Marketers Note: Longer is Better

Seth Godin makes an interesting point in this post about longer video being better than shorter commercial spots. His point, in a nutshell, is that airtime (provided by the ‘Net) is cheap (or free), so why not use it and the longer format to make your point?

Not a bad thought. It reminds me of many conversations I’ve had recently where I’ve been essentially arguing on behalf of longer copy in a whole variety of situations: direct mail, email, online, etc.

“Nobody reads!” you shout. “Hogwash,” I reply. People read all the time. The key is to write something worth reading (which, in reality, is also the tough part.) Tough, but not impossible. Here are a couple of things to remember:

First, write directly to the reader. I could write all day about “we” and “all of our customers”, but I really want to talk to you; about you. I’m reminded of a story about young copywriter who was trying to get hired by Maxwell Sackheim. Sackheim wasn’t all that impressed with the man until the writer bet him $10 he could write a full-page newspaper ad, solid type, that would be compelling enough to get him to read every word. To convince him, he showed him the headline:

This Page Is All About Maxwell Sackheim

He won the bet and the job.

Next, use enough space to tell the story and fully explain your product, service, concept. Don’t be held to someone else’s idea about what is long or short enough. Use the space necessary, but edit relentlessly.

Finally, lest you think it’s not important, Marketing Sherpa regularly reports that the single most effective way to raise response and conversion is not with graphics or frequency or a better offer. It’s by writing better copy.

You Can Fool Some of the People…

We’re doing some work for a new client and, as we sometimes do, we were perusing the web site of their previous vendor. Within their marketing copy on the site, the previous vendor touts the ease of which updates can be made using their software. They also mentioned, in the case study regarding this particular client, how great the site navigation is and that the site allows the visitor to easily see all the iterations of the product line.

Now, I’ve been known to be a little cynical, but I’ve also been known to be a big fan of writing good, compelling copy. The problem in this case, is that the previous vendor has either:

  1. made all of this stuff up,
  2. not really asked the client what they thought, or
  3. really believes their own marketing copy.

Regardless of the reason, it’s a telling lesson: We’re actually doing this work because the previous software was impossible to use, the site navigation was horrid, and the client was frustrated to the point of seeking a new solution.

Folks, talk to your customers. Often. Be inquisitive. Ask them if they’re happy and, if not, find out why and what you can do to fix it.

Unless, of course, you’re a direct competitor to all of us at Rare Bird. In that case, keep up the good work.

I have another story about how this relates to e-commerce. More on that later.

Great Advice About Cultivating Bloggers: Don't Do It

Ben McConnell posted shortly and sweetly this morning about attempting to get bloggers to discuss your latest and greatest [fill in the blank here]; what he calls the “myth of ‘cultivating’ bloggers.” The bottomline: Don’t do it. He does make another very bright suggestion: engage your current customers and get them more involved. I couldn’t agree more.

[Read his post]

Net Transparency: A Compelling Argument for Airing (All) the Laundry

A friend (thanks, Doug!) sent along a link to a Wired Magazine article about the “See-Through CEO“, referring to the emerging trend of CEOs posting openly and honestly about… well, about basically everything. The article makes an extremely compelling argument for laying it all on the line, becoming part of the online conversation, and – in effect – helping to steer some of that conversation via participation.

Late in the article the author makes the distinction between “secrecy” and “lies.” Essentially, companies can’t afford to tell lies anymore because the odds of being discovered are so great. You can, however, still try to maintain some secrecy in your business practices and, in many cases, this makes perfect sense. They cite the iPhone as a legitimate example of maintaining secrecy and control to deliver a stunning product. So secrecy can continue as necessary, but any sort of untruth, even a little white lie, will likely serve as tinder for the upcoming flame.

Having been blogging for some time, I can see the logic of the argument. Some of these case studies, like Redfin, simply couldn’t have been handled as cleanly in any other way. But as a trusted advisor to many small- to medium-sized organizations, I’m left wondering about the issue at the center: Does anyone really care?

Do people out there really care what is going on behind the scenes in a small IT firm? Or a medical equipment manufacturer? Does anyone really want to know the challenges facing the owner of growing durable goods maker? Or the things I face running my company? Ultimately, I think they do. Maybe not a lot of people, but each of these businesses has customers, vendors and employees. And I submit that they care quite a lot. And those small audiences are reason enough to stay involved, stay engaged, and continuing putting out the laundry for all to see.

[Read “The See-Through CEO” on Wired]

Come to Tennessee and… Oops!

This is classic. A recent ad created by Memphis advertising agency Chandler Ehrlich touted the great mountain biking available in Tennessee. And, honestly, there is quite a bit. The problem was the sizzle they used to sell the steak…

Turns out that during the Fall, many of the leaves fall off the trees in Tennessee. (It sucks, it happens here in Indiana, too.) So by the time the concept got approved, the photo would have been less than appealing. Two choices (well, I think they had other choices, but they apparently thought they had two): Either scrap the ad or find a stock photo. (I think “alter the ad or find an appropriate photo… perhaps taken by a mountain biker in the state of Tennessee”, but I digress.)

What they did, instead, was buy a stock photo. Of a mountain biker. In Alaska. And then they ran the ad across the country in some fairly major publications like Outside Magazine and Travel + Leisure, where it just so happens that a reader recognized the photo and realized that it uh… wasn’t the Smokies.

[Read a great account of the full story]

(Photo by Erik Hill/Anchorage Daily News)