and engaging way to differentiate yourself.

None of the bait-and-switch tactics or hype that’s overpromised and under-delivered.

positive user experience ads

A positive user experience usually focuses on a single message with a strong call-to-action that are written in plain language with no more than 7-12 words.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to combine all the features and benefits of your offer, instead focus on the highest value outcome.

Once you have a clean and precise message, you can make it credible with branding elements such as logos and security icons (third-party verifications) or use stories and testimonials. This will give confidence to the visitor which can have a positive impact on conversion as well.

Perfecting, or at the very least improving, customer experience has replaced customer loyalty as the ultimate corporate PR and brand reputation.

Put yourself in your visitor’s shoes and ask: would I scroll down and read this?

Would I fill out this form and give my personal information?

Why would I click here?

3. Develop Your Value Proposition

A value proposition is basically your offer. What are the main selling points? Why should the visitor buy right there and then? It may sound obvious to you but a clear value proposition is the foundation to your conversions.

Your landing page should address the top questions and concerns prospects have about your offer. And it usually goes back to the four Ps of marketing: product, price, place and promotion.

Too often, marketers focus too much on “promotion” instead of combining the other three Ps.

You may find after studying the competition that increasing or decreasing your price is likely to result in better conversions, for example. Perhaps there is a distribution channel, such as the social networks or email marketing; you haven’t fully integrated into your marketing mix.

And with products, developing a new product or re-package an existing product may provide a lift to your overall conversion as well.

You are likely to increase the chance of conversion if you have a clear value proposition that pushes the visitor to take action with your offer.

Ask yourself whether your landing page is helping people to make their decision.

If it’s not, then why should people do what you ask of them? (Purchase a product, sign up for newsletter or request a demo…etc.)

Don’t forget to research your competition so you know how your value proposition stacks up.

The new consumer-led digital revolution is all about exceeding customers’ expectations via influence.

Simply put, influence is conversion rate.

4. Cater to Online Reading Habits

What doesn’t get read doesn’t get clicked on. This is a simple logic that many marketers failed to recognize that there is a fundamental difference between people reading online and offline.

Accordingly to Dr. Jakob Nielsen’s eye tracking studies, “People rarely read Web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences.”

Unlike traditional media or what he calls “linear media” such as print and TV, people expect you to construct their experience for them. Basically readers are willing to follow the author’s lead.

However websites are considered “non-linear media“, where the rules reverse. Users want to construct their own experience by piecing together content from multiple sources, emphasizing their desires in the current moment.

In fact, Dr.Jakob conducted an eye-tracking study and found that people are read in F-shaped patterns when reading web content.

F-shape reading pattern

This is why you should use attention call-outs such as headers, subheads, paragraphs, and bullet points with words that users will notice when scanning down the left side of your content in the final stem of their F-behavior.

The idea here is to layout your content so the readers will WANT to read but keep in mind that the F-pattern should be considered descriptive, not prescriptive.

It’s all about giving you the highest chance of grabbing attention.

5. Create Compelling Copy with Clear Headlines

The first things a visitor reads after landing on your page is your headline. This is when you need to pass the smell test.

If your headline is anything less than clear, informative and compelling, you  will bore or confuse your visitors into leaving.

On the other hand, a well-written headline can drive your visitors to take a closer look even if it’s just text.

Have you noticed how some landing pages are super long?

These landing pages are called “long-form” sales letter that typically consists of a title, subtitle, bunch of paragraphs, images, testimonials and a few buy buttons on a plain-looking page that you have to scroll on and on.

Think about it, if it doesn’t convert well why would there be so many long-form landing pages online?

The truth is people only read what they’re interested in even if it appears to be too long!

The key is to do so in an engaging way that will connect with your audience, it can even be fun and entertaining.

One of my ways to start creating engaging copy is to use the five W’s and one H technique. Here is an example of this:

  • Tell them why they’re about to read the page
  • Tell them who’s it for
  • Tell them what’s in it for them
  • Tell them where they’re at or where they can get it
  • Tell them when they can get it (i.e. limited time offer)
  • Tell them how it works or how it relates to them

The goal is to focus on everything you think will push them one step closer to taking your converting and nothing more.
Make sure you get to the point with actionable content (tell them what to do next) that focuses more on the outcome rather than the feature.

You may want to check out the following articles to help you create compelling content:

How to Create Magnetic Copy to Maximize Your Content Appeal.

7 Ways To Elevate The Perceived Value Of Your Content.

If you know your customer well enough, you should know what they want.

Focus on wants at the beginning not needs.

6. Leverage Image or Rich Media to Direct Attention

Images, videos or testimonials can motivate visitors and trigger emotions. This can have a positive impact on viewers to want to read more about your product and explore the site longer.

Studies have showed that people perceived websites as more “professional” or “trustworthy” when they had images of people on the site.
However; you don’t want to just take any stock photos that relates to your message and load it up on your site.

Instead images can be used to effectively change visitor behavior substantially.

According to a study by Bunnyfoot, subtle changes such as using the right images can direct and guide the visitor’s eyes where you want them to go.

Visual Eye Tracking Study

I thought this was an interesting study and one that you should consider when adding images to your landing page.

When using images and videos, ask yourself whether that piece of content is drawing attention away from your persuasive message or adding to it.

7. Create Content with SEO in Mind – SEO Copywriting

A great tactic that you should put in practice is to integrate your copywriting with SEO (search engine optimization).

SEO copywriting is a technique that tries to optimize your site around a keyphrase that can send you organic search traffic. Done right you can even turn research-intent traffic into converting traffic.

The goal is to get search engine rankings for a relevant phrase around what you’re trying to rank for that can bring you “qualified” traffic.

For example, if someone is looking for “men’s running shoes review” and your online store happens to have a blog with articles comparing all the latest running shoes on the market, the visitor may read the article and decide to bookmark and come back later. Or better yet, the visitor reads the article ended up buying a pair of shoes from your online store.

Obviously you need to know the keywords that your audience uses in order to rank for those keywords.

You can get an idea on the competitiveness of your keywords by using Google’s Keyword Tool to see what phrases are popular and the volume of searches on them globally and locally.

Once you have those keywords, simply remember to use it in your content in addition to HTML areas such as the title tag, meta tags, anchor text in links, and permalinks.

Here is an example of my SERP result, notice the bolded words that highlights the keywords that’s in my title and descreption.

SEO copywriting title descreption

If you use a platform like WordPress (what I use), then all you have to do is install one of those All-in-One-SEO plugins and you’re set.

8. Test, Adjust and Repeat

The golden rule of any direct response marketing is to ensure you evoke a measurable, tractable response.

This means constant testing of your landing page using methods such as a/b split testing or multivariate testing.

The concept is simple.

You want to have variations of the page to be tested on an ongoing basis so you can improve conversion rate.

  • What is an A/B split test? A classic direct marketing tactic, A/B testing is a method of marketing testing by which a baseline control sample is compared to a variety of single-variable test samples in order to improve response rates It’s typically performed to determine the better of two content variations
  • What is a multivariate test?
    A slightly more complex test, multivariate test is a process by which more than one component of a website may be tested in a live environment. It can be thought of in simple terms as numerous A/B tests performed on one page at the same time.

By conducting tests on your landing page, you will be able to determine which headline is more effective or what layout works better.

Here is an example case of an A/B split test that I did on my email marketing.

The objective was to determine if removing the sidebar would result in a better overall performance. I also tested two different email subject line to see which one opens better.

split test email

The obvious winner here is the control version. The result indicated that the new version (without sidebar) has a higher open rate compare to the control version (email with sidebar), but the conversion rate was substantially lower.

Keep in mind that with testing you want to make sure you gather enough data (sample size) to ensure that your tests are statistically relevant.

Sounds complicated?

Well, thanks to Google, you can use their Google Analytics Content Experiments to conduct both of these tests for free!

Or for more advanced folks, you can try Visual Website Optimizer, UnbounceMonetate, or Sitespect.

When it comes to testing, here are some ideas you can use:

  • Test different headlines, sub headlines and ad copy
  • Test different version of the same logo, icons, layout of testimonials and even colors
  • Test different call-to-actions and buttons (i.e. try this vs. buy now)
  • Test different images or videos (swap image for video and vice versa)
  • Test different forms (embed in different areas of the site, reduce required fields)
  • Test different offers (use incentives to see how discounts or coupons work differently)
  • Test long versus short sales page
Checkout WhichMVT for a full list of reviews and comparisons on testing tools.
And for case studies and test ideas, visit WhichTestWon.

9. Track and Analyze Your Landing Pages

One thing that you can do to benchmark your landing page is to install Google Analytics. If you are using Google Analytics you will know that it’s an invaluable tool that’s again – totally free!

By using Google Analytics you will know the sources that deliver traffic to your landing pages from pay-per-click (PPC), email marketing, social media, organic searches or even offline advertising channels.

Knowing the source of your most profitable traffic is the key to increase ROI.

The more detail you get with where traffic comes and goes the more clear you will see how visitors reacts to your offer.

There are many ways to aggregate your website data from Google Analytics but if you want to focus on conversion rate, start by looking at the following areas (just to name a few):

  • Traffic source – where are people coming from? This is your channel acquisition strategy.
  • Visitor loyalty – How long do people stay? How many pages do they visit and how many times do they visit between two or more times.
  • Bounce rate – How relevant is your landing page? Bounce rate measures the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from where they landed on. The more relevant your landing pages, the more visitors will stay on your site and convert
  • Keywords – This shows you what queries (keywords) are mapped to your landing pages that sends you traffic. This is a good indicator of what keywords your website is ranked for and how search engines interpret your content.

There are so many important variables to consider when tracking your pages, you can also track clicks or heatmap on your layout and navigations via Google Analytics (In-Page Analytics section) or something like Crazy Egg, Click Density, Click Tale or Attention Wizard.

heatmap analytics

Last but not least, listen and learn from your customers to make sure what you’re tracking matches to the story your data is telling you.

It’s as easy as picking up the phone and call the customers yourself!

If you aren’t able to do that, try conducting regular online surveys or implement some type of post-sale customer feedback system.

The Take Away

In the era of engagement, consumers no longer separate marketing between in-store or online experience—it is the experience.

Whether you’re making a sale in person or receiving a conversion online, conversion rate is the vote of confident that creates personal relationships.

It is trust, likability, authority and ultimately, influence.

Nothing prevents you from trying to increase your conversion rate. If you do nothing, your conversion rate will normalize over time (stays the same).

However; while conversion is an important factor to the profitability of your marketing, you shouldn’t lose sight on the big picture – that’s building your brand equity.

When you have brand equity, you have top-of-mind recalls.

This means you command attention and your message will have a higher chance of cutting through the noise of the increasing irrelevant landscape of “push” advertising.

Conversion rate will eventually reaches the point of diminishing returns – when your investment yields progressively smaller profits.

That’s when you need to take your budget and put it into a higher ROI marketing vehicle.

Until then, keep testing.

 

Integrated Marketing Strategy – How to Integrate Search, Social for eCommerce

by Eric Tsai

Beyond Search: Social Customer, Social Commerce, Social Media

It seems as if all the talk in web marketing these days center on algorithm updates, social signals, mobile and display opportunities. Marketers and brands are eager to make adjustments trying new strategies to drive sales and increase profits.

I think it’s important to know the difference between a sales channel and how sales are made.
Search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO) and social media are all channels to engage and carry out your message with prospects and customers.

Simply put, the medium is not the message. It’s a venue for you to generate demand and drive qualified visitors to your conversion funnel.

And we all know what conversion funnel is all about – getting those sale!

This is why it’s important to figure out how these channels work together (and independently) to help drive qualified traffic to your web properties.

Not only will this increase the chance of converting that traffic into sales (higher conversion rate), it will also bring clarity to your marketing investments.

The key is to realize that social media is turning customers social as a result transitioning eCommerce to social commerce.

The Social Customer: More Research, Less Impulsive

Today, if you want to find a restaurant or buy a product you can start by getting opinions from your social circle on Facebook and Twitter or read reviews on public venues such as Yelp and Amazon. In addition, you get to compare prices across multiple deal aggregators and coupon sites.

It’s indicative that consumers are no longer buying based on impulse but cold hard facts.

According to a recent survey conducted by Yahoo! and Universal McCann to help marketers understand the new dynamics in the path to purchase, “The abundance of online tools has evolved shopping, empowered consumers and ultimately renewed passion and excitement within the path to purchase…Consumers have learned what information sources to filter and what sources they can rely on. And when it comes to media, Internet comes out on top as 2 in 3 people stated they trust the Internet for researching their purchases.”

How consumer uses internet for shopping

I particularly like the recommendations under “Implications for Marketers”:

  • Marketers should contribute to the social ecosystem by becoming part of the conversation. Leverage your brand as a contributing member of 3rd party communities (e.g., fan page, micro-site, etc.) to create a more personal and authentic relationship with your customers.
  • Create reward systems that deliver the “consumer win” by making the consumer feel special — such as tailoring deals to their expressed interests and encouraging viral sharing.
  • Marketers don’t necessarily need to be considered a consumer’s “friend,” but should leverage the right media to aid consumers — like expert reviews. Trusted sites perform better.
  • Online sources influence purchases just as much as, if not more than, offline sources so it’s important to make sure your brand is integrated in the online experience.
  • As shoppers use digital tools to gather info and narrow down options, your presence doesn’t need to be purely rational. It can and should delight emotionally.

If we can identify the potential “decision path” and buying landscape of our prospects then we can build better campaigns to truly engage in a relationship that brings value to both sides.

Social Commerce: Why Consumers Connect with Brands

Whether it’s through social media, organic search or paid search, it helps to understand why certain types of consumers elect to go down a specific path that ultimately led to a purchase.

Once you figured out the complex scenarios of a purchase funnel, then it’s time to craft a campaign that can effective in gaining your prospect’s attention.

Why attention?

Because more attention means higher chance of clicking, and more clicks brings in more traffic. You may want to read the post on Why Attention is the New Currency Online.

The important thing about traffic is that we want convertible traffic not media with strenuous acquisition costs.

Social media is a complicated media where customers are willing to interact with brands but it’s difficult to track and measure.

According to a joint research project by Shop.org, comScore and Social Shopping Labs, “42% of online consumers have “followed” a retailer proactively through Facebook, Twitter or a retailer’s blog, and the average person follows about 6 retailers.

Here are the top reasons shoppers follow a retailer:

Shop Social Media 2011 - How Shoppers Interact w/ Retailers

As you can see from the data above, most people connect with brands with some level of transactional intent in nature.

The key is to realize that this type of digital relationship is built on mutual benefits.

For brands, this means being creative with incentivized-advertising that leads to trial, trial to purchase, and purchase to become a regular customer.

And it’s very likely that some if not the entire process take place online.
Each contact point may be discoverable by search forming a contributing factor to influence the purchase experience.

This is a high level way of viewing social commerce. And it requires careful planning beyond marketing.

This is why for example, customer service, sales and marketing needs to stay connected. It’s about linking different part of your business to help optimize the social commerce experience.

And to do making each department social is a great place to start.

Social Media: Turning Search Social

In order to combat Facebook, Google decided to counter with Google +, a social network that mimics many social features of Facebook. (I’ve just started using this and will keep an eye on it as it grows.)

The value of SEO and the success of Google is undeniable but the fact is Facebook has become the central hub of the increasingly social web.

Accordingly to ComScore, time spent on Facebook nearly doubled compare to Google even though Google continues to attract the greatest number of unique visitors in general.

average minutes spent per visitor on google and facebook, june 2011

What this tells me is that there is a fundamental shift in how we fit the Internet into our lives.

This also means that search is evolving from a utility-focused function (of finding information) towards a more connected engagement environment.

The initiate discovery builds meaningful relationship that’s based on the human network.
This is the reason why all social networks are gaining traction, not just Facebook.

For example Twitter is also becoming a force to be reckoned with according to Compete:

  • Twitter is the preferred platform for learning about new product updates. While those who follow a brand on Twitter and “Like” a brand on Facebook do so to learn about discounts and available “free stuff” to a similar degree, the Twitter followers are much more likely to use the platform for “updates on future products” (84% to 60%). Clearly Twitter is viewed as a medium in which consumers can directly communicate with the stewards of the brands they are most interested in. See chart below for details on why consumers choose to follow or Like a brand.

reasons for follow-like a brand

And the next interesting insight was shows that Twitter has the potential to drive sales.

  • Twitter is more effective at driving purchase activity than Facebook. 56% of those who follow a brand on Twitter indicated they are “more likely” to make a purchase of that brand’s products compared to a 47% lift for those who “Like” a brand on Facebook. This is further evidence that marketers can drive ROI with Twitter by engaging followers through compelling content. See the chart below for more details on usage outcomes across Twitter and Facebook.

social media usage outcomes

Of course, not all engagements are created equal and this is where online marketing is changing.

Consumers will decide which channel to use for their own benefits so as marketers, you need a approach these venues with meaningful engagement in mind aggregating valuable conversations over time.

It only make sense to start your engagement strategy by understand today’s consumers. Once you gain an understanding of the larger trend, then it all comes down to narrowing your target audience and tailor your message to fit the medium.

The Take Away

You can now purchase or bid on highly targeted media to carry out your ads that gets distributed instantly.

The result can be tracked and analyze through various attribution models.

Although there are still limitation to data transparency across all channels, one thing is clear, modern marketers now must try to understand all the touch points prior to conversion (making the sale) to get an idea of the impact of these channels.

It’s time we realize that social media provides significant influence across the social web.

It’s not just about page rank with SEO or ad rank with PPC; you now must consider measuring the depth of engagement as a competitive advantage within your marketing toolbox

What are you doing beyond search?

Social Media Science: The Five W’s of Twitter Marketing

by Eric Tsai

Social Media Science: The Five W’s Of Twitter Marketing

If you’re doing any kind of Internet marketing you know the importance of fact gathering especially if you’re just starting out investing time, money and resources in social media. We’re now well into the “early majority” phase of social media, it’s time to take a look at some interesting data for a peak behind the social media curtains.

When strategizing your marketing campaign it’s critical to give yourself the highest chance of success. And by that I mean taking meaningful actions from reliable data not just making assumptions.

The “medium” is no longer the message, just habits and channels.

The message, in fact, IS the message.

The Five W’s (and one H) of Twitter

Twitter is probably one of the most talked about social media platform amongst marketers. However; business owners tends to have unrealistic expectations of what it actually can do so let’s focus on the 5 W’s and one H of Twitter.

Since insights don’t announce themselves, I’m going to use the reports from Edison Research, Hubspot, Dan Zarrella and Pew Research to illustrate my points.

These are organized information that can be very useful to help generate insights about your target and the technology they use.

When you have more than just organized data you can make better informed decision on where to allocate your time and resources for your marketing efforts while stimulating new ideas.

Why Tweet

People love to use Twitter to update their personal or professional lives as well as to comment on a relatively wide range of topics. And here is what people like to talk about on Twitter:

what people use twitter for statistics

Although location-based tweets and links to videos are the least commonly mentioned, I suspect that they’ll catch up soon with better, faster and cheaper devices and access to Internet.

Why people follow people?

Another interesting data from Dan Zarrella’s research reveals a list of names you can call yourself to get more followers than the average Twitter account.

Twitter bio words

No surprise here because people naturally like to follow authorities that “appears” to have some sort of influence.

Who Tweets

Despite its popularity, Twitter has yet to go mainstream. But it’s still interesting to see who is using Twitter to identify the demographic should you decide to focus on this channel.

To my surprise there are actually a much higher percentage of African Americans and Hispanics use Twitter than whites.

According to Pew Research, “8% of online adults said they do use Twitter—with 2% doing so on a typical day. This survey also showed that 74% of American adults are internet users, meaning that the Twitter cohort amounts to 6% of the entire adult population.”

Twitter user demographic group

HubSpot’s report also pointed out that 40% of the top 20 Twitter locations in January 2010 are outside North America.

In fact, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science also confirmed the diversity of Twitter users.

The interesting part of it is that Twitter seems to self-segregate around topics and issues with different ethnic groups. So instead of bringing people together in new and innovative ways via technology and Internet, people are more divide as a result.

Another fascinating data about Twitter users is that they tend to be more educated with higher household income which can be cross referenced via data from Edison Research.

Twitter users education

Twitter user income level

For those targeting market segments that are well educated with money, Twitter is definitely worth a look.

The next piece of attractive data is valuable specifically for businesses:

  • 42% of Twitter users wish to learn about products and services
  • 41% already provide opinions about them
  • 28% want discounts and offers and 21% claim to purchase products
  • 19% are using Twitter for customer support

Twitter users  follow brands

If you want to generate some new top-line revenue for your business, you would likely focus on new customer attraction and Twitter is a great place to start. And to do so you should consider putting together a promotional program with discounts to attract those deal hunters.

However; if your goal is to build long term relationship with your customers who will want to keep buying from you, tread carefully before you start tweeting discounts to one-time customers who will never pay full-price.

Knowing your customer on Twitter can greatly increase the effectiveness of your Internet marketing campaign especially when combined with direct response marketing tactics.

Once you know who you’re talking to you just have to find them using a combination of Google and Twitter search, a technique I’ve outlined in this post: How to Use Google and Twitter to Find Your Customers.

What to Tweet

Ahhh…the $54,000 question of what do people tweet? What should you tweet? Well, it really depends on why you’re using Twitter for what purpose.

For this we turn to another Dan’s awesome research on what to tweet to get the most retweet “scientifically.”

what to tweet

What I like about these data is that it provides a solid starting point to craft your Twitter campaign. Needless to say that in marketing “everything is a test” so make sure you are sending out interesting, relevant tweets that communicates value.

When to Tweet

If you’ve done email marketing, you know the importance of timely delivery. It’s about being at the right place at the right time and this applies to Twitter as well.

According to HubSpot’s report, the best day to tweet is Thursday and Friday while the best times to tweet are 3 -5 pm as well as 9 – 11pm Eastern Time.

Twitter tweets distribution by hour

Twitter tweets distribution by day

I’ve personally seen traffic statistics that agrees with those days and times.

Again like the W for “what to tweet,” time to tweet serves as a good foundation to start sending out your well crafted tweets.

Keep in mind that it doesn’t mean you won’t get retweets or clicks during off peak hours, you just have less traffic to engage with but it also means less competition.

Similar to how often you check your emails, how frequent Twitter users check their tweets also reveal the fact that half of the Twitter users NEVER check their streams which means there is a high chance that they simply won’t get to read majority of your tweets.

Twitter user checking tweets

That doesn’t mean you can’t keep “pushing” out messages. In fact, Guy Kawasaki tweets every minute of every hour of everyday, with repeat tweets too! That seems to be working for him so make sure you have a way to measure and track your retweets and clicks like how you would track your website statistics with Google Analytics.

You can start with free tools like Hootsuite or TweetDeck.

Where to Tweet

Much like the diversity we see in who’s tweeting, the location of where people are tweeting is relatively proportional.

Twitter self reported locations

Location can be a key piece if you’re business requires foot traffic such as retail stores, restaurants or if you’re selling to a specific geographic. Its just another metric to keep your eyes on and overtime you may see a trend developing that’s worth conducting another split testing.

How People Tweet

According to Twitter’s own blog post “The Evolving Ecosystem,” 16% of all new users to Twitter start on mobile now.

Besides Twitter app for mobile devices such as the iPhone and BlackBerry being the most popular ways to access Twitter, third-party apps make up 14% of all unique Twitter users.

top 10 twitter apps

Again this is in line with Twitter users being educated with high household income. I fully expect more mobile usage out of Twitter and more integration efforts from brands to cultivate this dynamic channel.

The take away: Twitter is like a huge chat room (or a big party) with people talking about different things. And people can choose from a variety of interesting conversations on Twitter with different purposes.

Like all decisions in business you must first identify your desire outcome before you jump in. A clear well-defined business and marketing objectives will bring clarity to unrealized assumptions.

And assumptions in marketing should be based on relevant data that can help you connect to your customer’s needs and desires in an attempt to reveal more about how people want to feel rather than just what they think.

Simply put, most of us just won’t come out and say how we feelabout everything in life and this applies to how we buy as well.

We buy base on how we feel not just what we think, it’s a constant battle between the two during the decision making process.

If you want to build a long term relationship with your customers, focus on relationship not just triggering the buy button.

And Twitter is another great platform to cultivate that relationship.

Why are you interested in using Twitter for marketing? Why do you believe you’re better invested there than in other channels of marketing?

I have no doubt that there will be more bright shiny objects like Twitter to come alone in the future but the critical element remains the same: identify the “Five W’s” (and one H) first: why, what, who when, where and how.

At the end, social media is just push marketing with the ability for the other side to push back.

Why Content Marketing Can Get You More Customers

by Eric Tsai

Why Content Marketing Can Get You More Customers

Content is critical in today’s marketing. With so much competition you have to be able to differentiate your product from your competitors by creating unique content.

As a business professional, experts, marketer or even just a blogger who’s trying to navigate the changing landscape of this digital media evolution, you must understand that the routes connecting customers, companies, products, and services are becoming more unpredictable, complex and disruptive.

If you want to survive and thrive you need to realize that every aspect of every business is increasingly carried out through the media.

This is basically a revolution in communication on a scale not seen since the invention of the printing press.

From advertising and marketing to sales and customer service, everything in business is more likely to happen on a computer or mobile device connected to the Internet. All businesses must learn to think like media companies and become trusted curators and providers of content across all new media platforms.

And with this real-time dynamic platform that’s changing how people consume media, it also brought a new level of distribution, replication, sharing and the value of content marketing.

Here are 3 keys to remember when creating your content marketing strategy.

Customers Are in Control

Everything is converging into an interlaced network of content and this means you have every opportunity and chance of making the headlines tomorrow or going viral on YouTube.

You could fall to the same threats facing the TV networks, newspapers and magazines.

What threats are we talking about here?

Think about what happens when you flip to a lousy TV show or scan across a boring ad in a magazine? The same thing that happens to an uninteresting online banner – it gets tuned out!

Your customers can post feedback on your blog, review your service vie Yelp or complaint via Twitter.

The Internet has provided your customer much more leverage and power to take control of the relationship they have with your business.

In order to be successful in growing your business, you must walk the walk and deliver whatever you promise in your marketing.

In fact, you can hire top marketers to drive traffic to your website but if you sell a crappy product or have poor customer service people can read about it instantly hurting your reputation and bottom line.

It’s not just about setting up your products or services as the answer to the challenges your prospects and customers are facing, that’s just the marketing part of it.

Your solution simply has to work.

Content is Marketing

As marketers you can use social media as a way to get you message out which allows you to position yourself or your business.

Just like newspapers and magazines, you get readers to react and respond to your social media content.

But don’t confuse medium and the message. Social media is just a vehicle (mostly push marketing) to carry out your content you still need to create engaging content, magnetic copies and effective headlines.

Good publications retain customers and get more advertisers because they’re able to add and keep subscribers consistently.

That’s the beauty of subscription based business model; you’re exchanging attention for revenue so the key is keep coming up with relevant and interesting content.

Keep in mind that all the value starts with the content and the media simply being the delivery mechanism.

Whether you’re writing a book, content for your marketing, or a blog post you want people to act on, the key is to give your customers what they need to make decisions and take actions to get the result they want.

There is no difference between content and marketing.

The quality of the content and its ability to give people the action steps and the information they need to be effective is critical to your success.

Relationship Sells

The difference between how an expert thinks and how a marketer thinks can be the key that’s holding you back from growing your business.

Yes, content is marketing and marketing is sales.

And great marketing is great salesmanship. But what most business professionals, coaches and gurus often forget about salesmanship is that it’s built on trusting relationships.

And in today’s over-communicated digital world, trust is already hard to come by because there is already a huge distrust in general information that’s out there so earning trust should be your top priority as a way to start building long-lasting relationships with your customers.

In fact according to the Gallup poll, a record 57% of Americans say they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly

Distrust in U.S. Media Edges Up to Record High

Real relationship requires a two-way conversation – a receive and response, response and response mechanism. Don’t make assumptions on what your customers want, hear what they’re saying and listen.

Look at all the top publications like The Economist, The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, you’ll find that they all have strong relationship with their audience because they truly understand and give their customers what they want and what they need.

Bottom line, you need to do everything you can to understand what your customers want and the most effective way is to truly focus on getting your customer’s perceived needs met by becoming the customer.

The take away: Unlike the old days where a powerful distributor can help you boost sales due to the lack of distribution channels and competitors (think TV with only 3 channels to watch).

Today there are thousands of distributors and having a large distribution channel will not overcome the true value of your content.

Experts are so used to broadcasting and receiving on what the customers need based on their professional experience that they often just want to get to the end – stuffing down what the customers need (with good intention) asking for the sale.

However; in today’s hyper-connected world, content marketing is the new new thing.

If you want to get more customers you must learn to leverage content marketing and get inside the minds of your customer.

4 Internet Marketing Trends For 2011

by Eric Tsai

information highway

As we’re approaching the end of the 2010 there are numerous developments with businesses using social media. I had predicted that brands will need to figure out how social fits into their overall brand strategy by identifying where the leverage is with social media and how to manage it.

Online communities are now everywhere there is access and common objectives. Even social networks are interconnected themselves pushing and pulling content across various channels.

For business owners, bloggers and marketers, we have to realize that the landscape is changing and will continue to shift towards attentive reach, not frequency.

Instead of trying to reach broad targets of demographic groups, investing in paid media we find valuable organic content becoming more powerful, ranking higher by search engines and shared by passionate communities.

Need more facts to back up the growth of social media? According to Harris Interactive:

  • 9 out of 10 (87%) online adults use social media
  • Highest percentage (22%) uses social media less than 1 hour per week
  • Highest percentage of 18-34 yr-olds (17%) uses social media 6-10 hours per week

social media usage study by Harris

It’s indicative that the evolution of social media is not just with the tools. The real “leading indicators” will be how social media gets utilized in the real world, not how marketers want it to be used.

And because we’re living in an over-communicated society with competing and conflicting information, true engagement in this on-demand world will be the biggest challenge moving forward.

I’m not just talking about getting people’s attention in marketing; I’m referring to real meaningful conversations that open up the communication channel that leads to authentic actions.

There is so much noise and deception across all media channels that it only makes sense for most people to ignore them.

Here are 4 internet marketing trends that will be maturing in the coming year:

1) The Return of Direct Marketing

The meaning of your communication is the responses you get especially on the social web where people can simply close a window, ignore a tweet or click away to other attention grabbing links.

Everyone’s got a blog, a website, Facebook page, Twitter account or Youtube Channel. So how do you stand out in a sea of sameness?

As it turns out direct response marketing is still the most effective way to test your marketing campaigns. The difference with social media is that you need to be measuring the right metrics.

It’s essentially the same concept as great salesmanship. Great marketing is great one on one sales focusing on finding out what customers want, their pain, urgency, desire and needs.

Done right you will get insights about your customers that tells you not just what they clicked on but from where, why and how. Remember, greater marketers don’t make assumptions!

Once you have meaningful data, it’s easier to craft your direct response campaign that converts better because you’ll have a list of “high quality” leads that are more likely to buy.

Without qualified leads, you’re basically playing the guessing game, driving in the dark and often a waste of time and money.

Concentrate on appealing and selling to the top 20% of the prospects that are more likely to convert. And if you can integrate your email marketing efforts with social media, you’ll gain further insights on your customer’s media habits, which can be used to optimize your next campaign.

2) The Raise of Social Metrics

Since majority of your prospective customers will not convert immediately upon getting your communication, it’s important to follow-up with email and social media because not only will you know when someone opened the email and what they’ve clicked on; you’ll also learn their social habits and sphere of influence.

The goal is to find out your customer’s “from” and “to” path to your web properties. It could be your online store, a product(s) page, your opt-in page (landing page), a sign-up to webinar or simply a Facebook page.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Where are my source of traffic? How much does it cost me? (time, money and resources)
  • What are the demographics (age, location, habits etc…) of my traffic? Are they on social networks?
  • What does my customers want? Do I have the same customers online and offline?
  • How much time does it take for my customers to go from the original source of traffic to my web properties? And what can I do to get them to take the action I want that aligns with what they want?
  • What social media metrics can bring clarity to the habits of my prospective customers?

There are some nice free tools out there that will provide you with social data to get you started.

One of my favorite way to view my engagement performance is using Hootsuite’s statistics with Google Analytics and email marketing data. This allows me to view the engagement performance across social media from blog articles to emails.

For example, in the past 12 months, I generated 16,000+ clicks from my Twitter account which allows me to see what sort of topic my followers are interested in.

twitter.com/designdamage

I can then tailor my blog content to target further engagement and sharing. The same can be applied to email and this is particularly useful if you have an ecommerce site that allows you to track sales conversions.

The key here is to link metrics to actionable options that you generate for them. That’s why you want people to visit your web properties because you will have control of the environment.  Everything is a test in marketing.

3) Focus Shifts from Tactical to Strategic

From the mix of clients and prospects I’ve talked with this year, most of them fall into one of the three buckets: those still experimenting with social marketing, those using social media as an add-on tool with existing marketing tactics and those integrating social as part of their efforts to be more customer-centric.

In the coming year I see more businesses moving towards wanting to be more social embracing what Jeremiah Owyang described as the “hub and spoke” social business model.

Most Corporations Organize in “Hub and Spoke” formation for Social Business

The challenge will be how to strategize, streamline, automate, budget, and measure social media and social marketing. Simply put, the one-size-fits-all volume marketing will no longer be effective.

You want more consistent, predictable campaign that can be efficiently replicated instead of one-off campaigns that requires lots of resources and attention to operate.

So how can you achieve that?

The best way is to conduct split testing across integrated campaigns. You must become gradually efficient at implementing and optimizing your campaigns focusing on frequency and delivery of real-time value.

It also requires the big picture marketing strategy, NOT just tactics. At the end it is about getting the highest return on the value you create for your customers. Start thinking about how you can earn engagement that leads to conversation that leads to revenue.

4) Video Marketing Becomes Mainstream

Are you doing any videos? Do you know that a YouTube channel is the equivalent of a Facebook profile? Do you know that online video, yes video can help with your SEO?

Let’s take a look at some data here for you to think about.

At the 2010 Search Engine Strategies Conference & Expo, Greg Jarboe, president and co-founder of SEO-PR revealed that:

  • Americans watch more videos a month on YouTube than they conduct searches on Google
  • A video is 50 times more likely to get a first-page Google ranking than a text page

If those finding aren’t stunning, coming from an SEO perspective check out Pew Internet Research’s recent study indicating that “7 in 10 adult internet users (69%) have used the internet to watch or download video. That represents 52% of all adults in the United States.”

Something to keep in mind is that while online video is exploding, other media channels are slowing down or shrinking!

According to a recent Edison Research’s study indicates that “during an average day, Americans age 12-24 spend two hours and 52 minutes on the internet, making the web the media format American young adults spend the most time consuming. Television closely follows with a daily average of two hours and 47 minutes.”

In addition, as opposed to TV ads, online videos are trackable and can be viewed repeatedly attracting the “long-tail” viewers while allowing you to measure the exact impact of the video and participate around it in the comments section or on blogs.

The bottom line is that although video (Youtube) marketing isn’t anything new, it’s gaining more momentum now because the cost of video production are dramatically reduced today than it was a few years ago.

You can now purchase high definition cameras (such as the Flip HD) for under $150 which creates amazing looking videos. Even the new iPhone4 has HD videos that enable everyone to become a video producer at all times.

Keep in mind that you should consider video marketing tactic to support your overall marketing campaign not the other way around if it doesn’t fit into your strategy. Success video marketing strategy focuses on attracting the right audience with a topic or theme that’s video-worthy and can be compelling!

The take away: We’re in the middle of a media evolution where technology has fundamentally changed the way we consume media and interact with one another. It’s not about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Google, iPhone or iPad; it never has been.

It’s about how these tools and platforms support what you want to achieve with your business.

Social is just a label, the real challenge is figuring out how to deliver optimal customer experience that builds meaningful relationships between you and your customers.

Am I missing anything here? Please leave your comments and questions, I’m interested to hear how you’re using internet to market your business, products or services.

7 Ways To Elevate The Perceived Value Of Your Content

by Eric Tsai

measuring value

Understand how people learn, think and communicate is the key to create effective marketing. In fact, communication is the core of your marketing and if you know how to leverage it, you will be able to elevate the perceived value of your products and services so people are willing to pay higher price for as soon as they see it.

However; it’s often much more counter intuitive than you think. It all comes down to what you say and then how you say it via your communication.

So what is communication?

According to Wikipedia, “…Communication requires that all parties have an area of communicative commonality. There are auditory means, such as speech, song, and tone of voice, and there are nonverbal means, such as body language, sign language, paralanguage, touch, eye contact, through media, i.e., pictures, graphics and sound, and writing.”

In other words the only way to open up the communication channel is by having a common medium, a means to understand and relate the information that’s being communicated.

The problem is everyone has a different style of communicating and learning thus the goal of marketing communication is to eliminate misunderstanding.

For example, when I say the word “car” what kind of car are you picturing in your head? A big SUV or a small sedan? A red sports coupe or a family minivan? Is it a Cadillac or a Lexus?

This is one of the biggest content marketing challenges in today’s attention fighting world especially with barriers such as information overload and attention deficit resulting in loss of concentration and focus on an ongoing basis.

There is a high chance that you’re losing your audience as you speak because everything is moving so fast and people can’t help but want instant information gratification.

As it turns out, in marketing you need to create crystal clear communications that are as specific, tangible, measurable and external as possible.

That’s exactly what great copywriters do, they write compelling stories that builds trust and use words that describe real world situations, things you can see, feel, touch and experience.

And since most purchase decisions are made by the emotional part of our brain, ineffective communication will never result in a sale so it is up to you to position the purchase in his minds.

Here are seven ways to help you build influence by mastering the basics of high perceived value communication:

1. Communicate Like How You Would Speak

If you want people to like and trust you, start by communicating like a normal person in a one on one plain English.

The key is to make your communication frictionless and easy to understand since everyone is not your customer so speak to people about what they want to talk about, in the way that they want to talk about it.

It’s not about being perfect but being authentic and on target to appeal to one market at a time.

2. Create Self-Contained Concept of Your Content

By making your content self-contained, you can reduce complexity while maximizing understandability especially when introducing a new product or a new idea.

This type of content should be modularized, to the point and does not take a lot of time to consume.

First introduce it by bringing the concept to the table then explain it in a practical way that conveys the outcome that your prospect want and finally connect the dots for them and wrap it up.

3. Look For Pain And Urgency

When people have unmet needs they become more idealistic about their situation.

Not only will they believe that they know what they need to solve the problem but will start to think in simple terms to get to their solution.

Focus on delivering simple action steps that would provide the result they want predictably and consistently with as little risk and hassle as possible.

Do you know what thoughts, emotions or pictures pop up in their head when they encounter that exact pain or problem?

Connect on high pain and urgency values will instantly grab their attention.

4. Translate What You Do With What They Value

Realize what motivates your customers is one of the most effective way to get them to take actions. You must be able to communicate the value of what they want and realize the meaning of their desire outcome and its direct impact to their lives.

Translate it in all 3 currencies they want: monetary value, time investment value and labor/workload value.

5. Use Powerful Reframes To Increase Understandability

Leverage psychologies, histories, insights and stories to frame your content into high perceived value formats. Involve their situation in multiple perspectives will dramatically increase the specificity of your communication.

It will also likely increase the memorability and appeal of your products by structuring and organizing them into alternative frameworks that eliminates misunderstanding. It’s saying the same thing in many different ways.

6. Provide The Why, What and How To’s

In order to do that you must be on top of your customer’s emotional drivers knowing what benefits they’re looking for and what value meanings to them.

Incorporate the why, the what and how into your stories.

Explain to your customer why they should pay attention to you right now then introduce what it is, the actual product or services they’re going to get, and finally how to get the result they want with what they get, the step by step recipe.

7 Minimize Risk Maximize confidence

Getting customers to take the action to buy is about making everything “believable.” It is not simply about taking all the risk out but just enough that it doesn’t seem too good to be true.

It’s leading with the giving hand, earning trust over time and building reputation slowly via social proof.

Allowing your prospects to come to their own conclusion that leads to their own decision is a very powerful confident booster.

It’s both emotional and psychological commitment.

The take away: People want stories, techniques and someone that “gets them.” High perceived-value communication should include all those ideas. Then you roll them up in an easy to digest package full of incentives with the promise of great value.

Give your market what they want and you will be rewards with brand loyalty and market share.

At the end of the day it’s ok that you don’t speak to everyone, you only need to resonate with those that get you that you get them.

Effective marketing is not about manipulation, it’s about being human, it will multiply your sales.

How Will Social Media Impact Your Business

by Eric Tsai

I saw a video on the State of Social CRM post on Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang in which Paul Greenberg talks about how companies are having difficulties with cultural changes internally to execute against the new bread of customer, the social customer.

In case you don’t know what CRM is, it’s Customer Relationship Management as described in Wikipedia as a “technology that allows companies to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes—principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support. The overall goals are to find, attract, and win new clients, nurture and retain those the company already has, entice former clients back into the fold, and reduce the costs of marketing and client service.”

What an ear full!

My version would be just an application that keeps track of customer facing activities so you can find the gaps in your service and make adjustments to be more efficient.

The point both Jeremiah and Paul are making is that businesses are still figuring out how to integrate CRM and Social Media so the combination provides meaningful business value.

The shift in how customers use social media is forcing companies to add the social element into their CRM system. They’re both spot on.

It also raises the question that if you’re not in the business of generating value and serving to keep the customer, then what are you in business for?

Social media encourages interaction which leads to generating a new type of intelligence that CRM system were not tracking before. Data such as reactions, activities, sentiments, locations, behavior and preference are converging providing a never seen before clear picture of each customer.

So how does this change the dynamics of your business moving forward?

Well, for one thing you have more leverage as a result of having more available data to target your niche and identify your prospects. In fact, as social CRM matures, I would expect to see companies shift their corporate strategy to ensure that every aspect of customer touch point is aligned with their marketing and sales strategy.

And this is the reason why it requires a true “cultural” change, a mindset really, for businesses to not just think from the perspective of their customer but to become their customer, to feel and empathize with them.

Furthermore, this would mean that the employees may have to do the same by constantly thinking and enhancing the customer experience to the fullest. Instead of just using tools to do sentiment analysis by listening in on what customers are saying, companies can anticipate what customers will say and do before they’ve done it.

Checkout how Salesforce is making their CRM social with Twitter.

This would probably be the ideal desire outcome for most businesses: to proactively facilitate prospects and customers toward a market funnel and minimize customer frustration as problems are addressed before they happen.

Imagine a prospect is interested in finding out more about your product before a purchase, not only would you be able to answer questions using social CRM data to anticipate them, but to personalize your communication and create real-time offering to increase the rate of conversion.

By delivering relevant communication crafted with exactly what the customers want at the right place at the right time, this will be the next phase of effective social influence marketing.

The take away: It is important to recognize this emerging trend in CRM and social media. Even though a cultural shake out would be necessary for companies to fully utilize the benefits of social CRM, it would be wise to start making some basic evaluation of how going social may impact your operations and bottom line.

What’s needed to make that jump and if you’re already using a CRM system, think how you can rally your staff to start thinking about new marketing processes and research more on how you can streamline social media into your CRM.

How To Get Inside the Minds Of Your Customers

by Eric Tsai


Over the past months I wrote about how to find your customers in order to improve your customer segmentation and gain better understanding of your niche market. Everything goes back to connecting with your audience so you can craft campaigns utilizing tactics such as email marketing, SEO and social media.

Then as more businesses learned the tools of the trade, I brought up the point of adding value on my last post because ultimately knowledge will be commoditized similar to most disruptive technologies.

The trick is maximizing the use of your knowledge (when it’s still valuable) to help you grow your business and become an authority in your domain expertise.

If there is one thing that technology won’t be able to replace (at least not easily) it would be the content of your communication.

Every business and individual are elevating the concept of the freemium model, publishing free valuable content on the social web, competing for clicks, eyeballs and engagement opportunities.

It’s what Seth Godin calls “permission marketing”, what Hubspot calls “inbound marketing” and what Joe Pulizzi of Junta42 calls “content marketing.”

However you like to label it, it’s basically creating content that communicates the value in which your target audience values then leveraging it as the bait to attract those in need of your solution (products or services).

This is a highly targeted approach like design thinking, social design and service design that truly serves up what’s going to solve a problem rather than just bunch of trivia concepts or random thoughts.

It’s also a validation on how your content is really worth on the internet where content is the new currency.

And to stay competitive and survive the ongoing challenges marketers and business owners are presently facing, they need to reassess the way they build and maintain relationships with customers.

A product or service is merely a means to an outcome. The real core value lies in the story attached and that is where marketing truly shines.

I don’t want to use a microwave – I want the ability to quickly eat hot food so I can get on with my life. I didn’t go to Home Depot to buy paint – I want a painted wall for my new living room.  I don’t want to use Google – I want answers to my questions now.

You see, you may be very good at what you do but your communication may not do you justice and as a result you end up with lame content that just sounds like everyone else.

And to make matters worse, if you don’t know how to market your content, your content will just sit on the web with little to no traffic.

Unfortunately this is not going to help you in translating how great your product is or how much value you can bring to the table.

In this article, I will explain what to listen for and how to take quantitative measures from listening so you can drill down to the minds of your customers. Then I will show you how to communicate effectively so your solution sounds exactly like what’s going to solve your prospects’ problem.

Step 1: Gather Information by Listening

Many people know the concept of listening and yet few are able to do it well (everyday I continue to practice listening). Listening is a form of information gathering which allows you to take in the data, process and abstract meaning out of the dialogue.

In a typical conversation people tend to wait for their turn to talk rather than actually absorbing the meaning of the words.

We all have some sort of attention deficit as the by product of all the distractions around us from cell phones to emails, from writing a blog article to meeting with your team, from preparing dinner to picking up your kids, we live in a fast pace society.

The trick is to unlearn your habits of making assumptions and let go of as much preconceived thoughts as possible and simply focus on what’s been said at the moment of the conversation.

Think of it as taking a training course and preparing your mind to get into the learning mode so you can pay 100% attention during the interaction.

Listen for key emotional phrases that are connected to a person’s problem. Typically it will sound like this: “my business is xxx” or “I want to xxx but xxx is xxx”, try to dig deeper and get the frustration and emotions out of the conversation.

This helps you to identity what that person values and where the connection points can be made. Take notes if you have to but avoid memorizing what you want to say (I know you want to help) because you will be interrupting the other person and stop listening altogether.

When you try to do anything but listen, you also break the flow of the other person’s thought and the energy of the dialogue making it harder to identify the key emotional points. Take notes and wait until the other person finishes.

Easy right? It takes practice.

Plus if you’re good at what you do, you should be able to provide instant feedback by looking at your notes.

Remember, people don’t care what you have to say unless you show how much you care about what they have to say and how they feel. Yes, how they feel is where the connection point can be made.

This is why great sales people always listen first and ask questions later allowing their prospects to fully emerge into an emotional output session.

This is a skill that takes practice so try it with your friends, colleagues or family as often as possible.

You may find that this will help you discover more about them and can also help them to understand you better. It all starts with listening.

Step 2: Pinpoint Signals Avoid The Noise

The key to forging a powerful connection with your audience is to first understand that people simply want to be heard and understood.

If you can describe your prospect or customer’s problem better than they can, they will automatically assume that you may have the solution to their problem (most of the time).

Even if you don’t have the exactly solution, it’s a great way to establish a common ground for the relationship you’re forging.

And why do we want to connect with others? It’s just how we build trust, the “wow, this person gets me…” or the “OMG, you know exactly what I’m going through!…” emotional connection.

Not everyone is good at communicating their problems, thus when someone perceives that you sound and looks like an expert, you may just become the expert that’s going to solve their problem (or maybe you are an expert? But are you just an expert in your own mind?).

Keep in mind that the focus is on validating your assumptions. Ask questions that helps to confirm their pain points, their vision of success or their desired outcome.

This requires a lot of critical thinking and again do not formulate conclusions from your assumptions unless you have enough information. Otherwise go back to step 1 and ask more open-ended questions so you can listen again.

This of course, applies to all form of conversations including blogging, social media and email exchanges.

The idea is to abstract the emotional triggers from the depth and tonality of the conversation so you can fully understand the opportunities to build meaningful connects.

If you ask the wrong questions, it just shows you don’t get it and you’re eager to sell yourself, your story and your products. You will get your turn but you must be able to distinguish the signals from the noises.

At this stage, you should still be more reactive allowing your customer to freely express themselves.

The most valuable information are those that are freely expressed without boundaries from your prospects. This is also the core value of surveying your customers so you can apply what you’ve learned to improve your product and services.

Step 3: Build Connections That Create Convictions

Once you’ve got solid understanding of the problems your customers want to solve, you then must learn to get into the minds of your prospects so you can turn them into customers.

This is the “I heard, I know, I understand, I believe and I do,” steps that lead to actions through the use communication.

Most people are good at passing through “I know and I understand” stage, but it’s the “I believe” stage that communication often fails to connect resulting in no action. You buy a product or change an unhealthy habit because you would only take the action after you become convinced of your decision.

Most people don’t realize that a desired action is often brought out through the use of specific communications tools from advertising to word-of-mouth testimonial, or via social proof endorsements. Simply put, people don’t just do what we want them to do because we want them to do it; they need to convince themselves first by having the right information.

And how do they know that it’s right for them? Well it’s by moving through each of these communications steps that people will take action.

So if the “I heard” part doesn’t resonate, it won’t move into the next step and in most cases it’s your professional jargon or the inability to identify what it is that your customer really values.

So your job as someone with the solution should be to help by facilitating them through that discovery process and not forcing your ideas upon them.

Again, it’s not trying to convince them, but helping them to convince themselves.

A great marketer knows how to unleash the power of communications and seeks to understand their target market needs, perceptions and how they like to receive information.

Is it how expensive (monetary value) your products are? Or how much time you’ve invested creating your solution? Perhaps it’s the work and labor you’ve put into your services.

Whatever it is, they must do the job of translating why they should take action to contact your or buy your product.

Step 4: Convert The Sale With Meaningful Communication

Once your prospect is convinced of their decision, there usually is no turning back as the human brain will attempt to rationalize that decision from the emotions of wanting to feel good about moving forward and the urgent need to solve their problem.

It’s indicative that most “modern” businesses realize that customers respond more to an emotional connection, thus it’s not about selling but educating.

And educating requires providing how you are going to make their lives easier from a more personal perspective.

This is the part where traditional business owners have a hard time letting go of what they perceive as high value in their knowledge.

It’s true that giving away your knowledge can feel like doing something for free that you usually get paid for, the key is figuring out where to draw the “free line.”

However; I’ve found in many instances, people simply won’t do it even if you provide detail step-by-steps.

For example, recently I wrote a detailed article on “how to use Goolge and Twitter to find your customers,” and have received many emails from people telling me that I’m stupid for giving out such high value content.

As a result not only have I gotten more leads and referrals but I was able to sign up clients while using it to make a case for content marketing, sort of proofing that this stuff works!

You must be able to paint the picture and hit home with what your solution looks like to your prospects, communicate the results they will achieve and the steps they will need to take in order to achieve those results.

Sounds simple but all too often I came across marketing messages full of features and benefits (especially for technology companies or specialty industries) that typically starts with “our innovative products are designed for xxxx,” “our company has xxxx technology that’s xxxx” or the ever popular “xyz company is the leader in xxxx and have xx years of experience…”

So what does it all sound like to the prospect?

It’s all about YOU, not them and that’s not going to take you far.

Businesses are quick to tell people what they have but forget that their prospects are in different stage of the buying cycle. It’s important to speak the language that they understand and values which is why you need to focus on their needs.

So what if you’re an innovative company or a leader in your space? Who isn’t innovative and a leader in their space these days?

The Take Away: The meaning of your communication is the response you get from your audience. If you don’t like the responses you get, you’re not doing a good job of translating your value.

If you can do step 1-3 well, you should have good amount of data to start writing great sales copies and headlines that gets inside the heads of your customers.

And by using what Robert Cialdini’s six “weapons of influence” (reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity), you will end up with powerful communications that gets you phone calls and inbound traffics.

The worse that can happen is you actually don’t have a solution but you marketed as a solution, or your product sucks and it doesn’t solve any problem. In that case great marketing can only help you fish for a day because the fish will learn that your bait isn’t a real one.

What do you think? Are you communicating the right way?

Leave me a comment below or share your most effective marketing copy.

What Is Adding Value And How It Applies To Social Networking

by Eric Tsai

As a social media advocate I often discuss adding value to the conversations, to the communities or to the relationships. I guess I assumed everyone already knew what the term means and how it applies to them until I started to get questions from people.

So what exactly is adding value and how? Is it just an over-used marketing jargon? An illusion of a feel-good emotion? The more I use the term “value” the more I feel like it’s loosing its soul (I’m guilty as charge at times).

One of my favorite artists, the awesome Hugh MacLeod had a great piece about Adding Value with the quote, “The aim of “adding value” is a hard one to argue with… who doesn’t want to add value to their current enterprise? But it’s also utterly meaningless…”

Well, obviously there are many ways to look at it but here is how I perceive the meaning of adding value.

Let’s face it, most businesses wants to add value to the bottom line which means making sales and growing profits.

In sales, adding value used to mean networking in the best interest of your company or your career which is to sell, sell, sell!

Today it means helping people to make informed decisions, finding out their needs first and showing an interest to solve their problems not yours. The one way sales pitch broadcasting simply becomes part of the meaningless noise in a sea of noises.

The Meaning of Knowledge

In sales, either the product sells itself (more of an affirmation and emotional validation) or it’s selling via education (information and data).

A Porsche salesman don’t sell the 911 Turbo, they sell the experience of buying a Porsche (great products drives emotions). On the other hand, a Honda salesman sells the features and benefits against competitors like Toyota and Nissan (value proposition, more needs than wants).

In both scenarios, the goal is to ensure that the person feels good about the decisions that they’ve made (or going to make) on the purchase which leads to trust building. And trust is built on relationships from knowledge and actions.

The more knowledge you have, the less fear you have, the less stress you feel and the better you feel about your decision making process.

You could think of having knowledge as freedom from limitations and having information is empowerment. The ability to make your own decision is valuable because who wants to be pressured into buying?

Emotion Trumps Logic

Now you know the importance of adding value through knowledge transfer, you then need to know how to take actions with your knowledge.

Besides physically helping someone, the action part comes down to communication. And because emotions are the essence of the communication, marketers need to focus on the emotional needs of the customers at the time when feelings are vivid. This mean to empathize with your customers and truly focus on how to make their lives better.

You can not make people’s lives better if you don’t understand their lives.

When you solve someone’s problem, they’ll usually remember it not because of the facts but because of how they felt when it was happening. Simply put, memory is tied to emotions and emotions are more real than thoughts.

Now apply that to marketing and you’ll realize that providing useful and meaningful information does exactly that – it makes people remember you if you satisfy their needs by providing value!

This is why the increasingly Social Web is a great place to find those that are in need of knowledge (also why information product sells). When you need an answer, you want it now, you Google it (you can Yahoo or Bing it too of course).

The online conversation across all social networks are as authentic as it gets, besides the offline in-person engagements, because it’s taking place when people are still feeling the emotions dealing with their problems – what is, how-to, why is, who can…you get the point.

The rest of it is about the context of adding value, at the right place at the right time.

The optimal time to email your subscribers, the suitable LinkedIn group to contribute knowledge or the people you engage on Twitter – they’re all channels to add your value to the conversation within the communities to forge solid relationships.

Motives and Actions

The last point in adding value is the motives behind such actions. Why are you doing this? Why are businesses embracing the freemium model?

Most of the time the objective is to create brand awareness, build credibility and what I keep pounding the table on: to create social proof around the topics of health, wealth and relationships.

However; there is always a trade-off, you get free Gmail with all the awesome features of other Google Apps because Google advertises around your inbox.The same applies to most of the social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. You’re exchanging personal information to use their products.

My take is that if you’re honest about your intentions and focus on serving only those that matters to your business, you will attract the customers you want.

Like what Seth Godin wrote in his book Purple Cow, “the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” Well, he’s right, everyone is NOT your customers.

And the science behind motivation isn’t as clear cut as features and benefits or even monetary rewards. Checkout this video by RSA animation adapted from Dan Pink’s talk at the RSA on “The surprising truth about what motivates us.”

The take away: Identify your customer’s problem is where adding value starts. And listening when they talk is your opportunity to fill the value gaps.

Think of it as facilitating the process of buying on their terms not yours. You have to create the right environment that entices people, and if you do it well, then they will show up and join the party.

It is only by adding value you will be remembered, reciprocated and passed on (via word-of-mouth).

There are simply too much information and too little time. Marketing messages are everywhere and people have developed ad blindness, seeing doesn’t mean retaining.

Are you adding value?