Green Copywriter Earns Dan Kennedy Copywriter for Info-Marketers Certification

Green Ink Copywriting is proud to announce that its principal, Anne Michelsen, has earned the designation of ‘Dan Kennedy Certified Copywriter for Info-Marketers’ through American Artists and Writers, Inc. (AWAI), a leading publisher of direct-response copywriting, travel writing, photography and graphic design courses.

Dan Kennedy copywriter certificationFOOSLAND, IL –  Green Ink Copywriting is proud to announce that its principal, Anne Michelsen, has earned the designation of ‘Dan Kennedy Certified Copywriter for Info-Marketers’ through American Artists and Writers, Inc. (AWAI), a leading publisher of direct-response copywriting, travel writing, photography and graphic design courses.

Dan Kennedy is one of the most sought-after marketing consultants in the country. He is widely credited as having been instrumental in the development of the information marketing industry as well as the use of inbound marketing to promote traditional businesses.  He developed his copywriter certification course in conjunction with AWAI, in order to help remedy a perceived shortage of copywriters equipped to handle the unique demands of info-marketing clients.

Info-marketing refers to the online or offline sale of information products such as traditional books, audio programs, videos, or DVDs; magazines; newsletters; e-books; membership websites and clubs; teleseminars and webinars; telecoaching programs; and seminars and conferences—and combinations thereof. The Dan Kennedy Copywriter for Info-Marketers Certification is awarded to professional copywriters who have successfully completed a course of study in preparation for such copywriting.

InfoMarketing Association President Robert Skrob applauds the program. “Dan Kennedy’s Copywriter Certification Program creates a key resource for growing information marketers, copywriters who understand the business. In the info-marketing business, there’s always copy to be written, call notices, conference promotions and product sales letters. Having a stable of certified copywriters who understand the info-marketing business is a terrific shortcut.”

Anne Michelsen founded Green Ink Copywriting in 2008. She provides revenue-boosting copywriting, PR, and social media services to corporations and nonprofits as well as info-marketers. Anne has special expertise in sustainability and green product promotion, and is one of the most knowledgeable copywriters in the country on FTC green marketing compliance. Her free monthly green marketing tips and e-course on how to identify and sell to the 6 types of green consumer are available at GreenInkCopywriting.com.

For more information, contact Green Ink Copywriting here.

 

 

5 Simple Ways to Let Your Customers Know You Care

A little bit of personal attention can make the difference between a prospect who walks away and one who converts to a happy customer – potentially bringing in even more business through word of mouth.

Man playing guitar
It’s OK to strum your guitar while speaking to customers. Just be sure to look up and smile while you do it!
Illustration ©2013 by Anne Michelsen, courtesy of Kids Celebrating Earth

Back when I worked in retail music, I’d frequently hear comments like this from customers:

“To be honest, I was going to rent my son’s trumpet at the other store in town. But I walked in there and the store tender was too busy picking at his guitar to pay me any attention. So I walked out and came here instead. I’m so glad I did. Thanks for all your personal attention. I’m going to tell my friends.”

A little bit of personal attention can make the difference between a prospect who walks away and one who converts to a happy customer – potentially bringing in even more business through word of mouth.

It doesn’t have to be anything earth shaking, either. In my case, all I did was offer a genuine smile and a “What can I do for you today?” to anyone who came through the door. No matter their age or the condition of their clothes.

But what if you’re not involved in brick and mortar retail? What if you never actually see a single one of your customers?

No matter. There are still plenty of ways to help your prospects feel appreciated and acknowledged. When they do, they’ll be so much more likely to stay around and buy.

Here are five things you can do to roll out that virtual red carpet to anyone who comes your way:

  1. Speak to your customer’s needs and desires. This is so basic, I’m sure you’ve heard it a bazillion times before. But I still come across home pages that are nothing but rants on How Great We Are, with nary a thought given to what the customer wants. (Ironically, the worst offenders I’ve come across have been marketing agencies.) Seriously, you might as well go play your guitar to the wall.
  2. Use language your customer can relate to. Ever read an article or white paper you thought might be useful – only to abandon it midway because you just don’t have time to read every paragraph twice? Business writing should be easy to read. Period. Think middle school reading level. And no, that doesn’t mean you’re talking down to your reader. (For example, this article rates at grade level 5.2). It just helps busy people stay focused.
  3. Embed a smile in your words. I have one corporate client who is very formal in his emails to me. Every time I got an email from him I used to wonder if he really wanted to be working with me. This went on for months, until one day I stopped by his office to take care of some business in person. He came out grinning from ear to ear, loudly praising my work to everyone in sight. (Kind of embarrassing, but in a good way!) Now, I’m not picking on my client. He’s not dealing with customers. But if you are, make sure the warm feelings you have towards them come through in every single thing they read from you.
  4. Offer something of value. Of course, your customers want value from your products or services. But how can they be sure they’ll get it from you? When you give them something useful, they don’t have to wonder. Free samples are great. So are coupons. But information is often at least as effective. Try a tip sheet, white paper, or idea book that explains fun or useful things other customers have done with your products.
  5. Keep delivering value. Once you have permission to contact a customer, don’t stop. They’re guaranteed to forget about you if they do. Keep drip feeding them good stuff via newsletters, blogs, or even postcards. Just be sure it’s relevant to their needs and desires. And don’t forget to make it easy and fun to read!

What’s your favorite way to let your customers know you love them? Post it below. If it’s a good tip I’ll tweet it out!

When Best Practices Can Land You in Trouble

Every industry has its best practices – methods and techniques that have been proven time and again to bring exceptional results. But best practices are based on what has worked in the past. What happens when an industry – or perhaps an entire society – is in flux?

in troubleEvery industry has its best practices – methods and techniques that have been proven time and again to bring exceptional results.

And few industries test their techniques so brutally as direct response copywriting.

After all, a slight tweak to a sales letter can mean a difference of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of dollars in profit – or loss.

So when three of the highest-paid, most successful copywriters in America all endorse a technique, don’t you think you’d better listen?

Normally, I’d say, “You bet! Listen and emulate!”

But heads up – and this is important.

Best practices are based on what has worked in the past. What happens when an industry – or perhaps an entire society – is in flux?

Then you’d better watch your tail. Because blindly following best practices – even when endorsed by giants in their fields – can land you in trouble.

The Magic of False Logic

Bob Bly is an extremely well-known, top-tier B2B copywriter.  Bob publishes an insightful e-newsletter in which he shares many of his excellent copywriting, marketing and personal productivity tips. (It’s worth following.)

A couple of months ago Bob published an e-newsletter article titled The Magic of False Logic.

“False logic,” he explains, is “copy that manipulates (but does not lie about or misrepresent), through skillful writing, existing facts. The objective: to help readers come to conclusions that those facts, presented without the twists of a copywriter’s pen, might not otherwise support.”

He uses the example of a metal broker who claims that “95% of orders (are) shipped from stock,” even though he does not have a warehouse. When questioned, it turns out they are shipped from the metal supplier’s stock, not his own.

­­Green vs. the Three Giants

Bob Bly isn’t the only master copywriter to endorse the “false logic” technique. I’ve seen Dan Kennedy and Michael Masterson encourage it, too.

Now, each of these individuals belongs to the upper echelon of the copywriting world. To put it in perspective, they are the Donald Trumps and the Bill Gates of their profession. They know what they are talking about, and then some.

So when I say they are wrong, I’m risking my reputation.

But I’m going to say it anyway.

THEY’RE WRONG.

They’re wrong, at least, if you are selling anything that might be considered “green.”

What the Green Guides Say

False logic is an effective, proven technique. And it’s endemic in conventional marketing.

However, when applied to green claims, it’s an approach that is likely to violate the FTC’s standards for environmental messaging.

In Section 260.2 (Interpretation and Substantiation of Environmental Marketing Claims), the Green Guides state:

“A representation, omission, or practice is deceptive if it is likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances and is material to consumers’ decisions…To determine if an advertisement is deceptive, marketers must identify all express and implied claims that the advertisement reasonably conveys. Marketers must ensure that all reasonable interpretations of their claims are truthful, not misleading, and supported by a reasonable basis before they make the claims.”

Preventing deceptive claims is the primary purpose of the Green Guides. The FTC doesn’t care about the literal truth – the only thing that matters to it is whether or not customers might find your statement misleading.

The FTC’s Zero Tolerance

Last October’s FTC action against two paint companies is an excellent example. The paints in question were labeled “Zero VOC.” This was technically true – for the paints as they came in the bucket.

However, depending on the final colors used to tint the paint, the customer could end up going home with paint containing measurable VOC content.

The FTC showed zero tolerance for truth twisting in this case. This, even though one of the companies had included a disclosure in their marketing collateral.  (The disclosure wasn’t obvious enough, according to the agency.)

A Better Best Practice

Best practice or not, I would be very careful about using false logic when marketing and advertising green products and services.

And given the trends I am seeing towards greater transparency even amongst mainstream companies, I would hazard a guess that it’s not the safest bet for anyone anymore.

Despite Bob Bly’s assurance that false logic is not lying or manipulation, it’s a fine line between truth and misrepresentation, and the technique can dance you dangerously close to the edge. All it takes is one or two dissatisfied customers who feel they’ve been lied to (whether or not it’s true) to smear your name all over social media. And then, of course, there’s the FTC.

A better best practice?

Use real logic.

Figure out how to position the truth of your service, product or company as a benefit to your customer.

Like that metal broker. It seems to me that instead of pretending to be something he’s not, he could position himself as having a unique business model (which he does; instead of being a dealer with a big warehouse like all his competitors, he’s one guy in an office.)

He could explain how his business is based on relationships, and how he uses those relationships to meet his customers’ needs better and faster than the competition.

In fact, a true story like that might even be more compelling than his dicey false logic claim.

Just sayin.’

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photo credit: CircaSassy via photopin cc

Six Ways Articles Can Add Power to Your Company’s Presence

Don’t overlook the humble article as a means of generating business. When used intelligently, articles can more than pay for the time or expense of writing them. Here are a few ways they can benefit your company.

Article published online
This article, published on green business site Padosa.com, scored me a sale. Article marketing can help power your business, too.

Don’t overlook the humble article as a means of generating business. When used intelligently, articles can more than pay for the time or expense of writing them. Here are six ways they can benefit your company:

  1. Becoming an author is an excellent way to establish yourself as an expert and build credibility for your business. Articles are by far the fastest and easiest way to get published.
  2. Nothing beats free publicity. Articles are great publicity generators, especially if they get picked up by a major news source or local publication.
  3. You can use articles to promote a product, or as part of a new product launch. Why not post a copy of your published article prominently in your place of business, or use it as a trade show handout? People are more likely to read and believe articles than sales copy. Just stick to good, useful, informative content and steer clear of hype.
  4. You can often re-use an article on your blog or in your company newsletter. Be sure to mention where it was first published, or just write up a little summary and link to the original article.
  5. Use articles to gauge popular interest. When you hit upon one that generates a lot of response, leverage it into more opportunity – for instance, a speaking engagement on that topic.
  6. If you would like better search rankings and online traffic, articles can do that for you, too. Each time you publish an article online, the site it’s published on should include your bio and a link to your site. (You can often include links within the body copy, too, where appropriate.) Google likes backlinks, and rewards you with higher rankings. They also provide another way for people to find your site!

Over time, article marketing can outperform traditional advertising in terms of ROI. This is especially true when used as part of a well-thought-out inbound marketing strategy.

The big drawback to article writing? It takes time. It also takes writing skill. But don’t worry – if the thought of writing makes your skin crawl, you can still reap the benefits of article and other content marketing without spending the time and effort. Just drop me a line – I’ll be happy to help!

When NOT to hire a copywriter, Part I

We freelance copywriters can provide you with effective marketing tools – such as sales letters, white papers, website copy, and the like – for a fraction of the time it would take to write them yourself. (No offense, but ours will likely work better, too!) But there are appropriate times to contact a copywriter, and times when it’s better for both of you to refrain, at least for a while.

In this multi-part series, I’ll explain several occasions when it’s best NOT to hire a copywriter, and why.

Part I: DO NOT HIRE A COPYWRITER…when you have no margin of error.

Lots of things can go wrong with a promotion.  Obviously the copy can be off the mark. But there are many factors that can contribute to the success or failure of any promotion.  Some of these include your list or target market, your offer, the design of the piece, the medium you choose, and the timing of the promotion.  Many such factors are powerful enough that even the best copy can’t overcome an unfortunate choice or circumstance relating to them.  (For example, what if you’d staked your entire marketing budget on a direct mail campaign that launched on September 9, 2001?  Unless you were selling terrorist insurance or emergency ration kits, your business could easily have gone up in smoke right along with the Twin Towers.) 

Here’s where an honest, knowledgeable copywriter can save you a ton of time and money before she even types a word.  You see, your copywriter wants you to succeed nearly as much as you do.  Your success is ultimately what pays her – and gives her bragging rights so that other people will pay her.  If you come to her wanting, say, an elaborate website and she suggests that for your budget, target market and product you might be better off with, say, a minimal website and direct mail (or social media, or whatever), she likely has a good reason to suggest it. 

Good copy is an investment. You can expect to spend a little money to be reasonably sure that the product you’re purchasing has as good a chance as possible of paying for itself – and then some- in increased business.  Going with the lowest bidder most likely will result in substandard copy you’ll end up not using. (If you really want to try, though, don’t let me stop you.  Try Elance or Guru.com. You’ll find plenty of low bidders there. Most of them are from India. Good luck with that.)

If you’re really on a shoestring your best bet is probably to learn to be your own best sales person and hit the phones. No, it’s not easy.  Yes, it can be painful , especially at first.  But in most cases it’s the fastest way to bootstrap your business into prosperity. (And a side benefit is that this kind of sales work will likely give you a ton of insight about what approaches work best in selling your product – golden information you can relay to your copywriter when you are ready for her services.)

(One great resource for telesales is Art Sobczak’s free e-newsletter Smart Calling.™ His book, also called Smart Calling, is also an excellent read, full of pain-relieving sales calling suggestions. It’s available on Amazon – but if you have a local mom & pop bookstore, why not check with them first?)(Full disclosure: I’m not an affiliate.)

Once you’ve solved your short-term cash deficit challenge by getting some cash flow going, you’ll have enough breathing room to sit down and work out a long-term plan for lead and sales generation.  That’s when you’ll want to contact your copywriter. Ideally she’ll be willing to work with you long-term to create effective marketing tools as you can afford them, and continue to tweak them for optimal response and ROI.

Green Business: Where to share your eco-educational messages

There are as many avenues to educating your customers as there are ways to market to them. And the good news is, all your education attempts add up to effective marketing, too! Here are some good places to start.

There are as many avenues to educating your customers as there are ways to market to them.  And the good news is, all your education attempts add up to effective marketing, too!  Here are some good places to start:

·        Write articles about green issues and (depending upon your target market) submit them to local, national/international or trade publications.

·        Hold workshops and invite your customers and prospects.

·        Exhibit at trade fairs and business expos – and make sure you have plenty of good information to engage people and get them thinking about you as the expert.

·        Get speaking engagements. This will educate people about sustainability as well as making them aware of your business and what you offer and building trust in you as an authority.  If your business is local, try contacting churches in your area.  A lot of them are really starting to get interested in sustainability as a spiritual act.  They are hungry to know more and will thank you for the favor of coming out to speak!  (Don’t try to do a hard sell when you’re speaking to church groups, but it’s usually fine to give them informational pieces with your logo and contact info.)  Business groups are also good ones to speak to.  Try your local Chamber of Commerce.

·        Offer information kits, free reports and case studies to your clientele.  When you give people helpful, in-depth information on topics that interest them they develop a sense of gratitude and relationship to you, and are more likely to turn to you as an authority.

·        Keep educating your existing customers. Send a newsletter or e-zine out at least quarterly; once a month is even better.  Including environmental education messaging on packaging is another great idea.  Make it fun for your customers by holding contests and other events they can participate in and invite their friends.

·        Blog regularly (once or twice a week is fine).  When you blog on a topic of interest to your social media friends, post it and tweet it out.  (But only if it truly is good information and not just a thinly disguised sales pitch.)

·        Make videos about the same topics you speak or write about.  Your videos don’t have to be high tech as long as you present good ideas.  Even on a limited budget you can buy a little flip video camera for under $50 that will do the trick.

Get in the habit of videotaping any speeches you make, or even just capturing your thoughts on camera in your office, or documenting the positive changes your company is making. Put your videos to work for you by posting them on your blog, putting them on a CD or thumb drive and giving them to prospects or customers, using them as premiums for lead generation, or distributing them to the same kinds of groups you speak to.

·        Don’t forget your website. Add articles, case studies, videos and the like as extra pages.  Doing so can help with your search engine rankings, increase the amount of time people spend on your site,  and increase the chances of people linking to your site and/or coming back for multiple visits.

The important thing to remember is that consumer education is an ongoing process.  Do it consistently, one idea at a time, and always tie your statements back to positive personal benefits.  Over time, your efforts will make a difference!

Make your Green Marketing Fun!

How to educate your customers effectively without causing confusion or turning them off

Part 4: Make it Fun!

As people become more aware of the problems facing the environment, they begin to feel guilty.  They often react by going into denial or shutting out the bad news.  This can easily result in their shutting you out as well.  Overcome this problem by making your presentation interesting and fun.

Annie Leonard’s eco-educational films are a great example.  Using storytelling, engaging animation and generous doses of humor and hope, she manages to address very serious environmental problems in an engaging, entertaining and informative way.  (By the way, Leonard’s Story of Stuff and other works are also a great example of messaging that creates a buzz and spreads virally like wildfire.)

Try integrating stories, contests, events, jokes, food and the arts into your Green marketing.  Involve your customers.   Ask them to invite a friend.  Don’t be afraid to do the outrageous, if it’s consistent with your personality.  And by all means have fun yourself! People who are having fun are invariably attractive to others.  You’ve doubtless noticed this fact at social gatherings, right?  The same is true in business!

Do you repeat yourself in your marketing? If not, why not?

How to educate your customers effectively without causing confusion or turning them off

Part 3: Repetition Rules

Your audience may not have anywhere near your understanding of environmental issues.  Almost certainly they’re not nearly as aware as you are of the benefits your product brings to them personally and to the planet.  You may even have to overcome some deep-seated irrational or emotional barriers in your prospects.

It’s a very good idea to repeat your messaging in as many ways as you can. Try delivering the same idea via different media.  Use various examples and analogies to get your point across.  Be both persistent and consistent.

For example, you can speak about a topic at a conference, blog about it, offer an in-depth white paper about it, shoot a video about it, create an interactive survey addressing it,  put it on an audio disc, hold a workshop or teleseminar, tweet about it, etc.

Don’t worry about overdoing it.  Most people are so inundated with information that it takes a few times for a message to sink in.  Also, everyone has their preferred way to absorb information.  By sending your messages out using a variety of media (on- and offline short and long copy, video, audio, email, social media, live events, etc.), you’ll reach a much broader segment of your targeted population.

Show, don’t just tell, your customers what’s in it for them

How to educate your customers effectively without causing confusion or turning them off

Part 2: Show and Tell in your marketing…

…but especially show.  Try to come up with ways your audience can experience your ideas with their senses.  Anything hands-on is great.  Involve their imaginations, and their emotional as well as their rational minds.  By engaging as much of the whole person as possible, you’re much more likely to get through to them, especially if they’re distracted or have preconceived ideas or objections you need to overcome.

Live or video demonstrations, case studies, testimonials, before-and-after pictures, samples and free trials are all excellent “show me” techniques proven to engage customers and encourage sales.

So is quantifying – translating raw data (such as X number of kilowatts of energy produced per hour) into concrete real-world examples your customer can wrap his mind around (like, “that’s enough to power every single appliance in your home with juice left over to crank the stereo – and it’ll save you $xx.00 per month on your utility bill!)

And don’t forget storytelling – one of the most powerful “show-me” techniques available.

Showing lets your prospects come to their own conclusions based on real or imagined experience and is often much more powerful than straight-up telling.  Try “showing” – both directly using hands-on experience, and indirectly in your marketing copy – and see what a difference it makes in your sales.

Use the “Rule of One” to laser-focus your marketing message

How to educate your customers effectively without causing confusion or turning them off

Part 1: Follow the “Rule of One”

This is a basic copywriting principle championed by master marketer and copywriter Michael Masterson.  It’s also an excellent rule of thumb for any kind of teaching.  The Rule of One states that you should address ONE idea at a time.  For example, if you’re writing an article don’t try to cover two different topics at once, even if they’re related.

Of course, within that article you may have several main points.  Just make sure that each point addresses ONE major idea, and that they all relate directly back to your ONE primary topic.  It’s really just a more sophisticated version of “Keep It Simple, Silly.”  Following the Rule of One will let you engage your reader more fully without distracting or confusing them.  By focusing on one primary idea you will make a much stronger impression and are more likely to persuade and convince your readers.

Use the Rule of One in all your advertising, marketing copy, and presentations for maximum clarity, impact and response.  It even works in management!