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April 30, 2019

The copywriting floodgates

I attended a networking and problem solving day last week. The group was a small intimate one; a safe space to open up.

One lady had a start-up venture in commercial property. She wasn’t a big talker, at least initially. We talked a bit about the Easter weekend, the weather and such like. I’m not great at small talk, and neither was she.

As soon as she started talking about commercial property, everything changed. Suddenly she lit up, and the floodgates opened.

Listening to people get really excited about a topic causes a small bell to go off in my head. From a copywriting perspective it’s like striking a vein of silver. The challenge is to capture both the content and the enthusiasm before it evaporates into the atmosphere.

The only way to do this is to record conversations. If you try to write up the conversation later on, you miss too many of the details, and too many small turns of phrase.

I record conversations in a few different ways. I have a recording app on my phone, called ‘Voice Recorder’. You just tap ‘record’ and leave your phone on the table. The file size of the audio is small, but it does drain your phone battery if you’re recording for a long time. (Take a charger).

I also have a call recorder called ACR for recording telephone conversations. Very reliable, good quality recordings and small file sizes.

For online meetings I use Zoom to record calls, which is reliable.

Once you have the recording, you need to get good at listening through at 2X – 3X speed. Once you have a good volume of material, you need to pick it apart quickly. You don’t have time to listen again at regular speed.

It can help to transcribe important calls (I use rev.com), but you’ll want to listen through again first before you pay for a transcript. I use the free audio editing software Audacity to chop out only the sections I want transcribing.

April 26, 2019

8 Things to Understand About Facebook

I want to point out a few things that are easy to forget when creating Facebook ads.

1. Facebook has always been a personal medium – a place we go to snoop on and interact with people we know. Or even better, people we used to know…

2. It isn’t your right to appear in anyone’s Facebook newsfeed. It’s a privilege that can very easily be taken away. Viewing it that way changes the way you write your ads.

3. The first question we ask when we scroll past an ad is: “who the hell is this?” If you’re not famous or a friend, you better have something super-compelling to say.

4. There is no secret story formula to write super-compelling ads. People who don’t know you don’t want to hear an epic sob story.

5. Unless your business relates to a hobby or interest (an ACTUAL hobby: not property, marketing or something) it is hard to get traction with people who don’t know you. Often the clicks are just too expensive.

6. Facebook is highly visual, and well-suited to video. You might consider promoting videos to people who don’t know you, and only running conventional ads to people who watch the videos.

7. Your ad image is as important as your ad copy. (Without an effective image, nobody will read the copy).

8. As a starting point, I’d plan on spending 75% of your Facebook ads budget on people who already know you (through retargeting).

April 24, 2019

Converting Google-speak into normal-speak

I’ve been thinking of starting my own ‘Google Translate’ service. Not a language transcription service… but rather a simple way to understand everything Google tells you.

For example (some of these are directly from the Google Ads blog)…

Google says: “You should raise bids on mobile”
Rob says: “Unless you have data to prove otherwise, you should probably lower bids on mobile”

Google says: “We’re enabling a safe digital advertising ecosystem”
Rob says: “We’ll repeatedly disable your ads for no reason”

Google says: “You should optimise ads for clicks”
Rob says: “You should rotate ads indefinitely and optimise for profit”

Google says: “Build a better mobile experience”
Rob says: “Create a fast-loading mobile landing page, you dummy”

Google says: “Disney and Google expand strategic relationship”
Rob says “(Not even gonna comment on that one – breaks translator)”

Google says: “How evolving user patterns drive new ad experiences on YouTube”
Rob says: “We’re gonna change the names of all the YouTube ads formats every seven seconds”

Google says: “An insider’s look at the latest Google Ads innovations”
Rob says: “Watch out! Here’s what we’re about to change in the interface next!”

More translations available on request.

April 18, 2019

How the Maze works in practice

The maze is a model for nurturing customers across multiple media. Today I would like to illustrate how this works, by using that bastion of design, Microsoft Paint…

The maze could also be thought of as your universe of awareness.

Potential customers who are unaware of you are outside of it. Once somebody first encounters you (sees an ad, meets you, sees a video, etc), they’re effectively here, at the edge:

Unless you operate to a very short sales cycle (e.g. you’re a locksmith), you’ll want people to opt-in to a media form you control. This could be an email opt-in, chatbot subscriber, print newsletter subscriber. Once this happens our contact is now further inside the maze, closer to you inner sanctum.

Once they sign up for your service, they’re basically in the middle (or close to it). The absolute centre of the maze is customers who sing your praises, leave glowing testimonials, and make ongoing referrals.

The problem is that as time passes, everyone in your universe of awareness is moving further away, all of the time.

Even customers subscribed to a subscription service move further away. With each day that passes where they DON’T engage with or use the service they’re paying for, they move further out (and become less likely to renew).

Which is a nice theory. But how do you build this in practice?

For somebody who arrived at your website yesterday (and didn’t opt-in), what do you show them next?

What advertising networks do you use? (Facebook / Google Display / YouTube)? How long should you advertise to them for? What percentage of your ads budget should you spend on nurturing vs selling?

These are all questions I address in this month’s edition of my print newsletter, Maze Marketing Insider. This month’s letter outlines two specific ways to nurture new contacts using remarketing.

A good email opt-in rate on a landing page might be 10%. This is a way to nurture the other 90%.

If you’re a subscriber, it’s already in the mail to you.

If you’re not, you can join us risk-free here. The deadline for this month’s print run is today. You’ll get the PDF version after that.

Membership includes my archive of newsletters and webinars going back to 2015 (now organised by topic), and all my books. Money back if you don’t like it.

April 17, 2019

Is it REALLY true that people won’t read very much?

There’s an assumption in marketing that people won’t read very much, and won’t think about things very deeply.

That’s probably true for 90% of the population…

…but it isn’t always true.

One of the lists I subscribe to is Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings letter. The letter goes out once a week, and contains a cross-disciplinary investigation of art, science, design, history, philosophy, and more. Maria’s emails are well researched, illustrated and detailed. I don’t even like to read them on screen – I’ll often print it out.

For me the cross-disciplinary aspect is critically important – without insights from a range of disciplines I would quickly become bored. It’s the same reason I don’t just write about Google Ads, copywriting, or some other tactic in this letter. It would be dull for you, and for me.

You have to decide who you want to attract with the content you put out. Do you want to attract people looking for tactical soundbites about a specific topic?

Or do you want to attract people like me, who disappear down four intellectual rabbit holes at once?

The former outnumber the latter, by a long way. But the latter do still exist, in large enough numbers to build a sizeable business.

The most important thing is to choose.

April 11, 2019

Target a smaller region

One way to improve your ad performance on any network is to focus on a smaller geographic region.

Targeting the whole of your country (assuming you sell nationally), or even multiple countries is a fine way to test an idea. But if you’re doing that long term you’re probably missing a trick.

I was thinking about this the other evening, watching a quiz show called The Chase

The format of the show is that four contestants answer questions individually in a cash builder round, where each correct question is worth £1,000 for example.

They then go up against a professional quizzer, and have to answer a number of multiple choice questions correctly to outrun the Chaser, and proceed to the final chase. If they’re caught by the Chaser, they’re out.

They can choose to play for the amount they earned in the cash builder round. Or they can go high or low. High moves a step closer to the Chaser, and earns them about ten times as much money if they get through. Low moves them a step closer to home, but decreases the money they take back to the team.

Before deciding which offer to accept, they turn around and ask the other team members what they should do…

In the British show, the suggestions are nearly always conservative. You’ll hear things like “you’re a good player, we want you back, just take the low offer.”

In the American version of the show, you’ll hear things like “YEAH GO HIGH MAN! You’ve TOTALLY got this…”

In the American show the Chaser will sometime offer a ‘super offer’, where the contestant can move a step closer to the Chaser still (for mega big bucks).

How does this relate to your ads?

RUNNING THE SAME ADS TO THESE TWO GROUPS OF PEOPLE WOULD NOT WORK.

Huge cultural differences exist within your country – not just internationally. This is often an easy if laborious way to improve ad performance.

And a reason you might want to have multiple copywriters working on your ads.

Rob

P.S. Every time someone corporate tells me they’re responsible for the “EMEA region” (Europe, Middle-East and Asia) I puke in my mouth slightly.

P.P.S. Europe is not a thing (see Brexit).

April 10, 2019

Always document your remarketing ads

If you’re running remarketing ads across multiple networks, it’s critically important to document your ads.

I wanted to share a quick video today of how I document mine. If you do this as you go, it only takes a few minutes. And it saves you hours of head-scratching later on, especially if you need to pass your ads management to somebody else.

The document template can be found here. Select file and ‘make a copy’ to save it.

April 4, 2019

Three tips to limit your risk with Google Ads

Have you ever created an experimental Google ad, only to forget about it until the monthly invoice arrives?

I have. It’s more common than you might think.

Here are three tips to stop this happening…

1. When initially testing ideas, use the start and end date feature

Each of your ads campaigns should be in one of three states: experiment, optimise or scale.

The experiment phase comes first. You’ve had an idea, you don’t know if it will work, and you need some data.

At the optimise phase you have that data, and are working to lower cost per conversion.

At the expansion phase you’ve achieved a satisfactory cost per conversion, and are ramping things up.

All experimental campaigns should use start and end dates, usually of not more than 7 days in advance.

If you’re testing many ideas, that provides a fall back in case you forget to switch off an unsuccessful test. (It sounds silly, but it’s exceptionally easy to do). Otherwise you only realise when the invoice comes at the end of the month.

This principle applies to Facebook ads also, at the ad set level. And also to LinkedIn and Twitter ads.

2. Make use of automated rules

Once you have a fairly regular number of conversions, you can set automated rules to pause an ad group or keyword if performance drops below a certain level.

You can also choose to have an email sent to you, which is usually my preferred option. (Often I’ll want to diagnose a keyword before pausing it).

3. Make use of custom alerts in Google Analytics

If you look under the ‘customization’ menu, you’ll see an option called custom alerts. Create alerts to notify you if bounce rate goes above a certain threshold for your paid search visitors. Again, this is simply an early red light warning to alert you about a possible website problem.

These three tips are free, and take a matter of minutes to setup.

Do you have any more?

April 3, 2019

Should you use poetry in your ads?

A side effect of having a 1-year old is you read a LOT of children’s books…

I like some more than others. I’m a fan of The Gruffalo. I like the story of Oliver Donnington Rimington Sneep (who of course, couldn’t and didn’t and would not sleep).

Oh, and I especially like Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. Those are worth a read, even without the child.

When you look a little closer, ALL of these books are poetry with pictures.

Why exactly is that?

The use of rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and other poetic techniques all convert a complex message into something that easily gets stuck in your head at a lower reading age.

Less brain power is required to read or understand, while exponentially MORE brainpower is needed to write it! It’s like the difference between making music, and making noise.

Good ad writing also makes use of these poetic techniques. You don’t have to be the next John Donne or Emily Dickinson, but you can try adding an element of rhyme to your ads. (Especially your Google Ads, where space is limited and competition fierce).

This is arguably advanced level ad writing, but it’s something that can make a difference when you’re looking for a breakthrough.

April 2, 2019

Google Ads hiring catastrophe…

A client forwarded an email to me on Monday. Someone he knows had paid £7,500 to a Google Ads agency… and was horrified to later discover they had only spent £3,700 of this on ads.

If you’re thinking of hiring help with your Google Ads (or any ads in fact), I have a few rules of thumb:

1. Always pay for your own ads

Never pay a chunk of money to an agency to run ads on your behalf. By doing this you lose visibility into what is going on, and you lose control of your own data. Any agency you work with should be able to send you something called a ‘client manager invite’, which grants them access to your Google Ads account for as long as you wish to give them access. You then pay the ads bill directly, cutting out the middleman. You should pay an agency for their time, support and expertise, not for ad spend.

2. Educate yourself

In my experience, most agencies lack introspection about which parts of the Google Ads machine to apply under different circumstances. Most under-use remarketing. Almost all test an insufficient range of ad creative. Whoever you hire, you’ll get better results if you yourself have a good understanding of these things.

3. Fee structure

My preferred ways to bill a client are either flat monthly retainers, or a commission arrangement is specific conversion actions are measurable. Or a hybrid approach of the two. As with these things, there are upsides and downsides to these approaches. The retainer approach is simplest. The commission approach is fairest.

As a general observation I’ve found clients tend to resist the commission arrangement. Partly due to complexity, and partly a reluctance to share the spoils. Which frankly baffles me.

Many agencies still charge based on a percentage of ad spend, on the basis that higher spend takes more time internally to manage. This is only true under certain circumstances (e.g. if you’re incompetent), and is entirely dependent on click prices and conversion rates.

If your click prices are £15 per click instead of £2, why should you pay more for someone to manage it? This arrangement also incentivises the agency to spend more regardless of results. I’ve seen agencies max out spending on brand name keywords, which really should be excluded from the billing arrangement.

4. Consultants vs agency

It’s worth considering that no one individual can specialise in the entire Google Ads machine (Google Search, Display, Shopping, YouTube…)

I myself specialise in Google Search, remarketing, ad writing, and customer nurture. I’ve dabbled in Google Display and YouTube, but I’m not an expert. Same for Shopping ads. I’m good at text ads, but average at image ads. My video creation skills are ropey to say the least.

Before you hire someone, ask which parts of Google Ads they specialise in. If they say ‘all of it’, then you’re probably wise to walk the other way.

5. Jump into the saddle when you need to

If you completely abdicate responsibility for your ads, you’ll almost certainly leave money on the table. From time to time, don’t be afraid to:

Scrutinise your conversion numbers

  • Ask whether your conversions tally up with money in the bank
  • Audit your remarketing strategy
  • Write some fresh ads (use the experiments feature to safely test edgy ads)
  • Scrutinise your landing pages, pulling in data from Google Analytics

I’ll be talking more about these things at next month’s Pie, Peas and Google Ads training (Sheffield, 8-10 May). There’s still a few places if you can make it. Positive ROI on your training fee guaranteed.

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