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Written words help walk your talk
One of the commandments in my free ebook, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning" (at http://SuccessDoctor.com/free/), stresses the importance of putting things down in writing. While it may sound somewhat facetious (especially in this overcommunicated, information-overloaded, click-happy, "read-it-as-fast-as-it-shoots-across-your-screen" world), it's not.
The written word is incredibly powerful and in many cases not used to its fullest advantage. Online, putting things down in writing is most important as the web is completely information-driven. I'm not referring to hype or puffery, nor am I referring to the legal kind. Specifically, I am referring to using the written word on your website beyond mere sales copy -- such as for branding your online business as well as in your directional marketing tactics.
People are predominantly visual and they believe more what they see in writing. Therefore, with all that you have learned in this ezine or in your travels in this nebulous network of networks we call the web, you would never be as effective in your marketing efforts if you didn't apply this additional piece of advice: If other people say it, ask them to put it down in writing.
I can never emphasize enough that in order to create an endless stream of business you must turn every single nook-and-cranny of your operations into an effective marketing system. One is to use written words, especially those of others. Why? It's because they appear to be more objective and credible.
If You're An Expert, Shout It From The Desktops
First, realize that every step you take during the normal course of your business activities should include making yourself known as the expert in your field -- at least in the minds of those who are in it. Niche marketing is the trend of the future and people are leery of any statement made online. Therefore, you should if not must promote yourself as an expert in your particular field.
Do you know your product inside-out? Do you know your website and what it is actually communicating to your visitors? More importantly, do you know your visitors and potential customers? In other words, do you not only track their behavior on your website but also interact with them, remain in constant contact with them (through an opt-in list) and survey them once in a while?
Conversely, do they know you? Do they know who you are? Do they know that you are who you say you are (i.e., a qualified expert in your specific field or product category)? Do all of your written materials (e.g., correspondence, literature and promotional materials) communicate your most marketable, competitive edge? Do they -- or can they -- read up on you? Do they follow your business like a fan follows his favorite idol (such as by reading articles by and about you, your newsletter, your content, etc)? Do you write articles in your industry? Do you moderate a discussion board? Do you have a contact form on your site (since people are more receptive to forms than email)?
And here's the kicker, which most web businesses neglect. As my respected colleague and super marketeer Jim Daniels at http://www.bizweb2000.com once noted, do you tell them who's behind that website of yours? In other words, do you offer an "about us" page or at the very least a real, physical address? Again, do they know you? Do they really KNOW YOU?
The power of the written word has been proven to be of immense proportions. Roger Dawson, in his book "The Secrets of Power Negotiating: How to Get Anything You Want," emphasized a universal principle. It states that people will believe more what they see in writing than what they don't see in writing. While it is true in negotiations, it is also true in marketing.
As Roger points out: "If it is said it could be true, but if it is written then it must be true." When positioning your firm in the mind of the marketplace, your efforts will be more effective if they are done through the written words of others. On top of client testimonials, they include reviews or endorsements of your products or services, or even snippets of media publicity. They are great marketing tools -- probably more so than what most would care to imagine.
If It Is Written By Others, Then It Is Unquestionable
When respected ecommerce consultant, colleague and friend, Dr. Ralph Wilson of http://www.wilsonweb.com (and http://www.doctorebiz.com), mentioned one of my articles in his popular newsletter "Web Marketing Today," my traffic soared and my inbox became flooded with emails from people who respect Dr. Wilson. Of course, the result was instant credibility.
I've worked with cosmetic surgeons. And a patient being consulted for surgery typically has concerns about pain. If the doctor claims that the procedure is painless his statement will be somewhat believable. (The fact that he is a doctor does imply a certain credibility. However, in the world of elective, fee-based cosmetic surgery, doctors can often appear to be self-interested salespeople to some. Nevertheless, pain is always a concern for most.)
On the other hand, how much more believable will the doctor's statement be if he provides a written testimonial letter from another patient (one who had the same concern prior to surgery), in which he claims that the procedure was indeed painless? And better yet, how much more believable will the doctor be if he pulls out several such testimonials? The answer is obvious.
Fully source-identified, verifiable testimonials are enormously effective credibility-building tools. In here I mean testimonials with full names (not initials) and addresses (either postal or email). Web URLs are a plus. A bigger plus are testimonials that are quantifiable, devoid of hype, skinny on superlatives and balanced (i.e., they offer both negatives and positives).
Such testimonials will carry more weight than those from J.K. of an unknown city in Missouri who wrote, "Wow! You're the greatest! You're the best! You're amazing! You've got my firstborn ... Bla, bla, bla." Of course, good testimonials should be inspiring and exciting. But find testimonials that offer quantifiable, balanced information and you will in turn find diehard believers.
A technique is to create a binder (or a specific folder in your email client), which contains testimonials written by satisfied clients. If you receive a lot of emailed comments like I do, then they will be fairly easy to compile. Simply send a short email asking the authors for their permission to reprint them.
Admittedly, some people will tell you to bribe others for their positive references. While this practice is borderline unethical if not illegal in some cases, a more appropriate way is to gather feedback. In other words, conduct a survey among your clients. Better yet, send a copy of your work to certain people, or a free trial of your product, asking in return for a review. Add a note asking them if you could publish their comments, if selected.
Beyond clients, recipients could also include potential clients, clients of similar products, or clients of competitors. Above all, they should include opinion leaders, centers-of-influence, strategic marketing alliances and peers.
It's Not A Lie, It's A "Faq!"
Merging your FAQ page with testimonials is also a powerful technique. Like a targeted banner that appears on Yahoo! when a certain keyword is searched, testimonials can appear near (or on the same page as) stock answers to commonly asked questions -- especially if they support or emphasize the points being made. Testimonials also add a certain humanness to your FAQ.
For example, questions your clients commonly have about your product, business or site appear in the form of links (like a table of contents), which lead to subsequent pages or answers found further down on the same page. (As an illustration, see Merriam-Webster Dictionary's single-paged FAQ at http://www.m-w.com/help.htm, Netscape's browser download FAQ at http://home.netscape.com/download/download_faq.html or Yahoo's search FAQ at http://docs.yahoo.com/docs/info/faq.html.)
If you can obtain comments from clients who had previous concerns about your product, then a question in your FAQ encompassing such a concern can lead to an answer coupled with brief testimonials from people who had similar objections. Again, the kinds of testimonials that will work are those that are clear, verifiable, quantifiable and especially balanced. Here's an illustration:
Enough said... Or is that "enough written"?