Finding and using the right keywords is an absolute essential to succes on the internet. In fact, I am hard pressed to think of any other aspect of web marketing that is more important.

Which brings me to the purpose of this article. In one respect, I am slightly hesitant to post it because it chronicles my own mistakes when I began writing this blog several years ago. So in that sense, this article is a bit of a cautionary tale.

On the other hand, it is also instructional because it gives me a chance to explain what I learned from my mistakes and the things I know now about using keywords in web marketing.

When I started this blog back in 2006, I began with the primary goal of attracting more copywriting clients. I considered myself a generalist and was willing to take on any and all copywriting assignments.

In my naivity I thought I knew all I need to know about using keywords. My one and only keyword at the time was "Freelance Copywriter." Every post I wrote for this blog began with the title "Freelance Copywriter Secrets ___" and I also sought ways to insert the phrase several times in each article.

So as a result, I was tremendously excited when a few months later I found myself on the third page of Google when one did a search for "freelance copywriter."

I assumed that I was well on the way to conquering the search engine mountain and I just knew that it was only a matter of time before I was at the very top of Big G.

Well some of you can no doubt guess the rest. I never did make it to the front page of Google for my one and only keyword because there is so much competition for that phrase.

I knew nothing (at the time) about long tail keywords. I didn't know why all websites should target several related keywords instead of just one.

But I have learned. I learned that long tail keywords (ie search terms that are four or more words long) are easier to conquer than short, highly competitive keywords.

I have learned that the person who does a search for a phrase like "business case study writer in Texas" is much more focused than the person who types in one or two words. I have also learned that such a person who makes that highly focused a search is probably hundreds of times more likely to do business with the companies he or she finds than the person searching with a vague, general keyword.

Moreover, Google is more likely to start moving your site up the rankings on your primary keyword when it sees that your site is optimized for other, but related, keywords.

And then there was my external linking strategy. I worked hard to write articles and comments on other blogs that linked backed to my site. But I made the following two mistakes with my inbound links:

  1. I created links that either targeted my name or the name of this website ("dynamic copywriting"), and
  2. I seldom linked to any place on this site except the home page.

(By the way, I am a little shocked that I am really admitting all this. lol I hope I don't lose future business by explaining what a dolt I was. But then, explaining how not to do something is often far more instructional than just telling how.)

Both of those are really bad linking stratagies. First, I would have had much more success embedding my keywords into these links, so that a person would see, for example, a clickable blue link that said "website copywriting" that would have brought him or her to this site.

That would have told Google that my site had something to do with "website copywriting." Over time, if I had furthered this technique using other longer tail keywords related to website copywriting, I would have alerted Google that this site was relevant to many different keywords.

Google is after all a computer program that searches all over the web to find sites that pertain to various topics. But links that merely target a person's name or the title of the website tell Google very little of what the site is about. Only keywords will do this job.

Secondly, Google quickly dismisses inbound links that are only pointed to the main page of a website. These links should point to specific articles within the site that are related to the inbound keyword. And those articles should likewise be optimized for that same keyword by including the keyword in the title and in several places throughout the text.

This tells Google that the site has depth and covers a variety of related topics in detail. That demonstrates to Google that such a site is an "authority site" on its subject matter.

All this is to say that I had to learn search engine optimization in part by trial and error. And I am still learning.

Of course I have been working hard to get this site better optimized, but it takes a lot to turn the Titanic around. The task has been complicated by the fact that I am no longer a generalist, but am more focused on writing web content and search engine optimization.

The lesson here for other website owners is to pay careful attention to the keywords that relate to your business. Both internal and external keyword strategies are essential to getting high rankings by Google.

I hope you find this helpful as you build and develop your own sites. I suspect I am not the only website owner that has had to learn from mistakes, but I would be interested to hear comments on what lessons you have learned about search engine optimization.

NOT USING NON-SPAM EMAIL MARKETING FOR YOUR BUSINESS YET? Learn why email marketing is the easiest, most effective and most affordable way to get new clients. Download my free ebook and receive tips, ideas and case studies to help you get more new customers at


COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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I wanted to pass along some really interesting advice about using social networking and how powerful it is in today's business world.

First, I found this on the social networking site LinkedIn under a question Michael Stelzner posed for an article he is writing, "What should businesses understand BEFORE using Twitter as a marketing tool?"

Now this, in itself, is an example of how to use Social Networking. When Michael posed this question he received many responses from all sorts of people who use LinkedIn (LinkedIn, I should explain, is a business person's alternative to sites like MySpace and Facebook). So he was getting feedback and, just as importantly, exposure, for this single question.

One of the many really insightful answers he got was from Denise Wakeman of The Blog Squad and Build a Better Business Blog. Candidly, I had never heard of Denise before or her two sites, but I am now reading both of them with considerable interest and finding them to be a wealth of top notch information.

I took you down that pathway to show you how Social Networking, whether you are using LinkedIn , Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or regular blogs, can create massive exposure. Michael got exposure (and some really good answers to his question) by posting on LinkedIn, and Denise got a new reader and a reference on my blog today.

The grease that keeps all these mechanisms moving is the willingness of people to offer good advice and ideas to others without expectation of immediate gain. Denise Wakeman's generosity has added one more link to her websites because I found her response to Michael to be so valuable.

Now I don't want to test your patience any further, so here is the advice from Denise Wakeman regarding using Twitter as a marketing tool:

1. Everything you tweet is seachable on the web. Every tweet creates a new page. This can be good and bad. Good if you're strategically using key words for which you want to be found; and bad if you aren't mindful that if you're not nice, it can come back to bite you!

2. Remember that what you tweet is visible to the public and may get retweeted. If you don't want it to be public, don't tweet it.

3. Once you get beyond a few followers, you may not know everyone who is following you. There are no secrets. I guess #1, 2 and 3 are all related.

4. Though twitter can be a time suck, it can also massively increase your exposure to influencers in your niche and be well worth the time you spend cultivating relationships and sharing relevant, useful content.

What is your opinion? Do you have any more ideas about how to use social networking as a marketing tool?

COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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I found a very interesting article on that was posted for lawyers wishing to market their law practices. However, since the article is actually a list of over 100 marketing ideas that were originally posted by the Small Business Administration, I think all business people will find it helpful.

The article can be found at 100+ Marketing Ideas.

Some of the ideas you may find helpful are:

  • Get a marketing intern to take you on as a client; it will give the intern experience and you some free marketing help.
  • Produce separate business cards/sales literature for each of your target market segments (e.g. government and commercial and/or business and consumer).
  • Photocopy interesting articles and send them to clients and prospects with a hand-written FYI note and your business card.
  • Join a list-serve (online group) related to your profession. You can find hundreds of such groups on Google groups or Yahoo groups.
  • Never let a day go past without engaging in at least one marketing activity.
  • Publish a newsletter for your prospects and customers (the article doesn’t specify, but I would recommend an email newsletter which is free to send out).
  • Test a new mailing list. If it produces results, add it to your current direct mail lists or consider replacing a list that's not performing up to expectations.
  • Rather than sending direct mail in plain white envelopes, use colored or oversized envelopes to pique recipients' curiosity.

COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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Brian Carroll’s “B2B Lead Generation Blog” is always a source of really good information to anyone who needs customers and sales (do any of you fit this category?). But his recent article, Can a social media like Twitter boost your lead generation results? Is especially enlightening.

I have dabbled on and off with Twitter for about a year now, without actually going all in (to use the famous poker term). But Carroll’s thoughts have me taking a new look at the popular social media site.

For those of you who don’t know, Twitter is sort of like a blog that limits your posts (called “Tweets” in the Twitter world) to 140 characters. It is precisely because they are so short and sweet that has spurred Twitter’s popularity. People who would not read blog posts of the length typically found on sites like my own, avidly read tweets from many people on Twitter.

Brian Carroll describes some of the lead generation uses he has discovered for Twitter:

Well, I’ve started to use my Twitter account a lot more, and I’ve found some productive uses for the application:

  • Sent mini survey question and got answers quickly
  • Promoted new blog posts and upcoming webinars
  • Shared articles, resources, and blog posts that I found interesting
  • Learned what topics my network finds interesting faster
  • Discovered some useful blog posts and resources by using

To these uses, let me also add one of my own. I constantly encourage my clients to start blogging as a way to get the work out about their businesses. But as you can well imagine, most business people or professionals are short on time.

Now, thanks to Brian’s thoughts, I can encourage them to start posting on Twitter.

Anyone, no matter how busy, can write 140 characters.

COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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Ask most business people if they would like for their web sites to achieve number one Google rankings on all the important keywords related to their business, and you will get two reactions:

THE FIRST GROUP will jump up and down excitedly and assure you that of course they want to improve their search engine rankings.

THE SECOND GROUP will give you a blank stare and ask what a Google ranking is, what a keyword is and (in some dire cases) say they are just waiting to see if this "Internet Thing" is a passing fad before they get involved.... (sigh)

Ok, so let's just focus on the first group, shall we?

A keyword, as I've said before, is something of a misnomer. The phrase leads one to think it is a single word. Actually it is the equivalent to a "Search Query" someone types on Google, Yahoo, MSN or some other search engine when they want to look something up.

Someday, if the person types in "Texas Web Copywriter," "Texas Search Engine Expert," Texas SEO Expert," "Texas SEO Writer" or "Texas Case Study Writer," hopefully they will find this site or some other article I've written online. In other words, these keywords are terms I have made an effort to link to my name.

Also notice that none of these keywords are single words. They are actually three or four words long. Longer search phrases or keywords are called "Long Tail Keywords" and "Long Tail Keywords" is one of the golden concepts in improving search engine optimization.

Why is that?

Well I'm glad you asked. The longer the phrase, the more specific it is. For the person typing this phrase into Google, it means she knows exactly what she wans to find. She didn't just type "copywriter," she knew she wanted someone located in Texas and she also wanted someone who could write web content.

If your site is selling merchandise, people who type in long, very specific keywords are more likely to buy from you if you offer what they are looking for. In fact thse people probably already have their credit cards out of their pockets before they get online.

on the other hand, the people who are just looking for a copywriter, and not an "SEO expert who writes web content" may or may not want to do business with me.

That is the searcher's side of long tail keywords. Now let's look at the web site owner's side of this.

The sites these people who look for very specific, long tail keywords will find are going to be those that have those exact long tail keywords mentioned in the site several times.

This is what I meant when I titled this article "Improving Search Engine Optimization." There are two ways to improve search engine rankings. The first way is to buy "pay per click" ads from Google or Yahoo. The second way is "organic search optimization." The "organic" part of this term refers to the fact the Google itself finds these sites based upon what it determines the site to be about.

But how does Google determine what a site is about? First it will look at the domain name of the site itself. Had I been smart(er) when I started this blog, I might have titled the domain "," ","," "" or "," or something else along those lines.

The next thing Google does is look at the titles of the the individual articles. Since this article is titled "Organic Search Engine Optimization," it will very likely get indexed as being about, you guessed it, "search engine optimization."

Now if you have been reading this site for a while, you know that this site covers a lot more ground than just SEO topics. Each article about each different topic will tell Google a little more about the theme of this site.

But this one article will also tell Google that search engine optimization is one of the topics it does cover.

To make a complex topic simple, let me sum up with this: the way to get higher rankings from Google is to identify the best keywords to concentrate on. Find out what search queries your ideal customers type into search engines in order to find what it is that you offer.

Then armed with these keywords, use them often (but be careful here because Google will penalize you if your over do this) throughout your site. Notice that I repeatedly used the keyword, "improving search engine optimization" throughout this article. I did so deliberately to illustrate the point.

But as I said before, don't go overboard. Use your keyword about 4 times out of every 100 words (or about a 4% keyword density).

Can you do this? I bet you can.

COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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One of the things I want to do this year is to pass along some of the most outstanding marketing ideas I am able to find.  One very important idea is to use blogging as a marketing tool. 

Case in point:  Back in December 2006 I wrote about Grant Griffiths, a Kansas Family Lawyer, who had stopped all of his traditional advertising because his marketing efforts using his blog was bringing in all the business he needed.

I was thinking about Mr. Griffiths because I was explaining to an other professional why blogging was such a great way to market just about any business. So today I  did a number of Google searches to see where his blog is ranked by the world’s most popular search engine. Here are the results:

Grant Griffiths dominates almost every keyword or search term I could think of related to "Kansas Family Law." The only term I looked up that listed his blog on the second page was “Kansas Child Visitation.”

All the other searches I did had him on Google’s first page. The results listed below are all for Google’s non-paid listings. (In other words, the paid ads Google sells may be higher, but Mr. Griffiths’ blog outranks all the others on the "organic," or earned, search results.)

  • Kansas Family Law, #2 on page one
  • Kansas Family Lawyer, #1 on  on page onepage one
  • Kansas Family Attorney, #1 on page one
  • Kansas Divorce Law, #6 on page one
  • Kansas Child Custody Law, #1 on page one
  • Kansas Child Custody Lawyer, #2 on page one
  • Kansas Divorce Lawyer, #2 on page one
  • Kansas Divorce Attorney, #2 on page one
  • Kansas Divorce Mediation, #4 on page one
  • Kansas Divorce Mediator, #6 on page one
  • Kansas Fathers Rights, #1 on page one
  • Kansas Dads rights, #5 on page one

Think about it. Almost anyone who searches for information about Kansas family law or Kansas family lawyers is going to find Mr. Griffiths’ site. And when they get to this site, they will find a wealth of information on the topic.

Do you think he has to convince people that he knows what he is talking about when they have read a site like his? Do you think he gets to be choosy about which clients he wants to work with? (or do you think he has to settle for the lowest paying, most disagreeable clients because he is desperate for business?)  

And my personal favorite, how many clients do you think try to "negotiate" his fee down to rock bottom?

Now also take a look at the length or complexity of his articles. For the most part they are surprisingly short or easy to write.

Some are fairly long, but there is a fair amount of short articles in there as well. Many of his articles simply cite and comment on information he gleans from other sources. Some of his articles are list articles (such as ten ways to cooperatively seek the best interests of your child).

What I am getting at here is that Mr.Griffiths has achieved marketing success with blogging by simply communicating information to his readers on their level. He updates his blog regularly and he uses important keywords that he knows will correspond to the search queries his prospective clients will use when they go into Google.

And he did all this in a relatively short period of time. I wrote my original article in Deccember 2006 and he started his blog sometime in 2005 (I'm not sure exactly when in 2005). That means he started dominating the Google rankings in at least 24 months.

Something else. Griffiths has aparently taken a sabatical because his blog has not been updated since late 2007. Nevertheless, that blog still dominates all those keywords even without additional writing on his part.

How can you or your firm imitate what he is doing? Simply create a blog and update it regularly. Use the keywords the customers you are targeting will also use when they use search engines in both the titles of your articles and repeated in the bodies of the articles themselves.

Within a few months, you should see your site climbing the search engine ranks for the keywords you are focusing on.

COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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Whether you sell a product or a service, you will put yourself miles ahead of your competition if you include an education element to your marketing process. This is why white papers, case studies, informative web content and ebooks are such popular and powerful marketing tools these days. It is also why many marketers find themselves in front of audiences giving speeches, seminars or workshops.

The fact is that companies or professionals who take the time to educate and share their knowledge can establish a much higher level of credibility in their customers’ eyes than those who simply go after the sale.

But what about educating customers and clients after the sale?

I found myself thinking about this after reading John Jantsch’s recent article Teach Your Way To Referrals in his blog on Duct Tape Marketing. (By the way, if you aren’t reading Duct Tape Marketing yet, you are missing out on a wealth of great ideas and information).

Jantsch makes the excellent point that after sale education efforts pay off big time in referrals, and I would also add repeat business.

This is simply not that hard to do. I am working with a client right now who has asked me to create an ebook and email marketing campaign for sales people who use his products. Without revealing confidential information, his products help a variety of sales people and small businesses generate leads.

The ebook he wants me to write is going to be a free, downloadable educational product that will give his prospects marketing tips and ideas. And once the ebook is downloaded, the prospect will receive regular emails that offer more tips and advice. (I'm sure you will recognize this as a classic "Permission Marketing" campaign).

Similarly, you can easily find a variety of ways to communicate your own knowledge and expertise to your target market and existing customers. It isn't a difficult process, just identify the problems customers want to solve or questions they ask (or better yet, look for the questions they should be asking but don't yet know enough to ask them). Create simple info products or presentations that address these hot buttons and you have an educational marketing campaign.

Jantsch puts it this way:

I know I love it when I get buy a product and the first thing I receive is a getting started guide, followed by a full tutorial, followed by daily “have you tried this” emails. Every business, product or service can do the same.

Check out his article at Teach Your Way To Referrals, and if you are not already reading his blog, start doing so now. You’ll thank me later.

And one more thing. If you would like to learn more about this educational approach to marketing, be sure to download a free copy of my own ebook, How To Increase Your Sales By Sending Out Emails. You will read about other businesses that have gotten excellent results by educating their customers and prospects.

COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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The most glaring problem I see on the business (or charitable) websites I visit is the lack of a form, clearly visible on the home page, to encourage visitors to opt in to an email list. The owners of these sites, frankly, are failing to take advantage of one of the best assets for putting up a website at all.

When I give talks to business people, one of the caveats I preach over and over again is that the most important reason to even have a website is to build an email list of qualified, interested prospects who willingly volunteer to receive information from you.

It is NOT enough to put a lame comment like “For more information call 1-800-XXX-XXXX.” Folks, it is not going to happen. They are not going to initiate contact, you have to do it. So give your visitors incentives. Bribe them! Give them self-serving, “what's in it for me” reasons to fill out a little form on your home page that asks for their names and email addresses.

So here are ten, plus one, reasons why your site should have a clearly visible place for your visitors to opt in to receive informative emails from you:

  1. An opt in form enables you to build a list of people who have an interest in what you offer. Direct marketers have long quoted the mantra, “the money is in the list” for good reason. A list of interested prospects or repeat customers is the most valuable asset any business can have.
  2. An opt in list allows you to target people who have given you permission to market to them. Read Seth Godin's modern classic, “Permission Marketing : Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers” which introduced the worlds to the concept of getting prospects to opt onto your list by providing free information that solves problems specific to your target market or helps them achieve certain goals that are, again, unique to your targeted prospects.
  3. The people on you opt in list have self-selected themselves as your target market. This means you will no longer have to use the shotgun approach of trying to advertise or send direct mail to huge numbers of people. Seth Godin calls this getting prospects to “raise their hands” and identify themselves as people have needs your product or service can address.
  4. The people on your opt in list WANT to receive your messages. As long as you don't bombard them with sales messages and provide them with a lot of useful, helpful information, they will continue to look forward to your emails.
  5. Since most autoresponders require the person to confirm their request before they receive your information, you avoid accusations of spamming them.
  6. Speaking of autoresponders, they are a software program available for minimal cost that sends out your emails automatically. The visitor fills out your opt in form, next receives an email that asks them to click a link in order to confirm that they wanted to receive the information, and then they are sent a second email with the requested info. Then they will receive your pre-written emails with additional information at regular intervals. This means your entire marketing program can be put on autopilot by using opt in forms and an autoresponder.
  7. Sending out emails to the people on your opt in list is free. In an age when advertising and other forms of marketing is simultaneously becoming more expensive and less productive, email marketing to people who have requested your information is a true bargain.
  8. An opt in form allows you to have repeated contacts with people who would otherwise be one time visitors to your website. Let's face it, a website is like a screen door on a submarine. Most visitors come to your site for about a minute and then leave. Very few people will buy on their first visit to your website. But if you get their attention and give them and incentive to opt in to your list by offering them some very useful information, you can nudge them again and again (again let me repeat that this works best if you continually give them useful information along with your sales and marketing messages), until they buy.
  9. Continuing this last thought, opt in marketing defeats the hazard of one-shot marketing. Most people will not decide to buy on their first exposure to an offer. They need repeated exposures to absorb all of the benefits you offer and to develop a belief that your claims are true.
  10. Opt in marketing can position you and your company as experts if done right. Offering free information puts you in a whole different category of people who want their business. Both the initial piece that entices them to opt in, and the ongoing emails that give you additional opportunities to communicate your message to them, show them that you are capable of solving their problems or helping them achieve their goals.

BONUS REASON: Perhaps the best reason of all for having an opt in form on your website is that your list building efforts allow you to build a relationship with your prospects. Over time, you become a known and trusted source and advisor. Because you take time to educate the people on your list, your credibility climbs through the roof. And nothing in business can beat a relationship built on trust and credibility.

COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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Mike Santoro over at Duct Tape Marketing, has a neat article about a good marketing idea gone bad.

Apparently Delta bought some Google ads for the keyword “cheap train tickets.” Obviously Delta flies airplanes and is not in the train business, but give them credit for understanding that their competition is not just American Airlines or British Airways. They are competing against every carrier that provides transportation to passengers.

But, as Mike points out, clicking the link leads only to Delta's main home page. The visitors, who thought they had clicked an ad for cheap train tickets, find themselves on an airline's site. Huh? I have no doubt that 100% of these visitors either felt they were deceived or clicked away in confusion.

Mike's article goes on to say that if Delta had simply sent them to a page that offered comparisons of their air fares to train fares on certain routes, they may have converted a good number of these visitors. As it was, they no doubt wasted every penny they spent on these ads.

The lesson is that your home page is not the place to send every visitor. If you go to the trouble of getting links for certain types of visitors, such as through PPC (Pay Per Click) ads, think through what these people want, what they are looking for, and what information they are seeking.

AND give them what they want.

This all goes back to the idea of “Buyer Personas” again. Don't treat all your visitors as if they were all stamped out of the same mold. Every website offers different things to different types of visitors. The better you are at distinguishing the different needs and wants that drive these visitors, the better you will do at turning them into buyers.

This is especially true if you use PPC ads such as Google Adwords. Delta's visitors clicked links about cheap train fares. When they arrived at Delta's site, they had questions about cheap train fares and expected answers, which Delta failed to deliver.

Check out Mike's article at Delta Screws Up Smart Google Ad Buy. I think you will find it helpful.

COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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Recently as I've consulted with a number of business owners about writing content for their websites, I've once again been struck once again how difficult it is for most of them to come up with a “Unique Selling Proposition,” or USP, for their business.

A USP is an essential focused statement that tells a prospective customer or client why they would benefit from doing business with you. It is the “REASON WHY” buying they should buy your product or engaging your service.

What normally happens is business owners tell the world about themselves or their companies or their products. What we normally see is a “tell, tell” approach.

Look at magazine ads or Yellow Page ads for examples of what NOT to do. Most of these ads will not show you a real USP. You will see a lot of bragging or unsupported claims like, “we deliver excellence.”

I had an English teacher that referred to this kind of writing as “Solemn Vapors” because they use a lot of high sounding wording. Think of essays turned in by freshman English students and you will know what I mean.

So how do you write a succinct USP? How do you communicate what you do in a way that will persuade a potential customer to do business with you? Here are some ideas to help you create a powerful USP.

  1. What CHANGES are your potential customers or clients seeking? How can help them bridge the gap between where they are now and where they want to be? Most people buy to bring about some sort of change. This change can be to make their lives easier or more comfortable. To give them more status or pleasure, or it can be to make their work easier or faster.

    The point is that if you focus on changes, you get your eyes off yourself, your company and your product. You stop talking about things like how long you've been in business or how respected you are in the community.

  2. Make sure you discuss these changes with specifics. Don't use change substitute words like “Results” or “Difference.” Make a clear distinction between the “Before” situation your prospects live in now, and the “After” situation they want to be in.

  3. Focus on problems. Most really good USPs are about solving, avoiding or escaping a problem situation. Even the classic M & M candy commercial talked about candy that melted in your mouth not in your hands. That slogan was a great USP that dealt with a problem every parent has encountered, chocolate covered hands on a little toddler.

    If you can solve a business problem, help someone get out of debt, make more money, help a teenager get rid of acne, save a marriage, or solve any other kind of problem, you can turn this problem – solution scenario into a great USP.

  4. Brag about quality. Ok this is the really dangerous one. Most claims of quality are empty and vague. But if you can do more than make a generalized claim of excellence and give specifics about how you achieve this quality, you can use quality as your USP. For example, if you use only the very best materials to make your products, or you have instituted a quality control process that is unique in your industry, these might be worth bragging about. If you put your service people through twice as much training as your competitors, or if you are the owner of an auto repair shop who actually telephones each and every customer after a visit to make sure they were satisfied with the service they received, you can brag about these things as well.

    Make sure any claim to quality can be backed up with specifics.

A good USP will stand out in the market place and will give your customers a reason to seek you out and buy from you.COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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I just read a really interesting article by Robert Stover on his blog, Breakthrough Copywriting Ideas, called “The Antidote to 'Howler Monkey' Copy – The Ethos Effect.

“Howler Monkey” means copy that shouts or is full of hype. It sounds phoney or contrived. And it puts a reader's guard up because it lacks believability .. and yet you can't help but trip over examples of over-hyped websites and sales material all over the web.

But the question for most of us who make our livings marketing on the web is how to be persuasive without resorting to extravagant claims.

To answer this, Stover refers us to the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, who wrote about persuasion in his work “Rhetoric.” Aristotle said there are three tools used by great persuaders.

The first is “Pathos” from which we get our word, “passion.” Pathos refers to emotion. It excites either the fear of pain or loss, or it promises pleasure or gain. Pathos is key to any persuasive copy and is always the core of any sales material worth its salt.

But the danger with Pathos is it can be overdone, resulting in hype. Once that line is crossed, your credibility is gone and cannot be regained.

The second tool is “Logos” from which we get our word, “Logic.”

Logic is never as persuasive as emotion, but in most cases it must be included in good copy. It seldom persuades, but it is always conspicuous if it is absent.

Finally, Aristotle gives us the tool of “Ethos.”

Ethos is character and credibility. Stover points out that your family doctor usually has high ethos, whereas a used car salesman stereotypically has very low ethos. Unfortunately, ethos is often left out of online copy and websites suffer when this important element is missing.

Stover describes two keys to ethos: The first key is when the seller has expertise. The second is when you perceive that the seller has your best interest at heart.

To illustrate these two keys, he gives two examples of financial counselors. One is your brother who has just started a job as a financial advisor. You would probably trust your brother to have your best interests at heart, but you might not consider him to have much in the way of credibility.

On the other hand, you might know of a millionaire stock broker who obviously knows investments and is an expert in his field, but you may not trust him to put your interests above his own.

I don't want to give away everything in Robert Stover's article, so I encourage you to check out “The Antidote to 'Howler Monkey' Copy – The Ethos Effect to read more about the power of Ethos and how to establish it on your own website or marketing materials.

COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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I suspect Joe Wurzelbacher was ready to fall out of his chair Wednesday night when John McCain used him as an example of why he disagreed with Sen. Barack Obama's tax plan.

Wurzelbacher, aka "Joe the Plumber," has become an instant celebrity after he asked Obama a question about how the candidate's tax plan would effect him.

But my point here is not to discuss politics, but how putting a face to your ideas and issues can propel them far beyond mere facts or figures can. What McCain did was nothing more complicated than to tell the Ohio plumber's story as a way of getting his political message across.

All of us have messages we want to convey. In business, one of the most compelling stories any company can tell is about quality.

  • Why do your building materials save energy costs?
  • Why do your burgers taste so great?
  • Why do your clients gain so much more than your competitors' clients?

Another persuasive story form is the success story.

Success stories are small vignettes about real people your products or services have helped. They focus on how these people were able to solve their problems because of a business relationship with your company.

Success stories are extremely powerful for the same reason Joe the Plumber's story is a better way to illustrate tax plans. Few of us understand the inner workings of economic policy (although lately it could be argued that we are all becoming experts), but we do understand about people.

When I read about a client who overcame a serious legal problem because of the hard work of his lawyer, I understand (and more importantly, I believe). When I read about a good marriage counselor that was able to help a couple work through their problems and save their marriage, I cheer them on and I form a bond with the people this story was about.

Stories sell because they communicate on a gut level. They let us experience the emotional joy of witnessing a problem being solved and a stressful situation overcome.

So the lesson here is to go out and find your own "Joe the Plumber" story that you can use to help communicate your message. Illustrate your facts and figures with real life examples using real people. Put faces to your communications and they will resonate.

COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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Let's talk about Sarah Palin and smart marketing.

I think the GOP campaign has committed a major blunder in the way it has gone about "packaging" Gov. Palin. This blunder was very evident in her interviews with Katy Couric and in her debate with Joe Biden.

It has to do with her lack of top level skills in foreign policy. She is obviously a quick study who has done massive amounts of homework on the subject in the few short weeks she has been on the campaign trail. But whether you like her or not, the fact remains that foreign policy is not her strong point.

In the last three decades, there have been four presidents who were governors before they ran for president. By the very nature of the job, a governor does not have a lot of foreign policy experience. It just isn't part of the job they do.

So what these four men have done when they were elected president, was to assemble teams of foreign polciy gurus on their staffs (no I will not get into a discussion about how good these teams were or what decisions they adviced their presidents to make).

No president comes into office with extensive skills in every area of the job. They have to rely on their staffs to help them and advise them.

But what Palin has done has been to make claims that because Alaska is very close to Russia, she has foreign policy experience. No wonder Tina Fey, David Letterman and Jay Leno have had so much fun at her expence.

What if, instead, she had just admitted that governors come along with other skills. What if she had cited Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Bush to point out that governors have experience as chief executives but not as foreign policy wonks?

By admitting her lack of foreign policy experience, she could have shifted much of the spotlight to her extensive energy experience and to the fact that she is the only person among these four candidates who has ever been a chief executive.

Dan Kennedy, one of the greatest copywriters alive today, even goes so far as to look for flaws, faults and limitations in the products he sells. When he finds them, he highlights them, shouts about them from the roof tops and makes sure his readers know he is not claiming that his product will be all things to all people.

And in so doing, he positions the product so he can talk about its strengths. When a marketer freely admits that her product has a flaw, don't we then "listen up" to find out what the good points about it are?

No one will ever believe a marketer who claims his or her product does everything better than any other product anyway. But a curious thing happens when we admit a flaw. Buyers start paying close attention to the message to find out what the good things are.

Admitting limitations puts more of a focus on the benefits you do claim. And doing this gives you much more credibility in the process.

If you refuse to do this, you may - just may - find yourself being paradied on Saturday Night Live.

COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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It is no secret that one of the most effective ways to optimize a website is to include your targeted keyword in your site's domain name. For example, if one of your business' targeted keywords is "accounting software," you may want to have as your domain (by the way, I just checked and this URL has expired so you could grab it now if you are quick enough).

Unfortunately, most of us do not have the luxury of re-naming our websites just to target one keyword, no matter how valuable that specific keyword may be. Most businesses either already have a website or they must target other keywords.

But if I were in the accounting software business, I would still be very interested in grabbing such a domain name because there has to be a lot of people who log into Google and type in "accounting software" as their query.

The solution, is to set up mini-sites, or as a recent article on Dosh Dosh calls them, "Mini-Funnel" Websites. These Mini Funnel sites are actually "slave sites" that exist to answer a single, specific question and feed search engine traffic to a master site.

They get searchers because these mini sites are set up to grab one keyword and then re-direct these visitors to another site that may target many other –related- keywords.

Maki (the author of the Dosh Dosh article) uses an interesting example a site called, Is Barack Obama a Muslim. This site is a one-page site that has the word "NO" printed in big black letters against a stark white background. Visitors who click the word "NO" are directed to an article on that addresses smear email campaigns.

The article, How ‘Mini-Funnel’ Websites Can Help You Increase Traffic, Generate Leads and Build Exposure, also points out an interesting twist. The Obama team has also set up companion mini-funnel sites that offer different phrases and even allow for misspellings by searchers.

For example, the site Is Barack Obama Muslim, which leaves out the word "a," has produced even better results than the previous example:

"This particular one ranks the highest on both Yahoo and Google for the ‘is barack obama muslim‘ phrase, taking the no. 1 spot and even outranking Obama’s own official website. This appears to be the most established version of the three; Yahoo site explorer shows that it has 10,762 incoming links."

There is even a version of the site that uses the word "muslin" instead of "Muslim," to accommodate people who may misspell the word when they type in their search engine query.

The lesson here is that mini sites, which target single keywords, can drive massive traffic to your main website. Look for search terms related to your business and set up one-page sites that answer the visitor's question and then provide a link for more information to your main site.

This will allow you to benefit from traffic coming in from many, many different search terms.

COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Heather Margolis, Director of Marketing, and Yoshi Watanabe, Principle Software Engineer, of Kadient, Inc. Kadient has already been the topic of two previous blog posts I've written, but I was so impressed by how they go about doing business that I asked if I could interview them by telephone.

Kadient makes sales coaching and enablement software that makes the lives of salespeople easier by giving them the content they need, when they need it, depending upon the situation they are in.

One of the constant problems sales executives experience is that their sales people often don't actually use sales support software provided by their companies. If they perceive that the program is too awkward, too hard to learn or gets in the way of actually making sales, most employees will stop using software and go back to doing things the old way.

Mr. Watanabe spoke about how the company in general, and the development teams in particular, underwent a paradigm shift that is unique among technical companies. Traditionally the emphasis is on product excellence. The thinking is that if a company makes the very best, most technically advanced product, the market will come to them.

He said, "It is not uncommon for developers to create products with no idea of how it is used and who is using it and what problems they are having."

This, of course, made me think of the old expression, "Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door." Perhaps this is a great idea in principle, but it ignores the reality of marketing and the necessity to open up two-way communications with customers. It also begs the question of whether the mousetrap is better in just its creators' eyes or in the eyes of those people who are intended to use it.

Mr. Watanabe describes how Kadient's paradigm shift began. "We asked ourselves: Ok we've built our software (the first version). Does it really help the users solve their problems? And after getting feedback from users, we had to admit that the answer was no. It was confusing and cumbersome to the users and didn’t solve some of their major painpoints."

The system, they realized, was the center of their focus – not the end users' needs.

So Kadient shifted their thinking from just product development to "User Stories." They brought together people who had daily contact with actual customers and users, product managers, developers and the marketing team for a two and a half day session.

Everyone who represented users and had contact with them were given index cards to describe what users wanted, not just when it came to the product, but also in day to day life. For instance, a sales rep is working with 20 prospects at a time and may not remember every status. They may also be a young professional always on the go and needs things to be quick and easy.. At the end of the session they had produced 100s of index cards with statements about what their users wanted.

These wants, of course, were then shown to actual customers, users and buyers within the companies they serviced for further refinement.

This led to an understanding that some users wanted some things while other users wanted different things. With this understanding, Kadient created several different "buyer personas" to help them make each of these buyer needs more personal.

For example, one of their buyer personas is a sales rep named "Anya." Anya is a successful sales person for a financial services company who has been in the top 10% for the last five quarters. Her goal is to do less of her own administrative tasks and free herself to spend more face time with actual customers.

"Luke" on the other hand is a 25 year old with sales talent but is not achieving the company's expectations for him. He needs a system that will help him build a better pipeline of prospects and needs help understanding these prospects' needs.

Obviously, Kadient has many other buyer personas, but Anya and Luke illustrate how they have put effort into personalizing the needs and goals of two types of end users. But it is what Kadient does next that really seems to set them apart.

Ms. Margolis said, "We segment a market, but then we go a step further above and beyond."

In company meetings it is not uncommon to hear conversations that begin with, "What would Anya do?" or "What would Luke do?"

In other words, they don't think of their buyer personas as mere segments of their marketplace, they think of them as actual people. Composites of many similar users, but people nevertheless.

They have created life-sized cardboard cutouts of Anya and Luke that get moved around within Kadient's building. One day they can be in a conference room, another day in the lunch room, and another in someone's cubicle. The idea is to get to "know" Anya and Luke as if they were real people.

And it is not just the marketing people who are tuned in with these personas. "The thing that I am the most impressed with is how the engineering and product development people have embraced the concept of buyer personas and user personas. It makes our sales, marketing and development teams much more in-tuned with each other," said Ms. Margolis.

So what kinds of results have these ideas delivered? The day before our conversation, Ms. Margolis was interviewing a buyer with one of their customer companies. This customer will save $500,000 that couldn't have been realized if the product wasn't actually being used.

The feedback she gave Ms. Margolis was that, "They employees keep talking about how easy Kadient's software is to use."

Perhaps that is the greatest testament Kadient could have had.

COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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I just posted a new ebook I've been working on for small business owners and professionals who need to increase sales or attract new clients.

This new ebook is free and can be downloaded at How To Increase Your Sales With Non-Spam Email Marketing.

I've done a lot of work with lawyers and law firms, as well as "brick and mortor" small business owners, and have seen them spending an inordinate amount of money on useless advertising that produces disappointing results. In response, How To Increase Your Sales With Non-Spam Email Marketing was written to give them the tools of Permission Marketing, email marketing, information products, direct response advertising and direct response web sites.

I absolutely believe that almost all businesses can double their sales using these marketing tools.

So if you are a small business owner or professional who wants to attract more business, be sure to download your free copy. Using these methods, you really can double your sales - and I can prove it.

COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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As I listened to Hillary Clinton's speech last week in the Democratic Convention (I know, I have been drawing a lot of marketing lessons from the presidential race, but I promise not to turn this into a political blog), I was struck by how often she weaved "case studies" into her speech.

She talked about a single mom who had adopted two children with disabilities and then lost her job. She also talked about a young marine who was worried about his buddies who were still over in Iraq. And she talked about people who were worried about getting needed healthcare for their families.

I've noticed that Mrs. Clinton has done this often over the course of this campaign. The people she talks about are real people she has met along the campaign trail.

Ronald Reagan did this too. Many of his speeches were laced with stories about actual people who were facing incredible challenges.

And you have to admit that regardless of your political persuasions, the use of these "case studies" makes for effective communications.

Now let me tell you the wrong way to do this. There is a personal injury lawyer who advertises extensively here in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. Imagine the most annoying, most grating lawyer ads you've ever heard. Well this guy is worse.

He calls himself "The Texas Hammer" and he promises to "fight for you to get you the money you need." (Sigh).

Anyway, he also lists some of the recent cases he has one. Well actually he lists the dollar amounts of the awards he has won. He tells very little about the clients themselves as human beings. He might say they injured their leg or wrist or whatever, but no information about them as people that would make us sympathize with them or relate to them.

In other words, they are presented as dollar figures, not as people who were helped out of a difficult problem.

Don't make this mistake.

I've seen a lot of case studies that do the same thing. The subjects are presented as cardboard, lifeless characters who are little more than extras in their own movie.

But readers want to connect with the people they are reading about. Allow readers to experience the emotions and problems of your case studies subjects. Delve into their fears, the raw emotional nerves of their troubles. THEN when you show how they escaped from these problems, the reader will cheer for their happy ending as they would for a dramatic movie.

Hillary won 18 million votes, and I have to wonder if a lot of them were a result of her ability to tell compelling stories about our fellow citizens. And if it works in politics, it will also work in business.

COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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