Not long after I launched this website, Google sent me this in the mail:
I expected to open it up and find a list of tips about organic search, content creation and keyword selection. Instead, I opened it and found this:
I can see the attraction this kind of mailer might hold for small business owners. “An easy-to-create Google ad” sounds, you know, easy. And if you’re the CEO, chief marketing officer, sales team, and IT guy for your company, easy is mighty appealing. The only problem with easy, though, is that it doesn’t often yield the kind of results that are worth having.
Creating useful, optimized content for your website isn’t necessarily easy. It’s not difficult, but it does take some time and effort before business blogging and information distribution becomes part of your marketing routine. A one-and-done ad doesn’t require upkeep. It doesn’t require knowledge sharing or interaction with followers.
Ask yourself this, though, before you bite on an easy-to-create ad offer: When was the last time you clicked through on an Internet ad? When was the last time you decided to purchase a product or service based on a really great Google ad?
Most consumers aren’t swayed primarily by ads — because it’s too easy for any person with $100 to make claims in an ad, throw it out to the world, and see what happens. Most shoppers are far more likely to believe a trusted resource, and you can tap into that tendency in three ways:
Share your expertise on your website and blog to become the trusted resource. Help visitors find you — through Google search, not ads — by incorporating the keywords your prospects are likely to use into your copy and headings.
Distribute your content through the social media networks that are most popular with your target audience. Consider LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Depending on your business, you might also want to create a presence on Pinterest, Yelp or other platforms.
Make it easy for others to share your stuff. Include social links on your blogs so your readers can share you with their networks when they read something great — and then make sure you’re giving them something great to read.
I sat next to a professional bullshit detector at a seminar last week. He had his notebook out and ready to jot down whatever interesting things the speaker might have said. I peered over his shoulder every time he picked up his pen, and here’s what I learned: if you pepper your messages with marketing-speak, BS is all your audience will hear.
The man at the podium that day was no slouch. An accomplished Silicon Valley-type, he had an insider’s view on trends that were relevant to his audience. This presenter had charts and facts to back up his points, and he had a couple of suggestions that might have been helpful to those who were tuned in.
Sadly, though, this speaker packed his talk with jargon. When you lean too hard on buzzwords, it’s hard for audiences to hear you. Or like you. Or believe you.
Throughout the seminar, I stole glances at what my neighbor was writing down in his notebook. It was full of one-word quotes: “ecosystem,” “surfacing,” “impactful,” “revolutionary.” The BS detector was turned on full blast, and no real information seemed to be getting past it.
The language you use to communicate with prospects, potential partners and anyone with an interest in your business or industry should read as if humans wrote it. It should be crafted so other humans will want to read it. It shouldn’t set off any BS detectors.
What are the overused words and phrases in your market? Identify them, and then eradicate them from your marketing copy. Test your messages out on your friends and family. Do they know what you’re trying to say? Are they laughing at the way you say it? Is the text on your website heavy with vague language? Is it focused on your target customer and what he or she needs to know?
These are all questions small businesses need to consider, especially if they want to evade BS detectors and win customer trust.
Apparently, I live in the most opinionated zip code in America. I don’t doubt that this is true. People in these parts aren’t shy about telling others what they think, and many of them are bold in how they do it. They don’t think they’re right; they know it. Often, that makes their arguments more convincing.
There’s a lesson there for business owners who want to convey their expertise. Etiquette might tell you to soften your opinions to avoid sounding arrogant or provocative. Marketing sense should tell you otherwise. Whatever your industry, your target customers are looking for experts they can trust. Are you portraying yourself as a confident, knowledgeable authority?
Take a look at your website, brochures, social media updates and other marketing materials. Have you told prospects that you think you can help them? Have you said that you believe you’re the best in the business? Have you positioned your product as being designed to solve a problem?
These are all polite phrases, but they could be killing your credibility. It’s not boastful to tell your audience that you know how to help them, that you are the best in the business, and that your product absolutely solves a problem. The way you express these ideas signals to readers that you believe in your own value. Your word choices could make the difference between a new customer and a lost opportunity.
It’s okay to be opinionated. In some places, it’s a point of pride. When it comes time to express your opinions about your business, state your thoughts as facts, then deliver the proof points that back you up.