Writing effective sales copy can’t be piecemealed. It’s all or nothing really.

A prospective client recently approached me about writing some copy for his website. He wanted me to give him a bid to improve on his selling copy. He had originally approached me about creating a new website, but for whatever reason he chose another vendor.

This is what I told him:

Writing copy as a one-off is not something I usually do. The copy I usually create is part of an entire brand…a unique, and compelling point of view that grabs the reader, and invites them into the scene. From there, once that comfort is established, a transaction takes place.

That’s what I do. That’s how I help clients generate response. It’s hard to do that in a piecemeal fashion. Let me explain how I work, just a bit.

I’ve looked over his website, his documents, and there was some really good information there. But to be honest, there was just too much of it, and it was all features. I didn’t really see a single benefit in his websites, or landing pages. As a prospect, I just don’t really understand why I’m supposed to buy from this company. As a prospect, I have to assimilate all the information, and then make the leap as to ‘what’s in it for me?’

Good copy leads with ‘what’s in it for me?’

The phrase…’Develop High-Performance Managers’ just doesn’t get me too excited. It’s not specific enough as to how it will relieve my pain.

If a client is interested in moving prospects down a conversion path, first I need to know a couple things:

  • What are your goals? I assume it’s lead generation.
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What is their pain?
  • How do you relieve it?
  • And what does it look like when the pain is gone?

Once I understand this, then I can write great copy.

Below is a great example of a recent landing I created for Unimax that leads with ‘what’s in it for me?’




I’ve most definitely created a monster, and it’s name is Tony Scott.

These days, just about anyone who really wants to be a media star, or internet star rather, can be one. All it takes is a HD video camera, some decent lighting, and lots of nerve.

About a year ago, I teamed with my brother Tony to create a high-traffic blog that covers youth hockey here in the great state of Minnesota. It was no surprise that YouthHockeHub.com (YHH) was an instant success, largely due to Tony’s passionate efforts. As of today, as hockey fever builds in Minnesota, YHH attracts upwards of 50,000 visitors a month. And that number will surely swell to over 75,000 by the end of March.

Back to our budding media star Tony Scott, my brother’s internet alter ego. With my assistance, Mr. Scott produces a weekly videocast for YHH in which he gives his ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ on certain topics, promotes a featured player of the week, and shills for current and potential advertisers. If you have the stomach to go back and view Mr. Scott’s body of work, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to notice gradual improvements in his on-camera demeanor. His natural charm and passion is truly beginning to reveal itself. Whether he is creating a fan base forhis weekly offerings remains to be seen, but he will continue plunking himself down in front of the camera, and taking his shot at internet stardom.

With nearly a dozen videocasts under his belt, Tony Scott’s zeal for becoming an internet personality is building with each new video offering. And while he needs to invest in some better lighting, he has no shortage of nerve…that rare quality you find in one of thousands of today’s internet YouTube stars.

At this moment, I have to take my leave, as I have another edition of YHH Weekly Videocast to edit.

(Flip ahead to the 2:40 mark to see Tony smash an egg against his face, narly)

Homework assignment for the Lemon Network: ‘start kicking ass.’

My Nephew David Zosel attends the prestigious St. Thomas University just across the Mississippi River in St. Paul, MN. He’s majoring in entrepreneurship. Didn’t even know that was a major. Interesting.

One of David’s first assignments in the entrepreneurship program is to create a start-up company and generate real revenue by semester’s end. Real revenue, can you believe that? Anyway, David approached me this past Sunday about helping him design a wordpress website for his social media marketing company. His positive energy for the project, and entrepreneurship in general, was quite captivating. I was sold.

Step in the elevator, start pitching.

But before I spend 20-30 hours creating a kickass website that will likely get his team an A on the project, I gave David a little homework assignment. This is the same homework assign I would give any client looking to create a brand that cuts through the clutter, and speaks to the customer right where they live.

Here’s what I asked David this morning to really make the site/brand rock:

1. Unique selling proposition – many call this the elevator pitch. In 25 words or less (50 max), describe why someone would buy from you. Hence, if you were in an elevator, and someone asked what you do, how would you tell your story in 30 seconds? Why is LN different from the burgeoning array of so-called social media marketing companies? Do you work harder? Are you cheaper? Do you keep it simple? Do you make it simple for me, the business owner, who has no clue how to leverage SM?

What makes you different? That’s branding. Everything else is bullshit.

2. Pricing / Packaging – If I’m potential customer, how do we work together? What do I get for my money? How do contracts work? What results should I expect? What am I paying for? What am I not paying for? Would your service work well for my business (B2B or B2C?) You need to clarify these details (and any other ones you can think of) so a customer can quickly decide if they would like to move forward.

When I get more specifics on items 1 and 2, I will design David a kickass branded web presence. Without clarification on points 1 and 2, there’s no point designing anything.

Splunking: impressive messaging all B2B marketers should aspire to.

While working on a recent B2B marketing project for a software client, I checked out Splunk, a provider of operational intelligence solutions. And I must say, I was totally blown away by their messaging. I can’t say that I’m a IT Director or CIO (their prospect I’m guessing), but I’ve gotta say, their approach is dead brilliant. In literally under 30 seconds, I completely get what they do technically on two important levels:

1. Emotional (‘Listen to Your Data – It’s Trying to Tell You Something’)

2. Intellectual (showing their awesome dashboard in the video)

That’s pretty impressive. Plus they support their claim with business case arguments, which are also backed up with impressive big brand case studies. If I were a director or C-level prospect, I’d be picking up the phone, I’d want to know more.

Am I being overly naive here, or should we all be taking a lesson from this? Splunk simply follows B2B marketing principles to the letter. In my 30-second first impression, they did not mention a single feature, only big picture benefits. They told me what they could do for me (benefits), not how they do it (features).

I’m offering this short post here today, only becuase  it’s rare to see such well-executed B2B communications such as Splunk. While I don’t give them huge kudos for their aesthetic design, the brand approach from a messaging standpoint was literally flawless. I know nothing about operational intelligence solutions, yet in less than a minute I can see what a cool solution Splunk offers.

That’s a principle all B2B marketer should aspire to.

The results are in: top 7 observations of the 2011 media usage survey.

First of all, thanks to all of those who completed my 2011 Media Usage Survey. More than 60 of you clicked through and completed it, about 25 in the first hour alone. It was by far the most successful newsletter I’ve ever done in terms of clicks and engagement.

Analyzing the results, however, was a lot tougher than I thought. I guess the first thing I learned from doing a survey was to use a tool like surveymonkey that performs many of the calculations and analysis. But still, after plowing through Excel and trying to make sense of it all, I still was able to discern some pretty interesting stuff. Too bad it took six months. Download the excel file below, take a look at the data, and let me know what you think.

Click here to download excel file

Small sample size validates my assumptions, at very least.

First of all, to keep this project in perspective, I’m fully aware that a sample size of around 60 is pretty small. But it’s definitely large enough to spot a few over-arching trends about people and their media habits. As I stated earlier, these days I see people falling in two distinct groups – the tech savvy ‘haves’ and the technology squeamish ‘have nots.’ I broke down my group of 60 into five age groups:

  • Age 60+ (6)
  • Age 50+ (10)
  • Age 40+ (19)
  • Age 30+ (15)
  • Age 15 – 30 (14)

Survey Scope: gauging our technical comfort zone.

As you can see by the number in parentheses, the largest number of respondents came from the 40+ age group (19), which says more about who is on my mailing list than anything else. Here are three things you need to know about the survey before any of my observations will make sense:

  1. Primary objective was to discern peoples’ comfort level with using technology in their daily business and personal lives.
  2. Yes/No questions were asked in sequential order from less technical to more technical; ‘reading a daily newspaper’ (less technical) to ‘posting a video to youtube’ (more technical) to ‘managing a network’ (even more technical).
  3. Respondents could a score up to 26 points, which should approximate someone’s technical comfort zone.  The two highest scorers overall had 25 points. Each missed only one — one had never attended a webinar, the other didn’t use social media. Both were under age 40.

Observation #1: Newspapers may be around a little while longer — For someone like me who enjoys the feel of print newspaper in hands as I sip my coffee in the morning, I am relieved that over half the people survey indicated that they read a daily print newspaper. However, 26 of the 31 responses came from ages 40 and up. No surprise there, but don’t count Star Trombone out just yet.

Observation #2: people would rather email talk on the phone — The question was Which of the following do you consider to be the most effective or satisfying for one-on-one personal communications? Turns out that while 46% indicated Meeting Face to Face as their #1 preference (whew!), but 28% indicated they prefer email, which eclipses talking on the phone (15%). If I’m reading this right, it’s disturbing to discover that more people actually prefer email communications to Face-to-Face or telephone. Scary to say the least.

Observation #3: social media rules — Over 80% surveyed indicated that they currently use social media, facebook in particular. Twitter hasn’t quite caught on, and was most popular in 30+ age group (63%). Surprisingly four of six in the 60+ age group claimed to use Facebook.

Observation #4: more folks read books and watch TV — Now, I for one find this hard to believe. Really? I’m lucky if I read more that 3-4 books a year, but always watch at least an hour of tube each day. I guess it goes to show you, never overthink what you think people think. Or, it just may be there’s nothing good on TV, even though most of us have thousands of channels to choose from.

Observation #5: 30+ age group is the most tech savvy — The question: Are you comfortable troubleshooting simple technical issues with your desktop applications (ie., MS Office)? 100% of the 30+ age group answered yes to this question, compared with 61% for ages 15-30, 57% for 40+ and about 50% for 50+.Not only that, but over 80% of the 30+ group also have claimed to have operated a blog as well.

Observation #6: Internet #1 source of news — When asked their primary source of news, 45% chose the internet, with newspapers surprisingly getting 28%, followed by TV with 16%, and radio with a meager 6%. Somehow, I expected radio to be higher, but with ipods, smartphones and devices available to stay in touch with everything, it just makes sense. What is the future of radio anyway?

Observation #7: Smartphones have taken over — No big surprise here, as 72% of us now use iPhones, Droids or whatever. The smartphone has become an extension of the human persona, in all ages groups across the board.

There is so much more to share about this, but who has the time? I would really appreciate your comments and/or questions below.

Enter Red Lambda: security and operational intelligence software.

operational security company

Very soon, we will likely be doing some serious brand integration for Red Lambda, who is touted as the foremost provider of security and operational intelligence software for the world’s largest network infrastructures. I think you can expect great things from this up and coming company as security and network operations teams struggle to analyze everything, everywhere, every moment hoping they can quickly detect issues or anomalies.

Red Lambda provides some timely solutions, not only by helping detecting operational threats, but also offering capabilities to reveal opportunities to increase operational efficiency and unlock enormous business potential. Watch the video below to learn more.


Why Google adwords and landing pages are essentially Direct Mail 2011.

If you’re wondering how to get started with an effective Google Adwords campaign, you need to take a look back in history.

The 1990’s was the golden age of database marketing — direct mail, catalogs, Val-Paks, and dozens of other marketing vehicles designed to deliver an offer to a targeted list in hopes of snagging a new customer. It was an era was all about the direct mail package — the offer, the message, the teaser, the buck slip. Copy was king. The mantra was test, test, test until you optimized the elements that would deliver ROI.

Copy is still king. The messages, offers, and teasers you used to see on direct mail envelopes are still alive and well. The same proven fundamentals of outbound database marketing are now used primarily in Google adwords campaigns and custom landing pages.

When John Q Consumer is searching for polo shirts, pool supplies, or the cheapest tree trimmer, he turns to Google. In the old days, he might have turned to the yellow pages or had a coupon he received in the mail. Now when searching google, it’s your 95 characters of copy in your ad that persuades a prospect to click through to your custom landing page whose job is to close the deal.


Hook, persuade, close. Same fundamentals, new medium.

Briefly, here are the basic similarities between direct mail and Google adwords campaigns, and how to make them work for you:

1. Hook with Google ad copy (the envelope teaser) — Envelope teasers like ‘wake up and see the world’ are akin to your Google ad copy, because those few words will determine whether the offer resonates with your prospect enough for them to take the next step, open the envelope. With Google, your teaser, or ad copy has to hit a little bit harder. So, for the same product, your offer with Google may be a little more straightforward such as ‘eliminate dependence on glasses or contacts.’ With Google ads, you only have text, no pictures, so simpler is better.



The direct mail envelope teaser.

google ad vs direct mail teaser

The Google Ad Copy.


2. Persuade with your Landing Page (the direct mail letter) — Once a prospect clicks your ad, they have essentially opened your envelope, and are considering your offer. In the 80s and 90s, marketers tested direct mail letter formats in much the same way search engine marketers test landing pages. The layout, bullet points, copy, headlines, captions and graphic elements are mixed and matched until the right combination steers prospects to take action. Marketers use arrows, bursts and testimonials much the same way on landing pages as direct mail letters. The goal is always to use enough elements with enough persuasive copy to get the prospect to take the next step.


custom landing page design

Example of landing page coming from PPC ad.

direct mail letter

The direct mail letter, full of promises.


3. Close with you Conversion Form (the BRC) — In the old days, you had three ways to get a prospect to convert — the business reply card (BRC), the 800 phone number, or god forbid, the fax form. Today, it’s still the same mentality. We walk the fine between asking the prospect to give just enough info so we don’t turn them off, but just enough so we know they’re a qualified prospect.

the business reply card

The BRC - business reply card






Please, never over-think what you think people think.


It’s a common phenomenon among marketing folks: over-thinking, over-analyzing details based on personal preferences.

You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘I don’t read junk mail’ or ‘I never go to sites like that’ or ‘I would never click on that.’ Well, the reality of whether you don’t read junk mail, or what your particular clicking preferences happen to be, are largely irrelevant when it comes to making strategic marketing choices. Successful strategies are built on facts, metrics and reliable consumer behavior data, not your personal preferences. Over-thinking strategic details based on how we feel consumers will respond can potentially waste thousands in ad spending, and cause major campaigns to crash and burn.

Welcome to the age of reason, and ROI.

Because the majority of advertising and marketing is conducted on the internet these days, pretty much all marketing is measurable, or can be tracked — marketing dollars spent to revenue generated. Every marketing initiative — email marketing, pay-per-click ads, social media, et al — can be tracked. If the media choice doesn’t perform, it gets the axe. Pure and simple.  So why would anyone make strategic decisions based on personal preferences?

Any strategic media choice, online or other, can and should evaluated on it’s potential merit. The media market has never offered more choices, and has never been more competitive. Yet some marketing folks commonly shy away from solid strategies based on numbers offering promising results and ROI because they ‘would never click on something like that.’

Newsflash: your personal preferences are irrelevant. Put more of your trust in numbers, and less on your gut.



Branding 101: three distinct types of taglines, and when to use them in your brand’s lifecycle.

best slogan or tagline

I’m was recently working with DemandQuest Marketing Institute on a few minor branding and marketing issues, when the subject of taglines came up.  Their website tagline read DemandQuest – Achieve Marketing Clarity. That sounded nice, but was it the right approach for a startup company specializing in marketing training? It dawned on me when I picked up their promotional pen they gave me at one of their seminars. It read DemandQuest – Marketing Institute. Not surprisingly, whoever made the decision to use that tagline had the correct instincts. Because, in the realm of branding and using taglines, there are three very distinct types, all used for different purposes at different phases of of the brand lifecycle:

  1. The Descriptor — In DemandQuest’s case, or any start-up unknown in the marketplace, this is the safest approach. Your tagline should simple describe who you are and what we do, in simple, straightforward terms. We’re not trying to get cute in any way: DemandQuest Marketing Institute. That’s pretty clear to anyone on any first impression, stating precisely who we are and what we do. This approach is perfect for the new business with a new brand when clarity is absolutely critical, and ambiguity is dangerous. If you want your tagline to work a little harder, try the next approach.
  2. The Selling Proposition — We’ve all seen these, the mini-slogan that states your value proposition in 3-5 words. For example, ‘Johnson Printing – top quality, lower prices.’ Personally I hate these, because they make you look needy, unless of course you’ve really got a great selling proposition, and you can pare it down to 3-5 words, like ‘the quicker picker upper’ or ‘good to the last drop’ or something catchy. Unfortunately, most start-ups don’t have the dough to pay a big-time writer  to create something like that. It’s not to say that a straightforward selling proposition or brand promise won’t work. Just keep it simple. Not sure what DemandQuest would use in this scenario, but ‘Achieve Marketing Clarity’ was not a bad attempt, it just muddied the message. It was more like the next approach.
  3. Aspirational — Finally, if your brand is all grown up, and well established in the marketplace, you may want to consider this approach. It speaks more to your philosophy, than your value proposition. Obviously, ‘Just do it’ is one of the all time greatest, and is perhaps best example of taking a brand to the next level where it’s not about the product anymore. This approach is more about connecting on a human level about a value, or just saying ‘hey, we’re just like you.


DemandQuest: the internet marketing institute whose time has come.

In the coming years, business owners and marketing people will need to know how to effectively market on the internet to compete. That’s a given. Because, outside of broadcast and print, internet marketing will comprise the lion’s share of all marketing activity, if not all. For small businesses, it will be the only low cost tool available. The cruel irony, however, many of the business professionals who will depend on this for success, will be incapable of using the tools.

That’s where DemandQuest comes in. After years of interaction with owners and marketers at businesses of all sizes – from independent business people to Fortune 500 companies – DemandQuest addresses an undeniable need running through every organization at some level: to create on-going new business revenue using the most appropriate, cost-effective tools available. Offering courses in planning and other educational resources, DemandQuest is a hands-on learning center designed to increase your marketing skill, and bring clarity, inspiration and enthusiasm to your efforts.

Here’s why the concept is a sustainable business model:

Marketing and small business people fall into two groups – the tech and internet savvy ‘haves’ and the meek, technology intimidated ‘have nots.’ Unfortunately the chasm between these groups will grow ever wider, as the choices of new tools becomes greater, and the skills to use them even more daunting to some. Business owners and marketing people will need unbiased direction and hands-on help to navigate the ever changing sea of new tools, and companies like DemandQuest will be valuable resources.