May 2006
Eyes Are Windows To Attention Span
Seth Grodin took a look at an eye tracking video that analyzed what websurfers looked at when they were reading a page designed by Squidoo.

It's interesting to see the different patterns that different readers have. Some are very liniar and some flit all over the screen. There are important lessons to be learned from this study. Grodin points out the one that's most applicable to this blog:

The biggest lesson wasn't news to me, but it might be to your boss: your prospects are not rational and organized and linear. You can't count on them sitting still and hearing your story from beginning to end. They won't.

The answer is not to try to change human nature. It's to embrace the hunting skills that people are bringing online (and to their daily offline media consumption) and to make your media match their needs.

Objectivity is difficult to maintain when you're trying to write and design for your own business and still effectively communicate what's important to your customers in a way that will get and keep their attention.

But bringing in outside creative talent, like a designer or copywriter, can help to maintain that objectivity and create effective marketing materials.
What I learned from eye tracking - [Seth's Blog]
Like A Pirate
Pirates are really big these days, thanks to Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean and national holidays like Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Chris Brogan of took his admiration a step further and began to see the true wisdom hidden the ways of the pirate lifestyle in his article, Work Like A Pirate.

Pirates Live by Results
Plundering, pillaging, and other pursuits aside, pirates are all about getting results. They don’t get paid without a lot of up-front hard work. If you are a pirate, you are striving to accomplish a big score. There are perils, risks, and all kinds of ways that the job can fail. It’s a lot like being part of a startup, only pirates have swords, patches, and parrots.

Taking things a step further, Mike Sigers of
Simplenomics remixed Brogan's idea in his vision, Sell Like A Pirate.

A Pirate Is Not His Ship
Your product or service is only the start. What you can do for or with the customer is the real product. Benefits are the reason we buy anything. I bought a new masonry drill bit because I wanted a hole thru my bricks for my Dish Network cable, not because I wanted the new drill bit.

Learn to sell the end result and not the features and you won’t spend as much time on each sale or worse, as much time lost on not selling.

Pirates didn’t always have the best ships, but they still stole a lot of loot. Even if you’re not the big dawg in your industry, if you’re smart enough, you can still make a boat load of loot.

Lessons Learned From Global Warming
Seth Grodin’s written an interesting article that discusses one probable cause for our lack of initiative to stop global warming: bad copywriters.

Global is good
Warm is good
How can "global warming" be bad?

In his own
reaction to Grodin's article, Brian Clark draws a comparison between the marketing of global warming's impact and the marketing of your business.

In today’s business environment, it’s not enough to have a story. It’s got to be a vivid, engaging story that connects at an emotional level. Anything less may well lead to disaster.

Are you choosing the right words to tell your story and sell your product?

The Problem With Global Warming - [Seth Grodin's Blog]
How to Avoid the Pollution Plague - [Copyblogger]
Email Authoring Tips
Matt May from Blue Flavor has served up an email authoring tutorial that demands worldwide circulation.

Popular as it is, the web is not the most-used Internet application by transaction volume. Email is. It's also the most misused. Since it's such an important and often overlooked component of our online lives, I'm going to step away from preaching about the web for a moment and focus on simple steps to make your email discussions more effective.

He targets the following sore spots in today's e-messaging habits:
• Brevity
• Context
• Something to act on
• Reasonable expectations
• A deadline

Email: an author’s guide - [Blue Flavor]
Forbes' Best Small Biz Blogs
Hunting around the 37Signals blog archives, I found this in a link from just about a year ago:

Forbes' Best Small Biz Blogs
Sell the Sizzle
Attention Retention
Everyone’s heard the one about the steak and sizzle. It’s an old salesman’s chestnut, but that little chestnut holds a lot of truth when it comes to marketing and persuasive writing.

Your goal as a marketer is to gain and retain the attention of your audience. In the media saturated environment that we live in, a big old list of facts and statistics just isn’t going to hold anyone’s attention for long.

Think back to that teacher you’ve ever had, the one who just read out of the book. Technically, the subject was being taught. But how much of what the teacher said actually stuck? Not very much. And how interested were you while you were in class? Not at all.

But what could you do? You were a captive audience. If you’re trying to sell a product, you don’t have the luxury of an audience forced to sit and listen to your pitch. Would you use the same techniques as that teacher in order to sell your product? If you were the potential customer, would you be buying based on the litany of facts and dates?

Probably not.

Focus On The Customer
A rule of thumb that should always have in the forefront of your mind when marketing is that the focus should be on your customer.

Everyone likes to be the subject of the discussion. It gets us more engaged in the conversation and strokes the ego a little. “Hey you!” always gets our ears perked up.

The challenge is this: You’re marketing your product, right? So how do you keep the focus of your material on the customer but still promote your product? You talk benefits. Facts and stats focus on your product. Benefits focus on what your product does for your customer. Simple as that.

Determining Your Product’s Benefits
Here are a few examples of features vs. benefits using a few items that are on my desk:

Feature: 40GB hard drive
Benefit: Load up your entire music collection and take it with you.

Phone Headset
Feature: Hands-free, over-the-ear design
Benefit: Type and talk at the same time

USB-Powered Scanner
Feature: Draws power through the USB cable
Benefit: Fewer cables to clutter up the office

What are your product’s benefits? Figuring that out might sound easier said than done. So here are a couple of ways to determine your product benefits.

Copywriter Bob Bly describes a method of generating a list of benefits in his book The Copywriter’s Handbook. Take a blank sheet of paper and divide it into two columns. In the right hand column, list a feature of your product. Then ask yourself “What about this feature most benefits those who use it? How does this feature make the product more attractive, useful, enjoyable or affordable?” Go through this process for each feature, and you will end up with a list of benefits.

Another interesting method is written about by Barbara Findlay Schenck in Small Business Marketing for Dummies. Write out a feature. Add “which means”. And then finish the sentence. So you end up with something like, “Steaks are 100% Black Angus beef which means it just tastes better than our competitions’ steaks.”

All Benefits, All The Time?
So, as we’ve discussed, the trick is to focus on bringing forward the benefits of your product. But is that the only thing you should include in your marketing communication? For most products whose target audience is normal, everyday people, yes. Listing features will muddy the water and glaze eyes more often than they’ll peak interest.

An exception is made if you have a technical product, or your target audience is made up of specialists who would be turned off by a lack of hard data when you’re pitching your product. In these cases, you’ll want to consider stirring in a blend of facts and stats to your benefits. For example, if you’re selling a monitor to graphic design professionals, you might want to work something like this in: ‘15.4 inch TruColor monitor with a max resolution of 1900 x 1024, so you can see your work and your customers see the results.’

But it’s rare to see an example of persuasive writing that only focuses on features. It’s just too dry. And there’s too much competition out there for you to risk boring your potential customers.

Related Reading:
Small Business Marketing For Dummies (Amazon)

Illusion of agreement

Via 37Signals: Signals vs. Noise