I just read a great article on Patrick McEvoy's terrific blog, Rainmakers' Best Practices, called How to Sue Drug Companies for Free.
The article features a very simple video that was posted on YouTube on May 1, 2007. Briefly, the video is a very simple presentation by a young lady sitting at her desk discussing Defective Drugs and how to sue Drug Companies.
McEvoy says the video has received over 6500 hits in the year it was first posted, and asks lawyers why they don't put up similar videos that explain a legal problem they work with.
Just imagine, he asks his readers, if a simple, five minute video could generate over 6000 people calling their law offices or visiting their web sites? How much new business would that little video create for a lawyer?
What really struck me was how easy it would be for anyone to produce a similar video to market their own business or professional services.
The easiest way to attract new business, is to give away free, valuable information. "How to" articles, white papers, tip sheets or other formats all demonstrate that you are an expert in your field.
But let me also mention another way to produce a simple video if you (like me) are lacking in a lot of technical know how.
I recently discovered that Powerpoint presentations can be converted to videos by using Microsoft Movie Maker. Movie Maker comes loaded on most Windows packages (which means you probably already have it on your computer, even if you don't already know it).
Just take an existing Powerpoint presentation, or create a new one, and turn it into a video with Movie Maker. You can even record your own voice narrating the presentation.
Then you simply upload the video to YouTube, or any of the hundreds of video sharing sites. I bet you will be astonished by the traffic you receive.
Be sure you read Patrick McEvoy's article and watch the video at How to Sue Drug Companies for Free.
COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
What do you find more credible, someone who brags about how their company is "the best," or a third party endorsement by a very satisfied customer of that same company?
It goes without saying, doesn't it, that a third party can give your message far more believability than you could ever give it by "tooting your own horn"?
Third Party Testimonials
Third party endorsements are the ultimate marketing tool, if you can get them.
This is why companies spend so much time and money on public relations. One mention in the media is worth millions in advertising. Not because the exposure reaches more people, but because the impact of being touted by a newspaper, television program or radio show is so much more credible.
Depending on which research study you read, the average American is exposed to over 10,000 advertisements or marketing messages a day. Which begs the question, why in the world should they tune into your message amidst all that clutter?
A third party, who has experienced how good your product or service is, and how helpful your customer service staff is, will be listened to. The hearer knows this is a different message than the typical self-serving promotional material most marketers proclaim.
As a result, this simple message by another party will always cut through more of the clutter than your own message which is always viewed as suspect if it is heard at all.
The Power of a Compelling Story
Now, in addition to the power of a third party singing your praises, what if you communicated your message in the form of a compelling story?
A story with a plot and drama. A story in which one of your customers faced a major problem and your company helped them resolve that problem and achieve a successful outcome?
Stories are powerful. They engage people and draw them in. They allow people to see themselves and their own circumstances in this other person's or other company's struggle to overcome a problem.
So now we have considered the possibility of communicating your message by means of a third party endorsement and a compelling story. What if your message also contained useful and valuable information?
Helpful Information and Expertise
This information could simply be in the form of a few tips on how to solve problems or avoid costly mistakes. It should also contain your company's expertise on solving or preventing such problems for your clients.
In other words, the useful information you convey should demonstrate that your company is very good at what you do without bragging or "tooting your own horn."
So how can you package your message in such a way that it contains a third party endorsement, a compelling story and helpful information?
Case Studies: A Very Powerful Marketing Tool
We are talking here about case studies, also known as client success stories.
I'm sure you have some satisfied customers who are pleased with your product or service. Why not ask them if you can have someone interview them for a case study? As mentioned earlier, the case study will have a plot which consists of the client's problem and how you helped them solve it.
But it should also contain quotes from your customer's key managers who say good things about you. And it should conclude with valuable, practical information from you.
The finished case study should read like a short magazine article, and can then be included in an ad, sent to the media as a press release, or posted on your website. (Read a previous article on this site, Ten Ways to Boost Your Sales With Case Studies, for more ways to promote your business with case studies).
Regardless of the form, you can bet that your case study will cut through a lot of the clutter that bombards your prospective customers each day. The same people who ignore your costly ad campaign will pay attention to a well-written success story.
You will probably find that most of your business clients will be very willing to be featured in a case study. All you really have to do is ask.
COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
As I mentioned recently in an article called How to Use Case Studies to Promote Your Business, case studies can be one of the most effective methods of promoting your business.
A good case study is the story of how your firm solved a serious problem for one of your customers or clients. The customer, of course is the star, but you or your firm is the agent of change that turned the situation around.
In a real way, a case study is better than a referral because it is a compelling story. When other business people read how you solved someone else's problem, they will likely realize that you are the best person or business to solve their problem as well.
How can you market your business with case studies?
- Include it in a press release. The media is always looking for new stories that contain a practical problem solving element to them. Your press release may be no more than an abridged version of the case study with a mention that the full version is available upon request.
- Send it to prospects or existing customers. Sending out case studies is a great way to keep in touch and to let people know what you do. The story "feel" of a case study makes it seem much less like a marketing piece, and therefore softens the sales message while at the same time making it more effective.
- Give it to your sales people. Sales people love case studies because they are "proof" of your effectiveness in solving problems. They can use them in their presentations to demonstrate key points andas testimonials. They also make convincing sales brochures.
- Post it on your website. Providing quality, useful content on your site is a powerful way to increase traffic.
- Use case studies as articles in your newsletter. These success stories show real world examples of how you solve problems in your market place. Even if your newsletter is an internal piece for employees, it still helps to educate your own people.
- Use case studies as a speaking topic. If your executives occasionally give speaches or talks, a case study makes an excellent presentation. It can be adapted as a powerpoint or a handout.
- Include case studies in proposals for new business. When you are competing for new business, a proposal that contains one or more case studies demonstrates very effectively your firm's competancies.
- Adapt case studies as lead generation materials. Not only is it a great free giveaway, it can also be a tremendous enticement for prospects to request the full version if your piece only gives them the first part of the case study. Think of it as a cliff hanger that they must request the rest of the story to find out how a problem was resolved.
- Use as testimonials. As a general rule, client testimonials are nice to have but lack the power of a story. By asking clients who send in positive feedback to be interviewed for a case study, you convert their comments into a compelling success story.
- Use as a trade show handout. Case studies are much better than free golf balls as a way to interest prospects and turn them into clients. You might even enlarge the case study to print on your exhibit wall for all passersby to see.
COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
Why is it that some websites and blogs make money and others don't?
I think the key reason is unprofitable site owners do not have a clear focus on what the purpose of their site or blog is.
There are basically two types of websites or blogs:
- A "Branding" Site, is a site that is designed to build your credibility or your "brand."
For someone like myself, who uses this site to build a reputation as a freelance copywriter, a branding site is designed to establish oneself as an expert in a certain field.
The same concept is true for any independant business person, whether you are a lawyer, doctor, consultant, home builder, realtor, etc. Your goal is to establish yourself as an expert in your field.
But for an organization, the purpose of your site is still to build a brand, increase credibility and demonstrate that your firm is an authority in whatever service you offer.
Think about how many sites you see that make empty boasts about how such and such firm is "the best" at whatever they do. Do such ads impart credibility to you?
Probably not, but when you see a site that offers informative articles, free white papers or reports on how to solve a problem that concerns you, do you have any doubts about that company's credibility? In most cases you will find this company highly credible.
In either case, whether you are an individual business person or a company, a branding site must build repeat visitors who keep coming back because you offer valuable information, keep them abreast of new trends, or post "how to" articles that solve certain problems.
Another distinguishing trait of a branding site is that it seeks to generate money from offline business. If you'll pardon me for using this site as an example again, it exists solely to attract clients who want me to write web content, case studies, white papers and other copywriting materials for them.
So the way I do that is to write about things I think will be helpful to my potential clients. Sometimes I may miss the mark, but I always try to think of what problems these businesses want to solve and what information they need.
And over time, based on the feedback you readers give me, I have created a site that is a valuable resource to businesses that need to turn their website visitors into customers, or want to use white papers and case studies to attract more business.
To sum up, a branding site is built upon the principle that them more free, valuable information you give away, the more you will attract new business.
- A Traffic Site, on the other hand, makes money by making sales or hosting advertisements online. This site is nothing less than an "online saleperson."
As a result, traffic sites are less dependant upon repeat visitors and more dependant on search engine traffic.
A traffic site usually lives and breathes on ranking high on Google, Yahoo and other search engines for prospective customers to find it. Few traffic sites are designed to attract clients to offline businesses, but instead their purpose is to generate online sales and orders, or get visitors to click on ad links.
Are these two types of websites mutually exclusive? Hardly. A branding site needs to use all the search engine optimization techniques it can in order to rank higher when potential clients do a Google search. Moreover, many branding sites make additional sales by selling products like books or white papers on their sites.
By the same token, traffic sites often provide valuable, problem-solving information to enhance the company's credibility and reputation and to give visitors reasons to return again and again.
But the key here is focus. One of my biggest errors with this site when I first started out was a failure to focus on branding myself. I once had Adsense ads on this site, which only resulted in visitors clicking away to go off to see what someone else had to offer.
One of the best ways I know to prevent a muddled focus is to think about what you want a visitor to do once they arrive on your site.
If you want them to order a product, find ways to display those products with attractive photographs and descriptions of each item.
If you want them to click on your Adsense ads, make sure your site is optimized so the search engines have a clear "understanding" of what type of visitors to send your way. That way the search terms these people typed into Google match the type of ads displayed on your site.
On the other hand, if you want to establish yourself as an authority in your field and get visitors to hire you for offline work, make sure your articles are really informative and give them a reason to keep coming back.
Again, these two types of websites and blogs are not mutually exclusive, but you will find they produce much more business for you if you maintain your primary focus. To use the baseball expression, "It's all a matter of keeping your eye on the ball."
COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
I'm always a little surprised at how seldom businesses use case studies to market themselves.
When I use the term "case study" I'm not referring to the kind of academic case histories used in law school or business school (and probably a lot of other professional educational programs I'm not as familiar with).
The case studies we are talking about here are simply "success stories" in which one of your clients is the main character, and your product or service solves a major problem for this client.
Suppose, for example, that your client is a mid-sized distribution center that was having a lot of trouble running out of inventory and getting their customers' orders fulfilled. Your company provides a comprehensive inventory management system that gives instant tracking of what products are needed for each customer and what vendors have those items in stock.
Your company and your customer work together to solve their inventory problems and the issues of getting their customers' orders delivered in a timely manner.
The result is beyond your customer's expectations and their business jumps up in earnings accordingly.
In essence, this case study is a three-act play of sorts.
- Act One: Your client had a problem that was causing lost business, extra costs and a lot of anxiety for its executives.
- Act Two: They discover your company and your service and you work with them to achieve an ideal solution to their problem.
- Act Three: The results are excellent. Their problems are not only solved, but the people involved are happy (you always want to put the human element in a good case study).
Case studies are effective because they are stories. We remember stories and will read them when our eyes glaze over at other marketing materials. When we read about the "characters" in a story or a true life case study, we tend to identify with that person's situation, struggles and journey toward a resolution.
This last point is really true. Think back to some fantasy movie you've watched in which the situation is very far removed from your own personal reality, like the Spider Man movies, or Battlestar Galactica, or Robin Hood. I'm fairly certain you don't spend your spare time swinging from tall skyscrapers, fighting battles in space or defending the poor from evil knights with bows and arrows while wearing tights (ooh, bad visual), but you still relate or identify with characters in a good story.
The same is true with case studies because they are stories. You are probably not in the distribution industry, and your problems are probably not the same as the business I described above. But you do face problems that need to be solved, and as a result, you might still consider the systems company as a firm that could help you.
In the next article in this series, I will write about how many ways a case study can be used to produce excellent results for promoting your business.
COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown