Author Archive | Jackie

New year, new website?

FireworksMany people use the festive break to refresh their website. Here are some of the things you need to do, to make the sparks fly in the new year.

Analyse where you are today

Look at your Google Analytics (or other webstats) to see:

  • How many unique visitors your site already gets
  • What keywords they search to find you
  • Which page they initially land on
  • How long they stay
  • Which is the last page they look at

Even more importantly, establish how many enquiries, leads, sales, newsletter signups etc. you get from your current site.

This sets a benchmark that you can compare against when you launch your new site (be sure to measure using the same tools so you are comparing like with like).

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Why your social media is like Harry Potter

Platform 9 and 3 quartersHow did Harry Potter get to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? He walked straight through the wall at Kings Cross station to reach platform nine and three-quarters, where he caught the Hogwarts Express.

That’s not just a useful answer in a pub quiz. It’s a bit of marketing advice.

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again – all marketing is about objectives (otherwise, you might just as well sit there twiddling your wand and drinking Butterbeer).

What do you want your friends, fans and followers to do when they see your updates on your social media platforms? Usually, it’s to drive traffic to your website or blog.

If that’s the case for you, then remember to include your links from time to time, mixed in with your ‘social’ updates of course.

That way, your friends, fans and followers can click straight through from your updates to your landing page – because that’s where the magic happens.

photo credit: Jim Linwood via photopin cc


What’s the point of your website?

questionSo you have a website, sitting happily in its own little corner of the Internet. Hoorah.

But what’s the point of having a website if no-one ever sees it? It’s not enough to create a website; you also have to drive people to it (that’s why it’s called ‘site traffic’).

Being found by machines

Depending on your business model, you may want to be found on search engines. I’m over-simplifying, but Google is looking for four main things:

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How to irritate your audience on a webinar


How I felt.

I’m increasingly invited to share copywriting tips on a Google Hangout or webinar. To get some ideas, I listened in to someone else’s webinar recently. But it left me feeling annoyed and frustrated. Here’s why, and what I learned about what to do and what NOT to do when I run my own webinars:

  • Don’t do too much preamble and introduction; get straight to the content
  • Do not spend too much time taking about yourself. No-one cares! (This presenter didn’t get started properly until after 26 minutes – 26!)
  • Use more visuals. Otherwise, people will click away to check their email while half-listening
  • Do not over-run the allotted time (This presenter ran over by 17 minutes – 17! This is highly disrespectful of listeners’ precious time – especially as it was on a Saturday. It left me seething.)
  • Allow time for questions. The webinar may be recorded, but people on the live call can type them in the sidebar and get immediate answers. That way, you know you are delivering what they need, even if it drifts away from what you’ve prepared
  • An interview format might work better than a monologue. It sounds more natural and gives variety. Practice with your interviewer first, so you know who’s going to do which bits of talking
  • Switch between video of the presenter talking and screenshare or slides
  • Use big images that tell a story instead of bullet-point lists
  • Be your authentic self (Some people will like you, and it filters out the ones that won’t. This presenter was too giggly and twee for my taste. She may be lovely, but I don’t think we’re on the same wavelength so are unlikely to work well together)
  • Do your upsell before you give your final content, and ‘tease’ the final content in advance so people stay on the line and don’t log off early (This was the best idea I took from the webinar I listened in on)

Photo by Marco Bijdevaate via photopin cc


How to confuse your audience at a live presentation


Not my audience!

I’m often the speaker, but recently I was in the audience for a full day of talks. Here’s what I learned from my experience off-stage:

  • It’s confusing when the MC introduces the speakers but also delivers presentation/s of their own
  • It’s confusing when a speaker delivers a talk that is not about their core subject (which you only find out afterwards)
  • Attention spans are really, really short. It’s easy to get bored, distracted, and worry that you’re wasting your valuable time
  • Interaction really, really works. It creates an unbelievable buzz and engagement
  • It’s irrelevant when a speaker uses their first slide to tell us who they are and what they do, because, at that point, we don’t care. We already assume they have something useful to say, otherwise they wouldn’t be on the agenda in the first place and we wouldn’t have booked to attend the event. The MC can introduce them, then, if we like what the speaker says, we will take what we want out of the talk. Only if they’re a really good fit with what we need, we’ll take up their call to action at the end
  • It’s useful when a speaker repeats audience questions so the rest of us can hear
  • There is never enough time for audience networking. The most useful conversations and opportunities arise from the discussions we have with each other
  • Counter-intuitively, the less speakers do, the more the audience gets out of it

photo credit: francisco_osorio via photopin cc


How to annoy people completing your online form

TaxIt’s February – and a few days since I submitted my VAT return online. It’s a tortuous process. Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Visit (not very catchy or memorable as a URL)
  2. Click Submit your VAT return (once you can find the link)
  3. Type your username (which is a 12-digit number)
  4. Type your password
  5. Login (fair enough so far)
  6. Click Next
  7. Click Services you can use (why?)
  8. Click Submit a VAT return (OK)
  9. Click Submit a return (yes, it repeats what you’ve already clicked to do)
  10. Click Next
  11. Click the Period for the return you want to submit e.g. 12/13
  12. Enter the Figures for your sales and purchases (that’s understandable, fine and dandy, but the auto-complete calculations are not as clear as they could be)
  13. Click Next
  14. Click Submit
  15. Enter your username again
  16. Enter your password again
  17. Wait
  18. Click Submit again (why?)
  19. Logout

And then you have to pay it – which is equally painful but for different reasons!

Why does it have to be a 19-step process to do one simple thing? And everyone is forced to do this. Every quarter. You don’t have the choice to submit VAT returns on paper anymore. I understand why, but paper returns were surprisingly simple by comparison.

Years ago, I worked on a project with Siegel and Gale – the team who simplified the paper tax return.

Dear Government. You need an information designer to simplify the online process. I know a couple who are excellent. Just ask me and I’ll give you their contact details and make millions of tax-payers happy. Thank you.

Why am I telling you this?

Because, if you ask customers to complete a form on your site, it needs to be simple. For example, when you want to capture contact details for your newsletter/tipsheet, ask only for first name and email address and you’ll get more signups. The more fields you make people fill in, the less likely they are to do it and the worse they are likely to feel about you.

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Which way do YOU go?

this way, that wayThere is a theory* that says some people prefer options while others prefer procedures.

“People with an options pattern in a given context are motivated by opportunities and possibilities to do something in a different way… People with a procedures pattern like to follow set ways.”

Commonsense tells us this must be true.

On one course I ran, I presented the class with a range of choices to achieve a certain goal. One delegate demanded to be told which was right for him. It was impossible for me to know what to recommend, because I didn’t know enough about his business and the answer depended on exactly what he was trying to achieve. But he insisted: “I’ve come on this course to learn and I want to know which thing is best for me”. In the end, I just said: “You need this one,” and he said: “OK then,” and went away happy.

After delivering a presentation, I distributed a handout that included 12 objectives (Why) with three or four choices each (How). Perhaps I shouldn’t have done that – perhaps I should have told the audience to pay me for bespoke advice instead! Anyway, all members of the audience were happy, because the handouts deliberately suited both options and procedures styles.

In her book Words that Change Minds Shelle Rose Charvet describes how to tell whether you are talking to an options or a procedures person. This enables you to communicate with them in their preferred style so you are most likely to achieve the results you want.

For example, ask someone: “Why did you choose your present job?” and listen carefully to their reply. You are not listening for the detail of what they say, but for how they say it. An options person will give you a list of reasons while a procedures person will tell a story or describe a series of events. Some people will do a mix of both.

Why you need to know this

When writing marketing copy, you need to provide choices for the options people, such as gold, silver and bronze service levels or high, medium and low product price points. For procedures people, you need to provide steps that explain how to choose and buy from you.

For more help with your marketing copy, contact me.

*LAB profile

photo credit: Lori Greig via photopin cc


What’s wrong with this ad?

A warm voice reads: “You wouldn’t shampoo without conditioning, so why not use a combination thrush treatment like Canesten Combi to soothe the external itch AND clear the internal infection.”

First, I reckon some people DO shampoo without conditioning.

Second, there is absolutely no logical connection between washing your hair and treating thrush.

Third, saying “use a treatment like Canesten” almost encourages people to check out similar alternatives.

Hmm, you wouldn’t write copy without using a copywriter, would you?


Just how DID I win that design competition when I was young?


‘Normal’ glove design

When I was a student, I worked on Saturdays and holidays in various departments at Allders of Croydon (now sadly defunct).

For much of the time I was in the accessories department. (On one memorable occasion, I tried to persuade a customer to buy a grey jacquard scarf “because it went with her hair”. How her friend laughed! The customer didn’t. She did buy the scarf though.)

My manager invited me to enter a competition to design a pair of leather gloves – I think it was run by Gants.

I analysed all the gloves in stock. Many had a pattern on the back with three lines that started together at the wrist and diverged towards the fingers. So I reversed it in my design. The elegant pattern I created ran along the back of the middle finger and split into three divergent lines that ended at the wrist.

I won the competition.

Years later, my team at Freemans catalogue was tasked with designing a new-look cover for our sales brochure. I sent the designer out to analyse all the magazine covers at the newsagent and assess what elements were standard – and then create our own version.

Marketing speaker Geoff Ramm recommends you don’t look at competitor sites when designing your website. Instead, gain inspiration from other things your target customer might buy to make them feel comfortable buying your services from you. For example, decide what type of car they might drive, and adapt elements from those websites.

Top tip: When others zig, you need to zag. But first you have to know where they are zigging – so do your analysis!