Is your website for you or for your customers?

about you

Take a good hard look at your company’s website. Who is it designed and written to please? You, your board…

…or your customers and prospects?

Go on, look again. Be honest now. Is it totally focused on your customers’ needs and issues? Or is it a lot of it just stuff about how brilliant you think you are?

So many websites are simply vehicles for the company’s corporate vanity. Marketing directors who want their latest tv campaign to feature on it. CEOs who want their picture and CV on it. Web designers who want their latest whizzy technological innovation on it. And so on.

Ask yourself a couple of simple questions.

1: Does my website look like advertising? If it does it will be letting you down. Badly.

2: Does my website talk about my customers or does it talk about us, the company? If it’s the latter, you’re losing out.

In short, has the website been written to help your customers in some way or is it simply one giant About Us compendium of stuff your customers couldn’t give a monkey’s about?

So here’s a suggestion. Instead of writing About Us, how about writing About You?


Huzzah! A new ‘nobody scrolls’ has emerged from the digital universe.

Vector click here button concept

This blog is ironically named Nobody Scrolls in honour of the digital, ahem, gurus who used to bleat at us constantly that ‘nobody scrolls’ on websites or emails – despite massive evidence (and personal experience) to the contrary.

Now of course it’s recognised that we all scroll. So they’ve invented a new ‘rule’ to spout at every opportunity.

It’s “You must never say Click Here”.

Why? Because ‘it’s like writing Open Here on a door, so it’s unnecessary’. (I wish I were making this up!) You should use a phrase for the link that relates to what you’ll find at the end of it.

And because 60% of web users view it on a tablet, phone or other portable device so don’t actually click, they just touch and therefore it’s ‘wrong’ to say ‘click’ (as if the punter gives a monkey’s!).

This is all fine and dandy. Except it isn’t based on any evidence whatsoever. So it’s just more made-up ‘Expert Knowledge’ like ‘nobody scrolls’ was.

Wise marketeers and web designers who actually TEST the techniques they use on their sites and, especially on digital ads, know that using Click Here actually increases click through. (And of course, Buy Now and so on will work too.)

Again, this is a perfect example of how tried-and-tested techniques developed over millennia in print and broadcast media work just as well in the digital world. It’s simply because you’re giving the punter a clear and decisive Call To Action CTA).

Now there’s an important SEO element, of course, to links; and clearly Google will prefer a link that shows relevance to a search topic.

But if you just want the punter to move to the next level,  just ask her to do it.


“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable”


I am constantly amazed by how many companies spend a fortune on marketing without analysing whether the money they spend actually helps their business.

As a long-term direct marketeer, it’s absolutely second-nature for me to say ‘how much business does this activity bring in?’ or, the DM person’s favourite question ‘does this activity pay for itself?’. In other words, is a specific marketing activity actually costing you money, rather than making you money?

(And if so, why on earth are you doing it?)

Yet, time after time, I meet clients who are spending money on various forms of marketing – be it a shiny new website, a direct mail campaign, a beautiful new brochure, some adshel advertising in their local area, email newsletters – yet have no way of knowing which bits of this (if any) is getting customers and which is just money down the drain.

There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, they aren’t formally measuring the effectiveness of the activity. Again, the old DM cliche is ‘What gets measured gets improved’.

Did the new website get more hits? More importantly, did it deliver more enquiries or sales? If not, why not?

Did the remarketing campaign generate enough clickthroughs to justify its cost? Did the PPC campaign do better than old-fashioned keyword SEO?

Did the press advertising generate more awareness in the target audience group? How many phone calls and emails did it generate?

Measure this stuff and you will improve its performance (or decide to ditch it altogether).

Secondly, they don’t have any objectives to work towards. If you don’t have a target number of new customers to recruit by the end of the year, or an awareness score to increase, or a simple top line sales target to meet – then you aren’t going to tailor your activity to meet these ends most cost-efficiently.

Remarkably, I talk to many (usually smaller) organisations who don’t really have any business objectives or marketing targets other than ‘sell more stuff’.

And if your strategy is that non-existent, it doesn’t matter what form your marketing activity takes as nobody will be holding you accountable.

The quote at the top of this post, summing up this approach to business, is from Seneca the Younger, a Roman philosopher born 4 BC. Which just goes to show that there’s nothing new in marketing. Ever.


Good copywriter, bad copywriter – what’s the difference?


To me, there’s no mystery to it. You can tell who’s a good copywriter and who’s a bad one within a few seconds of reading their work.

By a good copywriter, I mean one that’s going to write copy (or content, if you prefer) for you that really sells your products or services. One that knows how to get under the skin of your target audience and writes stuff that will get them clicking through to your Buy Now page before they know what’s hit them.

And here’s the secret…

Bad copywriters mostly concern themselves with how they say stuff. Good copywriters concern themselves mostly with what to say.

This is because the message, the offer, the nugget of information contained in the words is always far, far more important than the words themselves.

A good copywriter will ask you loads of very detailed questions about the product, the marketplace and the target audience. And spend a lot of time seeking the razor-sharp idea that will most convince your audience to act (or think) in the way you want them to.

A bad one will simply write some puns around your product name or come up with what they think is ‘clever wordplay’.

I saw a particularly awful example of a bad copywriter’s work yesterday while strolling past the British Museum.

There were some posters on the railings announcing particular exhibitions. One had a picture of an ancient coin. With a line next to it about how things change through history. Geddit? Coin, change?

Trouble is, this headline told me absolutely nothing about the exhibition. I gleaned it was something to do with coins from the picture but the oh so clever headline added nothing to the communication whatsoever. There were several more, equally hopeless.

This is the classic sort of stuff you see every day of the week from Bad Copywriters who have hardly paused for a second to think what the communications objective of these posters might be. They’ve gone straight for a lame pun because they think that’s what copywriters do.

And, as they’ve bought this drivel in the first place, their clients clearly concur.

Why Apple’s 2015 website feels like a classic 50s direct response letter

1930s Man Newspaper Reporter Wearing Hat Typing Smoking Cigar

I was chatting to Paul Lindsell, Creative Director of the excellent Space01 agency, yesterday and he was telling me how he’s banned his website team from using Lorem Ipsum when they’re putting a new site together. (Lorem Ipsum is the pretend latin type that we use to show where words go on a rough layout.)

Why? Because if they’re using Lorem Ipsum  it means the team aren’t focusing on the site’s messaging. They’re only focusing on the design. So he insists they use real customer-facing copy propositions at all times to ensure that the communications hierarchy is in place right from the start. The don’t have to insert finally crafted headlines at this stage, but they have to be in the ballpark.

This is a great idea.

Far too many sites are driven by design and technological or navigation considerations rather than by the clients’ marketing and communications objectives. Let’s have a slider, they’re groovy! Let’s have the main navigation at the side rather than the top! Cool! What are the headlines going to say? Who cares! It’s just content! Woohoo!

I really, really wish I was exaggerating here.

And it’s this aspect of website creation, more than anything else, that separates the men from the boys in the digital world.

The real smart operators understand that a website is no different from any other marketing medium.

It has to offer the visitor a clear hierarchy of benefits from the moment they land – be useful, solve problems, offer a deal, give advice. And so on.

And that’s one of the reasons that, quite remarkably, the most successful websites are starting to resemble old-fashioned direct response marketing pieces. No, really…

The Apple site is a perfect example.

I was reading up on their new Photos app, that’s replacing its current iPhoto offering (hooray!). The page is put together in a way that’s spookily reminiscent of a classic direct mail letter that could have been written in the 1950s…

It starts with a clear benefit-led headline and follows up with paragraph after paragraph leading with secondary benefits, supported by explanatory copy, relevant pictures and live interactive examples. All there on the page. No links away.

They even use what I call classic ‘You can…’ headlines:

Make an edit

Perfect your best shots

Take control of the finest details

What’s more, because everyone with a proper direct response background knows that the worst thing you can do is make your marketing look like advertising, the page is designed to look and feel like editorial.

Because there are no links away, you start at the top and read to the end; convinced you want the product. And, guess what, there’s the call to action, right at the bottom, just like on that 50s DM letter. Complete with Act Right Now message – Start using Photos on your Mac today –  and the only link on the page, naturally taking you to the App Store.

Warms the cockles of a direct response copywriter’s heart.

Here’s the page: Apple Photos


Whatever happened to the digital advertising revolution?


Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. (As Pete Townshend of The Who once wrote.)

Do you remember how, a few short years ago, all the self-styled digital advertising gurus were telling everyone how advertising had changed beyond all recognition? How advertising was no longer about intrusive spots on TV and big attention-grabbing press ads? How our customers were now ‘in control’ and how we had to ‘engage’ them in ‘conversations’ via social media? How it was all about building your customers’ relationship with The Brand not about selling stuff to them?

Well, I was just on YouTube. And before I could watch my selected video I had to watch a 30 second commercial for Marks & Spencers. Just like the ones on the TV. Selling me stuff. I had no choice. Not only that, advertisers can now choose to allow their ads to interrupt videos – get shown in the middle. Again, just like telly!

And then I had a quick browse on Facebook to see what interesting stuff had been posted on my newsfeed. Oh look, lots of very old-fashioned press-style ads interrupting my enjoyment of dogs playing musical instruments and such like. (This is the same Facebook which, if you cast your mind back before it was sold, promised never to have ads on it.) Selling me stuff.

Whilst I was on Facebook did I stop to engage with my tinned tomatoes supplier? Did I dive into a fascinating conversation with Colgate about my choice of toothpaste? Did I then whizz over to Twitter to join a national debate on Lloyds Bank? Er, no I didn’t. Because nobody ever does. Do you?

In short, here’s where we are. Right back where we started. People selling stuff via what is, to all intents and purposes, traditional, intrusive, in-your-face advertising.

Facebook and Google (owners of Youtube) and Twitter have finally realised that nothing has changed. Whatsoever. People have no interest in products or brands. So you have to ram advertising down their throats whether they like it or not. (Not being the operative word, of course.)

And so, to reach your customers effectively, and cost-effectively, you run old-fashioned ads. Telly ads on YouTube, press ads on Facebook. Editorial-style banners on websites. PPC ads on Google.

Sure, there’s a bit of ‘engagement’ by fans of certain products. I engage with stuff that is relevant to my job and my hobbies. Stuff that provides me with interesting or useful information. If it happens to be provided by a brand, fine. If it doesn’t, also fine. This is PR in action. Just like it’s always been PR in action. Putting interesting stories into media that their customers read/visit. This is not new, folks.

But the idea that most people now go online to have ‘a conversation’ about toilet paper or sprouts or pan scrubs or fish fingers – or any of the countless other brands we buy every week – is as ludicrous now as it has always been. And always will be.

We don’t get fooled again, as Uncle Pete said. Or do we?






Why ABOUT isn’t a headline

go away

Because so many businesses running websites are focusing all their attention on search engine optimisation, many are forgetting that the main purpose of your site is to sell your stuff.

Obviously it’s great – and vital – that loads of people come to your site and a proportion of them will buy or enquire. But many of your visitors won’t. And the scary part is that you’re perhaps losing all these potential business-boosting buyers without even realising it.

And it might well be because the copy on your homepage is simply ‘content’. It’s simply stuff that’s there so that Google ranks you highly enough for people to find you. So you have totally un-engaging copy and, even worse, totally dull headlines that don’t tell your visitors why they should stay and find out more about what you can do for them.

The worst symptom of this is mistaking onsite navigation for headlines.

To be as effective as it can at converting visitors to buyers/enquirers, your homepage needs to rapidly tell the prospect what your offer is, and how you can help them.  So that they stay on your site longer than the average of 8 seconds.

You can have a video that gets right to the point as soon as they land. You can have an unavoidable FREE giveaway that offers them something very useful/interesting/entertaining in return for their email address. Or you can have a good-old-fashioned headline that hits them between the eyes with your irresistible sales proposition.

But, startlingly, more and websites simply welcome you with their navigation headers: ABOUT or WHY US or OUR TEAM or OUR PHILOSOPHY.

These are not headlines. These will not win you new customers. These will not instantly communicate a really compelling reason why I shouldn’t bugger off to another site where I might be treated in the way all of us want to be treated when we’re wearing our buying hat, not our selling hat.

(Funny isn’t it, how so many of us seem to be able to utterly detach our expectations as buyers from our insights as sellers? It’s a simple question to ask oneself: how would I like to be treated and what would I like to see if I were visiting this website/shop/restaurant/brochure? And yet so many businesses – especially where online marketing is concerned – seem to have completely lost the plot on this most basic of marketing techniques.)

Perhaps you’re thinking “yes but I need to have a really dull and boring homepage to get up Google”, Well then, remember this: Google natural search via SEO is not the only way to get customers to your site. Try PPC, try Google Remarketing, try Facebook advertising, try more email marketing.

Get customers to your site because they want to be there, because they want to buy. They’re warmer prospects when they arrive, too, so with your powerful headline-driven home page you’re going to convert even more of them.




How Apple became the world’s biggest brand by banning the word brand


There’s one marketing blog out there which, to me, is unmissable. It’s called The Ad Contrarian and whenever you’ve had your head rammed full of fashionable, flavour-of-the-month marketing bollocks it’s a great place to go and restore your faith in common sense.

In his latest rant, The Ad Contrarian takes apart the idea that your brand is more important than your actual product. He shows a clip of the head of Saatchi’s (big UK ad agency) blathering on about how Steve Jobs of Apple put brand before product, blah, blah.

Except he didn’t. A quote from one of Jobs’s team puts the lie to this. Utterly. And totally.

In fact, Apple understand that you don’t get people to buy your product by making them like your brand. You build a brand by getting people to like your product. That’s why they’re the world’s biggest company.

This is a fact that is utterly lost on most most marketing and advertising, ahem, ‘experts’ who will drone on about brand-building, brand conversations and engagement, and the latest must-have bit of software that is going to change the game etc etc…

In a few swift and pithy sentences, Allison Johnson, VP of Worldwide Marketing at Apple from 2005 to 2011, destroys the dreams, aspirations, beliefs and motivations of the vast majority of the world’s advertising and marketing industry.

…the two most ‘dreaded, hated’ words at Apple under Steve Jobs were ‘branding’ and ‘marketing’.…we understood deeply what was important about the product, what the team’s motivations were in the product, what they hoped that product would achieve, what role they wanted it to have in people’s lives…The most important thing was people’s relationship to the product. So any time we said ‘brand’ it was a dirty word.

Here’s a link to The Ad Contrarian

Has Google got your business by the Googlies?


Very interesting article in The Guardian the other day. The writer was working from a premise that the internet isn’t the egalitarian, customer-empowering, democracy-supporting resource that many claim it to be.

He pointed out, for example, how the internet is actually killing (and has already killed) many art forms. Exhibit One: the music industry. People now steal their pop music instead of buying it. Artists struggle to make even a reasonable living because of the above and, perhaps more shockingly, because the legal channels to market – like iTunes and Spotify – take such a massive proportion of their revenue.

You can sell a million copies of your latest single release and make barely anything from the royalties. So, unless you’re Beyonce or Rhianna, forget it.

And of course it’s because the internet is mostly a massive, insidious cartel of monopolies.

Oh yes, Google is very jolly and they have bouncy balls instead of chairs in their groovy Californian offices – wow! cool! etc. But,let’s be honest. They have, to all intents and purposes, a monopoly on what you and I can find on the web.

They control your internet marketing completely. You want your website to be found? You need to suck up to Google. Either by paying them via Adwords or by doing your SEO to conform to their latest mysterious, top secret algorithm.

You want your new rock vid to be found? You suck up to YouTube (owned by, er, Google). You want to run targeted banner ads to follow your site visitors around – remarketing as they call it? You suck up to Google.

How can this be healthy? They virtually force you to use the utterly impossible-to-fathom Google Plus to get decent search engine optimisation results.

Nobody uses Google Plus out of choice. It’s a hopelessly bad copy of Facebook.

And Google’s partner in crime, Apple, is now the world’s biggest company. Brainwashing our kids into believing that unless they have the very latest iPhone they are somehow less valuable members of society. Not healthy, folks.

And then there’s eBay. Who now take a whopping 10% of your selling price, then add another 3.4% onto the bill if you use Paypal to sell something (owned by eBay, naturally).

All the stuff you used to take to the charity shop is now sold on eBay as Vintage and Rare. You make a little money, eBay makes A LOT and the poor and needy suffer. Nice.


Why you shouldn’t have a black and white website.


I keep seeing them. Business to business websites that exclusively use black and white photography.

Bad website designers do it because they think it’s business innit, so it’s, oh, you know, serious.

(Forgive them, they know no better.)

So they use wishy-washy black and white images. Often library shots of cityscapes, or implausibly beautiful models sitting in glass-filled meeting rooms and wearing designer glasses that are meant to signify “I am a business person”. Or moody shots of clouds.

What these shots actually say is:  ”I am not a real person. This is not our office. We couldn’t be bothered to get some decent shots of our own people or premises.”

The designer then compounds the error by siting these terrible shots on pale blue backgrounds with grey type.

And, my god, are they dull.

And they’re everywhere. Please don’t do it.

The rules for designing a B2B website aren’t any different from those for a consumer website. Some folks, who measure this stuff, reckon you have around 8 seconds to hook your visitor into staying. And that means you need compelling headlines, beautifully persuasive and engaging copy, and attractive eye-catching imagery.

Whatever it is you’re selling.

Yonks ago, when I was Promotion Director for The Reader’s Digest, we used to test everything. Not just the promotion end of things where we literally tested a change of sentence in body copy, a change of word in terms and conditions.

But in product development too. If a new book was on the cards, for example, we’d test dozens of covers, titles, page layouts, prices…you name it.

And what we saw, time after time, is that ordinary punters hate black and white pictures. They see it as cheap. And boring.

Designers often see it as edgy. Or slick. And sometimes it is if you really know what you’re doing, and you use the Very Best photographers.

But most of the time it’s just plain old dull-as-dishwater.

As cold and uninviting as a dead halibut in a city gutter.