10 Virtually Instant Ways to Improve E-Newsletters

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Your e-newsletter is your link to your prospects and your clients.  So, it’s important to make it useful, relevant, and helpful.

Here are 10 quick ways to improve your e-mail newsletter marketing and get better results.

1. Limit the number of steps to sign up

The more questions you ask, the lower the opt-in rate will be.  Make it as simple and easy as possible.  Name and email are best (or even just email).  Don’t ask anything else unless you have to (for example if you’re sending fashion tips, you’ll need to know gender.

2. Review your sign up process

Spell out what they’ll get when they sign up (a book, a video, an e-course), how often they’ll get it (monthly, weekly, daily), and the kind of information they’ll receive (graphic design tips, reviews of the latest camping gear,

3. Check your confirmation page

Does it spell out exactly what will happen next?  Are the instructions clear?  If yours is confusing, change it.  Sometimes, people see “subscribe” and think they need to pay, others see it as a reminder that they’ll be getting regular information and emails.  Experiment with the wording and see what performs best for your readers.  Make sure you ask them to whitelist you too (add your email to their address books), so the message doesn’t fall into the spam folder by mistake.

4. Include links back to your blog

This gets more clicks and traffic back to your site.  Add links to posts that expand or complement the topic of that particular issue. Or, highlight the best posts of the past month/week (depending on your frequency).  Include posts by other people too (as long as it’s useful and relevant to your audience – no sneaking in tips about hiking gear to a newsletter about decorating with stained glass.

5. Tweak the design

If you’re using HTML (graphics) for your newsletter, take a look at the design. Is it easy to follow?  Or, are you trying to cover 5 or 6 different topics at once? Add more white space, to make it easier to read.

6. Cut down the content

Sometimes too much information can be overwhelming.  Try three articles instead of six.  If there’s one primary article or topic, make it bigger than the other two (but not too big, or it will drown them out).  Edit ruthlessly.

7. Add more calls to action

If you want people to do something (like watch your how-to videos), ask more than once. Make it clear that’s what you want (“watch the how-to video”).  If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

8. Test your subject lines

Which gets more opens and clicks?  Subject lines with questions (Is HTML better than text?);  subject lines with numbers (4 Things Your Website Must Have)? Or a subject line that promises something (Turn Your Trash into Cash)? Remember, what works for me, or for your friend, or for a famous blogger may (or may not) work for you.  Each audience is different.

9. Be consistent

Send it around the same time, on the same day each week/month/day.  You can schedule this easily in AWeber.

10.  Ask for feedback and encourage replies

You can put up a survey in Google docs (or use survey monkey) if you like.  Or, just make it clear that your virtual door is open.  I include a note saying that if you have a question or comment you can just hit reply.  It goes straight to my personal inbox.

A Simple Headline Writing Tip That Gets More Readers

numbers in headlines
Want to hear a simple headline writing tip? It’s become extraordinarily popular recently, but the truth is that this headline secret has been used since the days of Claude Hopkins in the 1920s to get readers to stop and take notice.

It’s really easy too. And, it doesn’t even involve using words.

What do these headlines have in common?

“8 Habits of Highly Effective Copywriters”

This works because it promises something short (only eight items to remember) and offers a big promise.  Learn a few new habits and your writing will be far more effective. The unspoken payoff is that you’ll then earn more and get more clients.

“How to Write a Blog Post in 15 Minutes”

This headline offers to help you do something hard (write a blog post) and cut the time needed to a fraction of what you probably expected it to take.

“Increase Your Blog Subscription Rate by 153%”

This promises specific, definite results.  Not just 150%, but 153. The exact number makes the claim far more credible.

“103 Ways to Get Top Bloggers to Link to You”

We want more links because links can bring more traffic and more clicks.  Offering over a hundred different ways to do it, and telling us that we can not only get those links, but receive them from top bloggers is a compelling promise.

15 Marketing Terms You Need to Know

The common theme is that they all have numbers in them. I know, everyone “hates” list posts, but they do get people to stop and look. And, the secret to successful marketing isn’t what you personally prefer. It’s what works.

Why numbers work

Numbers work because they force us to focus – and because they give us a finite, concrete sounding example of something; only 15 minutes to write a great post, or 103 ways to get noticed by blogging superstars.  Spend a few minutes reading these tips and you’ll get something concrete and important when you’re finished.

The more specific the number, the better.  For example, if you increased your subscription rate by 153%, don’t round it down to 150%, the “odd’ number looks more believable.

Lists and checklists

Lists help us process information and tell our brains that we’re getting a reward. A short list tells us that we can find out something useful in just a few minutes. A longer one shouts that it’s definitive and comprehensive.

A list called “five steps to getting clients on Facebook” tells us that if we just do five things, we’ll be able to turn our Facebook efforts into a powerful marketing tool. “101” Copywriting Tricks” promises information that will make our writing better and more effective, all in an easy-to-follow format.  Just go through the list and you’ve accomplished something big.

Bullet points and lists may be the “fast food” equivalent of post writing, but they’re easier to read (and finish) than a gourmet meal of long paragraphs.

Just follow the list! You’re now a better writer, a twitter guru, or irresistible to reporters.
And, who can resist something that will make you irresistible?

Image by Daniel Ullrich via Flickr

How to Write a Landing Page That Sells

landing page writing

There are several elements that every landing page needs in order to convert.

If you don’t know what a landing page is, it’s a page on your site that is set up specifically to ask for an action: this could be signing up for a newsletter, ordering an ebook, or registering for a webinar.

Think of it as your 24/7 sales page.  The page that works night and day, answering questions, selling your products, and helping your customers (even when your company is closed).

Start with a headline

The first thing your page will need is  a great headline.  This is the first thing readers will see when they get there, and it has to grab their attention right away.  If not, they’ll just click away.

If you’re sending readers from an ad campaign or an email message, make sure the headlines match. This tells visitors they have come to the right place.

Build on the headline

Did that headline make a big promise?  Or offer to solve a problem?  Are you directing it at a specific group of people?

Build on the attention you got with that headline.  Tell readers how you will deliver on that promise.  Show them you understand the problem they are having and that you really can solve it.

Use simple words

When you know too much about something, and how it’s supposed to work, it’s difficult to look at it without that “curse of knowledge.” Instead, use clear, simple language.  This is not the time to show off your vocabulary or lard your page with jargon.

Resist the temptation to use technical terms (unless you’re absolutely sure that your audience knows them). I recently reviewed a site discussing great PC apps – the writer talked about P2P, winamp, and VPNs.  I know what those things mean (since I speak conversational geek).  The average computer user probably doesn’t.

Talk in terms your audience will understand (without running to Google, or worse, leaving your site in frustration).

Clear instructions

See the sign at the top of the post?  It’s in a park in Canada.  Should you go left? Or should you go right?  What would you find in either direction?  Restrooms?  Restaurants?  Lodging?  Flower gardens? I can’t tell what the people who posted the signs want me to do.  Can you?

Same thing with web sales pages.  If you’re not clear about who you are or what you want people to do, they’ll click away from your page, leave your site, and never come back.

Stay focused

Have a single object in mind (that sign up for instance). Know what you want people to do when they get to your page.  Sign up for a newsletter? Buy something? Click on more articles?

Ask for one thing

Don’t overwhelm or confuse people with too many choices.  Use those big call to action buttons. Explain what readers will get when they sign up, and how often they’ll receive it.

I spoke to someone recently who set up his website with several pages discussing his services…and no clear call to action.  Instead, he had links on the side he was hoping people would click on to find out more.  No clear call to action.

Experiment and test

If your page isn’t doing as well as you’d like, experiment.  Try different calls to action.  Move the buttons around.  Test different versions of your page against each other.  Track the clicks and the sales to see which version performs better.

The 5 Step Guide to Perfect Landing Pages

Landing shuttle

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“The goal of a test is to get learning, not a lift,” Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, CEO & Managing Director, MECLABS. (Marketing Sherpa, June 9, 2011)

Translated from marketing speak, that means when you test something, such as a landing page, or an offer, you want to get data and information – learn something.

If you get more sales, that’s great. If not, you use what you learned to make something better.

Failure is good

One company tested two landing pages (click link to see them) against their existing page. The responses tanked (down 53% from the original page). They realized that the original page was too copy-heavy – it was slowing people down, and actually making it less likely that they would sign up.

Back to the drawing board

So, they tried a new version (click to see it) – with much less text. This one increased responses by 78%. Aha!

Best practices for landing pages

1. Write a great headline

Don’t shout too much (ME! We’re here, we’ve been in business since the Jurassic era). You don’t want to be annoying (or arrogant), you want to be helpful – and relevant.

2. Be unique and interesting

Explain why you’re different. Perhaps you’re a wedding photographer, but you specialize in exotic weddings (underwater, on ski slopes, or on board yachts).

3. Cut the friction

The test showed that less was more (in this case). Fewer fields, and fewer words. They needed fewer words because readers already had enough information; they didn’t need to read it again.

4. Show value

If you want them to download an ebook (or buy one), show how valuable it is. You can do this by assigning it a price ($29 value), by adding testimonials showing how others benefited from the product, or even just a picture of everything they’ll get (even if it’s virtual).

5. Be trustworthy

This is both social proof (those testimonials again), and reassurance that you respect your readers’ privacy. (Tip: Chris Brogan recently said that he got much better results when he promised privacy, rather than “no spam”).

How to test your landing page

If you’re not sure of the technical stuff, you can do this by creating several landing pages and tracking with Google Web Optimizer (free). Or, you can try unbounce, which helps you create and track landing pages (even if you’re not a geek).