Everything you put out there to attract more business is a message. The success of that message is getting someone to read it. Much of the time, it misses the mark. It doesn’t get read because it’s hard to read. Readable quality is critical for sales.
When a message is hard to read, it actually causes brain fatigue. Most of us have a built-in auto-fix—the delete key.
Here’s an example of poor readability:
Infectious diseases caused by pathogens and food poisoning caused by spoilage microorganisms are threatening human health all over the world. The efficacies of some antimicrobial agents, which are currently used to extend shelf-life and increase the safety of food products in food industry and to inhibit disease-causing microorganisms in medicine, have been weakened by microbial resistance.
That little gem, written by a scientist, is written at an FK post-graduate level 14. It has all the earmarks of being hard to read. Most people will read a few words and skip the rest.
Often in health, finance, or science, we need to share complex ideas. Making them more readable is all in the editing process.
If we change the above message to read:
Around the world, diseases and food spoilage threaten health. Pathogens constantly change. They morph into a variant. Current antimicrobials are less effective. We need to discover new ways to kill these strains.
The reading level drops from a 14 down to level 7. We are saying the same thing, but in a way that takes less brainpower to understand.
Outcome? Your reader stays with you.
Why you need to ditch what your English teacher said
Schools teach writing rules. Those rules are great—to get you through college and be able to write the kind of reports that met a standard.
Those reports weren’t marketing. They were academic standards.
Science has proven that our brains trust simple words over complex ones. That’s why many of the great novelists wrote using FK scores of 4-7. They didn’t write simple books. They wrote books that were easy to read. Of Mice and Men was an FK 3.4. To Kill a Mockingbird a 5.9 and Gone With the Wind a 7.0. Ernest Hemmingway’s Old Man and the Sea comes in as a 4.
The scoring system, FK, Flesch-Kincaid, is easily related to US school grades. So a 4th grader could read and understand Hemmingway.
When marketing products or services, we need to write conversationally. As a copy/content writer, I trained in the art of persuasive writing. It has to be friendly, engaging, and easily readable.
The younger the audience, the shorter their attention span. The message has to get the reader’s attention quickly and hold it. Hard-to-read material doesn’t do this.
One thing to keep in mind…
Readability won’t fix a poor message. It just makes it easier to read. Start with the best content for your target audience. Focus on content first and get the copy crafted.
Once you have it written, then go back and edit it for word choice, passive voice, and structure.
3 Techniques for getting readable
Shorter sentences, simple words, shorter paragraphs all combine to make your message more readable.
Newspapers or magazines score between a level 5 and 10.
Anything above a 10 is considered very hard to read.
Good copywriters stay at 8 or below.
The first thing to look for is long sentences. The more words in a sentence, the harder it is to read. Look for ways to break long sentences into shorter ones.
If you’re not sure whether a sentence is too long, here’s a simple trick. Read it out loud. If you run out of air and need to take a breath—shorten it. You can also use ellipses or dashes to break a sentence.
The more letters or syllables in a word, the harder it is to read. Look for a shorter synonym. Efficacy has four syllables. Power, success, or use are all better options.
Keep in mind that 50% of US adults have a reading ability at grade eight or less. Maximize your marketing efforts with a message at an FK 8 or below.
As with words and sentences, paragraphs need to be kept short. Look for sections that involve more than one idea. Break them into shorter segments.
In web content or anything to be read on an electronic device, keep the maximum number of paragraph lines to five or less.
Don’t trust your big screen desktop to give you an accurate line count. Use an edit option to view your copy on a mobile device. What looks great on the computer screen may be hard to read on your cell phone.
Shorter paragraphs create white space—the gaps between paragraphs. They let the brain relax and reduce fatigue.
Long paragraphs are like a monologue, and people stop reading.
When I work with clients
Even before I start working with a new client, I visit their website and look for how readable it is. I use one of the popular readability checkers and copy-paste content and see how they score. On our first visit, I share tips with them to improve the return on their marketing investment.
Getting your quality content readable is an evergreen investment that improves sales. https://www.jculpcreativecopy.com.
Are you at risk of becoming a dinosaur? Customers are tired of the transactional approach.
A transaction focus is business-centric. Spending more time online in 2020 buyers started getting more picky. They want their shopping experience to be easy and feel good. In 2021 and moving forward, every business needs to become more customer-centric.
When my internet quit working recently, it felt like a catastrophe. I’m internet-dependent. E-commerce, social marketing, emails. Many of my resource files live on a cloud.
The projects I needed to complete had most of their data stored on Google Drive or One Drive.
I tried to resolve the issue by re-setting up my router. It took me about an hour, and I got Wi-Fi restored. Yay! Then, less than two hours later, while I was on a zoom call—it went out again. My feeling of success disappeared.
I called the cable company and got an automated Virtual Assistant. In her rather irritating AI voice, she asked for my identification so she could bring up my account.
I provided the proper identification, and the Virtual Assistant said, “I see your internet is offline. Please unplug the router and then plug it back in to make it restart. I’ll text you 10 minutes to see if the issue is resolved. If not, I’ll connect you with support. Is that okay?”
I agreed, and she disconnected.
Ten minutes later, I got a text: “It looks like there are still some issues with your Services. We’ll text you soon to schedule a tech visit at a time that works for you.”
I checked the router. All the lights were blinking. I restarted the computer. No internet.
Another text popped up: “x/29 is the earliest date for an appointment in your area.
“Reply with a number below (1-4) to pick a time:
“1 for 1-3 PM
“2 for 2-4 PM
“3 for 3-5 PM
“4 for more options or to be waitlisted.
“Or reply with a later date (MM/DD)
“Thank you, your scheduled appointment is confirmed.
“Txt Help or Stop
“Msg & Data Rates may apply.”
Zero option to talk to a person or enter anything else that wasn’t a listed choice. Whatever happened to friendly customer service?
Consumers try to avoid transactional companies.
Based on every research study I can find on the topic, consumers are frustrated with a business-centric approach.
As consumers, we feel frustrated when we can’t get answers. Unfortunately, for things like the internet and cable, they are all pretty much alike and they are very business-centric. Transactional.
(I see a huge opportunity here waiting for someone to take advantage of it.)
As a copywriter marketer, I know a transactional approach flies directly into the face of the user experience. It may be straightforward, but it doesn’t make you feel good.
I’m continually reviewing different company websites both in my copywriting work and for personal shopping. If I see a poor user experience still hanging around, I look elsewhere. I go shopping for a friendlier option. Like most people, how I’m treated is more important than the price for the same item.
I’m not alone. A 2019 report by SalesForce shared that $62 Billion is lost annually from poor customer experiences. Half of all Americans will take their business elsewhere, 91% without ever complaining.
When I see a business entrenched in a transactional approach, and determined to stay business-centric, I can do little to help them. If they are ready for change, we can ramp up their sales and keep more customers.
Here’s a secret.
Becoming customer-centric isn’t difficult or hugely expensive.
Implement changes to help shoppers engage with your brand.
Focus on making shopping easier. Eliminate roadblocks that make the consumer go “What?” Clarity and simplicity. Make customers feel you care about them.
Three techniques to ditching transactional.
Here are three ways to enhance the customer experience. You can have your team handle them or do it yourself.
The caution there is you need to know what a good user experience looks, and reads, like to make sure your message does the job. To maximize your success, put this task in the hands of someone who understands UX.
Customize email automation
Most businesses use email automation to let customers know they received their order, when it shipped, etc. Platforms typically have generic emails in place for easy use. The problem is these emails are purely transactional.
Revise these and personalize them. Adding the purchaser’s first name is essential. You recognize them as human beings. We humans put a lot of value in being recognized and appreciated.
Make sure the wording thanks them for their purchase and let them know what future emails to expect.
Ever place an order, and you get the confirmation and then silence?
Add an email following the confirmation. Have it provide answers to frequently asked questions. Share more details on how to get the best results.
Nurture new buyers with knowledge that empowers them. By sharing in an email sequence, you can reduce calls or emails to customer service and reduce returns.
Personalize shipping notices. Include a tracking number so buyers can follow the purchase to delivery. It’s helpful if you include the name of the shipping company. Many businesses use USPS Priority Mail, UPS, or Federal Express, but they often just provide a tracking number. Since early in 2020, I’ve noticed increased lesser-known delivery services. Let them know how it is arriving.
A few days after the package delivery, send an email to ask if there are any questions. Let them know the best way to get those questions answered. This is also the ideal time to ask for a testimonial or review.
Make customers feel good.
If something looks good, tastes good, or feels good, our brain drives us to repeat it. Repeat sales are golden.
Go conversational and be readable.
Take a serious look at the copy on your website, blogs, and social. Content needs to be scannable and friendly in tone. It needs to be respectful. Avoid any wording that hints at talking down to the reader.
Look for ways to make your copy easier and quicker to read.
White space allows the brain to take a breath. The lack of it requires more concentration to read it – brain drain. That’s what makes people click away from your page or website.
Both B2B and B2C need white space. Purchasing agents may not be engineers. They want to scan your submission and share it with the right people.
It’s all about making things easy for the person viewing your page.
Ramp up customer service
Quality customer service is high on the list of buyers’ wants. In the last 12 months, it has become more important than ever before. Many consider it essential if you want to keep their business.
Every business needs to view customer service as an opportunity to build long-term relationships with loyal customers. View them as an imposition, and you won’t have to worry about them again. They’ll be gone to your competition.
What shoppers want.
Location. After several negative experiences, I want to know a business’s geographical location. It gives me clues on how I’ll interact with the company and how quickly my product will arrive.
Do you offer chat? If so, what hours? In the US, there is a six-hour time difference between the east coast and Hawaii. That’s huge when you’re trying to connect with someone who is only available for limited hours. Providing your geographical location at least gives clues.
If you have a customer service phone line, showcase it. Make it easily found on every page—not hidden in the tiny print at the bottom. A contact page is okay, but the more clicks the shopper has to do, the more it slows them down. Keep it easy.
If you only accept email questions, be sure to give them an idea of how quickly you’ll get back to them.
I’ve waited a month to get a response. How long do you want to wait?
When I work with clients
I start with customer service and learn why shoppers reach out. Then we work to customize emails and answer questions before the customer knows they have them. If you need help improving your customer experience, you can reach me via www.jculpcreativecopy.com.
If you do a Google search of current blogging statistics, the numbers overwhelmingly support the need for both B2B and B2C companies to have blog content. 85% of people prefer to use content in blogs to help them decide over even testimonials.
There are some best practices to maximize your return on the investment of time and or money outsourcing what can be time-intensive work.
I worked in the spa niche for well over two decades. I traveled, enjoyed experiences and visited lots of spas and resorts.
In the UK, I have my own private native guide, my husband, to take me on discovery trips. In big cities, people are more cautious, guarded. Get away from them and people tend to be more friendly.
UK roads are unique. M-roads are freeways. A-roads are mostly divided highways. B-roads are narrow 2-way roads. However, one lane may disappear unexpectedly. The only way to pass is the tiniest of pull-outs. Driving a road no wider than your car with little visibility on either side is quite an experience.
You never know where you will end up.
A tiny thatched-roof village where the main activity is the village pub that dates back hundreds of years. If you’re adventurous enough to find them, they’re happy to regale you with history as you listen to the locals’ gossip.
The top of the Welch hills with a view for miles…clear to the sea. This while you stand among neolithic burial stones whose only company is a neighboring pasture of cows.
A 5-star spa, Manor House or Castle with experiences as diverse as their locations.
It was natural to share experiences.
I’ve been writing blogs for years. What start out as journal notes, become invites to leave home, experience something different, and renew.
If your blog is shared on a dedicated Facebook page, you’ve tapped into the power of social media and a place people like to relax and read.
Marketing blogs for myself. Content blogs for my clients. Experiences, information, success stories. All designed to help someone.
What many don’t know
Blogs are not static.They have changed and are evolving. Most used to be 500-900 words. Now those with 2250-2500 words show the highest engagement and readership. While you can create a short blog in 1-2 hours. Long blogs can take six hours or more.
Longer blogs have caused frequency to drop. Where bloggers used to put out multiple blogs a week. The longer formats, take more research and writing time. They may only be published semi-monthly.
3 Best Blog Practices
Blogs can be a stand-alone website. They can also be a column or featured tab on your business website. For the most readership, blog content should tie into the purpose of your business.
Take time to think about topics that make sense to include based on your offer. Health, alternative health, fitness, nutrition, wellness, relationships, kids, life events like retirement, or getting married.
Whatever your website’s purpose is, include topics that support it. Your goal is to become their information resource. Reliable, relevant, knowledgeable…and trustworthy.
Diversity in your niche
Within your niche, have a little fun and offer diversity. If you’re offer supplements, nutrition or fitness, consider adding helpful recipes. If your selling supplements for kids, offer simple parenting tips.
Share things that will make readers’ lives easier/better.
Offer the latest findings. A major part of my fitness routine is walking. I just had to replace my shoes and the first thing I noticed they weren’t as sleek. Rather broader and boxier. Fortunately, I had a sharp associate helping me. He educated me on the changes in shoe structure to better protect ergonomics and reduce the risk of plantar fasciitis.
Look for changes or innovations that relate to what you offer. A new ingredient. A new method of formulation that works better. Problem-solution specific. Every reader has a different goal, yet most will read to be better informed.
Keep blogs casual
Blogs are conversations with a friend. Keep them informal. If you have scientific articles on your site, your blog may be the ideal place to convert that to reader-friendly information.
If a topic is complex, your blog is the spot to break it into easily scannable, digestible chunks.
Most of your readers are going to skim-read. Help them out with a friendly style where there is plenty of white space and subheadings.
Make sure the reading level is in the 7-8 range or lower. The higher the reading level, the more mental energy is required and the more quickly readers leave.
Relevant, diverse and casual will keep your readers coming back for more. Mix up short blogs like recipes or quick content with longer reads.
Judith Culp Pearson is a wellness relationship marketer. She puts those skills to work helping businesses increase client retention with web content and strategies. Blog content is always something she recommends to clients. If they don’t have the time or desire to do it, she handles it for them.
There is one sure-fire way to a successful business…giving customers something they want and more, in essence, over-deliver.
“But wait, there’s more”
Back in the late 1970s-early 80s, Ginsu knives made a fortune on their perfectly crafted television infomercials. It uses the get a lot for a little formula.
They demonstrate their knife-wielding skills showcasing how fabulous their knives are. As the demonstration draws to a close, they open their offer with “Now how much would you pay? Don’t answer!”
Then they reduced the price or sweetened the deal with add on bonuses. More and more and more.
They urged viewers to “Call now! Operators are standing by!” Even then they added more bonuses to the offer.
They created the tagline which is still used today, “But wait! There’s more!”
The value was so high compared to the price, people couldn’t resist.
It was so successful, they used the exact same formula, and spokespeople, to market a number of other equally successful household items.
Exceeding expectations works
In my practice, I’ve always tried to exceed people’s expectations, but I never thought of it as over-delivering. I just wanted customers that were so happy they’d return and refer me to their friends.
Over-delivering is a term I learned from a master copywriter, Brian Kurtz. He is one of the most successful marketers out there and has over 40 years of experience behind him. Over-delivering is his specialty.
I’ve found Brian’s insights accurate and useful in my work with clients and in marketing. If you want to dive deeper, his book Overdeliver is available on Amazon.
One thing most people don’t realize
A customer’s lifetime value is directly related to the depth of the relationship. Lists and contacts are inanimate. They are for transactions. Human interaction is based on relationships. Every way your buyers encounter you, websites, social media, emails, chatbots need to be relationship-focused. Giving more than expected is a key way to build those relationships.
In today’s world, where more buying happens online than in a store, this is even more critical. It’s also what people are looking for. They want to understand you, your business, and what you stand for.
The more transparent you are the better they feel about you. If they can’t even find out where a company is located, or get in touch with them, it rather feels like something is being hidden.
3 ways to over-deliver
There are three types of people out there, givers, takers, and matchers. Takers have their hands out ready to receive. Takers love it when people offer to help them, but seldom give anything in return. Matchers are tit for tat people. If given something, they respond by giving back the exact same value.
Givers share with no strings attached. No expectations. They give to help others.
Be the giver. They share information, appreciate the person they interact with, treat them with respect, reward them. Givers are relationship builders.
Businesses that follow this pattern have the greatest success.
Every interaction a relationship event
Look for ways to make every interaction a relationship event. Give information, help, and support freely. Let customers and prospects know you appreciate them.
Make emails personalized not automated generic. Nurture them, answer questions…even ones they haven’t thought of yet. Thank them, reward them.
Talk to them as person to person. Be conversational, invite a response. Social media is especially good to get conversations going. Monitor what triggers get responses and use them again.
Give them what they want
Many businesses have an idea and create a product. Then they reach out to find people who they think need it. Too often, it misses the mark. What the customer wants doesn’t match with the solutions they are offered.
When a product is still in the concept stage that’s the ideal time to make sure it is a clear match. Ask them, research it, follow forums. How can you tweak it to have a 100% match?
It might be the right product but the wrong packaging, formulation, or value.
Maybe they need more information to understand your product/service or how to use it. Free guides or how-tos can be invaluable.
Convert transactions to relationships with over-delivery
Often fulfillment and customer support are treated as transactions. Instead, treat them as part of your marketing.
I once received an order and inside the product was nicely tissue wrapped with a small envelope on top. Inside was a brief inspirational message and a piece of a cinnamon stick. It was totally unexpected. A gift, a bonus, and I can still tell you exactly who that item came from.
If you’re doing a subscription offer, thank them for renewing. If you shipped them a product, ask if they have any questions on how to use it. Targeted nurturing emails, segmented by product or interest, following a purchase are an excellent technique to bond.
Be reachable and responsive. I’ve noticed that almost every business I interact with has a message to expect delays. It’s true of phone messages, web notices, and email responses.
Sometimes you get the message and then an immediate contact. Other times, you may wait for days, even weeks.
After all this time, we need to figure out a way to be more responsive. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. How long would You realistically want to wait? Figure out a way to make that happen.
How I approach this
When I work with a new client, I look at the touchpoints from the viewpoint of their buyer. How does it “feel”. It may work fine, but feel impersonal. I look for transactionality and ways to replace it with over-delivery and relationship building.
In a recent article, I shared the importance of customer relationships for 2021. We’re in a world where the competition is fierce. You probably have competitors who have offers similar to yours. Your key differentiator is likely how you bond with customers. How you take care of them. It’s core to your survival.
If you’re fence-sitting on the necessity of investing in your customer experience, the facts are available. I found an article that shared 50 stats proving the value of customer relationships. Here are my key takeaways.
Companies focused on customers outperform their competition by nearly 80%.
In 2010 only 36% of companies focused on CX. Today 66% use it as a competitive edge.
96% of customers say customer service is key to their loyalty.
Superior customer service can bring in 5.7 times more revenue than competitors without it.
Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than business-centric.
Customers switching due to poor service costs US companies $1.6 trillion.
Happy customers are 5 times more likely to purchase again.
Negative experiences reduce spending by 140%
Take care of your customer relationships. They will reward you with loyalty and profitability.
When we are trying to improve our customer experience, we need to understand our target audience and what makes them tick. Demographics tell us where they live, their age, and what they earn. The relatively new region of psychographics analytics tells us why they buy.
Psychographics tell us the Why
They reveal the customer’s interests, and activities or lifestyle. We learn about their opinions, their values, and their attitudes. And we discover their beliefs and emotional triggers.
This information allows us to segment our audience and send them targeted marketing that aligns with their interests.
Now the ads are everywhere?
A while back, I stumbled on an apparel company called Paskho on Facebook. It looked interesting, so I went to explore.
They were starting the process to transition manufacturing from China to support underserved US communities. They used responsible sourcing and had a planet-friendly message. This on top of having easy to wear comfortable clothes for travel or at home. Looked good.
The price points suggested maybe for dress, travel or occasional wear. I didn’t order although I did give them my email address.
The next day when I went online to Facebook, there were ads for the company in my feed. And the next. And the next.
Facebook AI had used the data it had collected on my hobbies and interests and decided we were a fit.
When I did a Google search…guess who’s ad showed up. Sure enough. The same company was there.
And my inbox? Yes, I started getting a well-written series of trust-building nurturing emails. They topped it off with a coupon and a great return policy. I finally succumbed and placed an order.
Why use them?
I’ve been following psychographics for several years and use it routinely when I create strategies and content. It gets results.
A couple of years ago I created a summer special for a list that I knew well. Small business owners, B2B, beauty.. 98% are women and love a good deal – if they like/need the product.
It traditionally was a slow month for sales. We did a special “Shh! The boss is away so we’re having a sale.” We offered a favorite popular product at discount. The email received 24% opens and 17% click rate.
I wrote for another client in the wellness sector who got even higher results.
She hadn’t contacted her list in three years due to a serious medical issue. The email got 65% opens, a 20% click-through rate, and a full roster for a class she was offering.
Knowing exactly what your reader’s interests are, does make a huge difference in ROI.
Many people don’t know the rules
Psychographics have come a long way in just the last five years and they are evolving fast. There are now online providers where you can source customer psychographics for a list.
The big caution is it has to be done properly to protect privacy. Getting permission, some sort of opt-in is important.
We know that Facebook has a huge system of AI that gathers information from us regularly. We voluntarily offer up hobbies and interests on our profile. Facebook uses this plus our online habits to place ads we are most apt to respond to in our newsfeed.
They aren’t sharing our information with the advertiser. However, they are using it to place paid ads where we will see them. If you want to see how it works check out Ad Preferences on your Facebook profile under settings.
What psychographics reveal
While the number of male and female shoppers is about the same, according to a study by Bloomberg, women make more than 85% of all consumer purchases in the US. They influence over 95% of total goods and services purchased.
The notion that men are in charge of all decisions should have just fled your mind and marketing plan.
If you want to sell a male-specific product…consider marketing to those who influence his buying triggers.
With all the social equality issues that have come out in 2020, it will be more important than ever to understand our prospects beyond demographics.
Values, social, and is the company helping the environment opinions will impact decisions for both male and female buyers.
To use psychographic marketing
Focus on their needs, concerns, interests, and passions. As a result of the pandemic, people are feeling stressed. Aches, pains, lack of sleep, poor nutrition. Now, all aspects of wellness are hot topics and emotional triggers.
Offer stress-reducing or stress-management solutions. Help them relax, restore or improve something in their life. Share something that will help them feel better about themselves.
Talk to your customer service team and learn what they are hearing from customers.
Interview some customers and listen to what they are asking for. Not sure what they are asking? Use open-ended questions to enhance the dialogue. Listening is key.
Read product reviews, and questions people ask, on similar Amazon offers. Haunt social media or forums and note the things people are talking about…what they need, want, think.
Use their interests to stay in touch…nurture
Provide information that answers questions they haven’t thought of yet. Keep them interest-specific. I’ve noticed many wellness businesses offering more recipes. They are all tied into some aspect of what the business does.
Simple things make a difference. Guides, how-to’s, charts, videos, apps.
People love validation. Customer success stories, testimonials, and other third-party information can help move them toward the purchase.
Be device friendly
Make sure your format works on all devices. While men have embraced mobile devices, the majority of women still prefer to work on a desktop or other device with a larger screen that facilitates research.
Women respond better to email offers than their male counterparts. They are willing to get additional information from you in exchange for their email address. A special offer in that email may well bring them back to your website again…this time with buying in mind.
Never assume a woman isn’t interested if she abandons her cart or suddenly leaves your website. She is a multi-tasker and you never know what interrupted her shopping.
Gently remind and invite her back again…with the respect of a valued friend, not someone you’re trying to hammer into a sale.
Follow current best practices
Stressed people are less tolerant of poorly crafted or pushy messages. Make sure your message is modern, and politically and socially correct.
Psychographics in a nutshell
Men are raised that they need to be a winner. Use techniques to reinforce their self-esteem and self-value.
Many men don’t enjoy the shopping process. Make buying easy.
Women are stressed multi-taskers looking for solutions. They want to improve their quality of life. Women are nurturing influencers. They need both emotional and logical input to make their decisions.
Women not only buy for themselves but are the buyers for children, extended family, friends, and the elderly. This isn’t just true in the USA but in nearly every society.
Even when they don’t make the purchase themselves, women influence it. They are caregivers, relationship builders, and communicators.
With the pandemic, some online businesses have still not adjusted to the increased need for customer support. The need is greater and expectations for customer service are higher than ever before.
Elevate your customer service to raise your like and trust value, as well as your wellness brand.
Need help to enhance the ROI on wellness marketing? Contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org