How to write better headlines in one minute

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Jack Nicklaus once said, “Golf is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.”
I don’t know. Golf isn’t for me. But we get the idea.

Swing. Ball. Hole. That’s it.
It’s the same with writing. Take headlines, for example.
Did you click the blog post headline on Twitter, Facebook, or Google?
If I look into my crystal bowl… Google, right?
Eugene Schwarz recommended that you should spend the same amount of time writing the headline as writing the article.
Just for one line?
His argument was, and I agree, is that if the headline doesn’t pull in the reader, then it doesn’t matter how great the article is, they’ll never find out.
So, it better be good. Real good. Because we both know how much completion there is out there.
Ok. So how do we write better headlines?
Do this.

  • Install Feedly. Add twenty blogs to it. Mix it up.
  • Scan the headlines every day. Write down (by hand) those that catch your eye. Yes, it has to be by hand.
  • Watch the most popular posts. It shows you in the side bar.
  • See any trends? If you keep this up for only ten day, you’ll get a sixth sense for which headlines work.

Trust me, you just get a feel for it.
That’s it for today. Get started with Feedly and I’ll show you another trick tomorrow.
PS – if you’ve seen a great headline, please send it in to me.

Improve Product Feedback with 'Suggest a Feature' web-page

What’s the one thing your customers would like to see in your products? Or what’s the one problem they’d like you to fix?
One of the problems in developing any product or service is that you can get into a rut and stop seeing where you need to make changes. Maybe you’re looking at your competitors, seeing what they’re doing and using that for inspiration. But what your customers want may be different. Maybe much simpler.
One way to address this is to add a Make a Suggestion page to your site. The Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) does this very well.
msdn-suggest-feedback

MSDN feature suggestions

Have an idea for how we can improve the overall experience on MSDN? If so, we’d love to hear it. You can submit a new idea or you can upvote and comment on existing ideas. Suggestions, comments, and votes will be reviewed directly by the engineering teams who are responsible for building MSDN.
This site is for feature suggestions and ideas, not for submitting bugs or to get support. To file a bug or get support, visit MSDN troubleshooting and support.

Make a Suggestion page

You can add suggestions on

  • gaps that need addressing
  • errors that need to be corrected
  • ways to improve the existing site

After you enter your idea in the I suggest you… box, it’s added to the list of requests. What’s interesting is that others can vote up your request if they agree. As I write, the add more and more code examples has 819 votes.

  • Hot
  • Top
  • New Idea
  • Category
  • Status
  • My ideas
  • My Comments

In addition to this, you can see the status of the feature request by mousing over the Status drop-down menu, which tells you if a feature is

  • Under review
  • Planned
  • Completed
  • Declined

This filters the list of features and you can vote up each suggestion and, here’s the nice part, add a comment.
For example, this comment suggests:
I’d go further and ask that you include revision dates with links to previous versions as well. As a solutions architect, understanding the direction things move in is just as important as understanding the current state of play.

Where’s the benefit?

As you can see, all of this helps MS improve the quality of their product. More than that, they’re users help clarify and refine what needs to be fixed. As well as this, they are also helping with the testing – at least indirectly – by highlighting errors and omissions.
Could this work for you?
PS – the best book I read last year about getting feedback was Pay Attention!: How to Listen, Respond, and Profit from Customer Feedback.

How to write email sales letters – Trello

If you want to improve how you write business emails, you probably collect newsletters for inspiration.
Looking for a good example of sharp email writing? The Trello newsletter is worth looking at. As well as the nice layout and uncluttered design, the writing is pretty good.
But it could be even better with a small few tweaks.
trello
Let’s take a look and start with the strapline.
Let Trello Organize Your Life
It’s fine, not that memorable but you know where you are. Nothing fuzzy or abstract. So, it’s about organizing.
Next, the number of times they mention Trello is… eight.
Maybe a bit too much. It’s in every sentence. To me, this smacks of trying a little bit too hard.
Remember, I’ve signed up. I know who they are!

How the sales letter is structured

The text is divided into four – a lead paragraph, then three features.
   Trello is the magical way to collaborate with others to organize your work and life.
Here’s a taste of the amazing things Trello can help you accomplish:
…collaborate and organize
Here’s the first question: is this the most important feature?
   Get Stuff Done at Work
   It’s hard to stay on top of who’s doing what. Constant status meetings can really put a dent in your productivity. Trello eliminates the need for meetings.
I’m not sure if this is true. It’s a great product but I’ll still have meetings. But, for now, let’s work with it.
They seem to be implying that it’s a replacement for ‘status meetings’ – not sure why they focus on status meetings, but again, let’s move on.
   Plan That Home Improvement Project
Keeping track of a home improvement project can be a project in and of itself. With Trello, get the family on board posting documents and ideas, and set due dates for tasks like calling contractors.
Now we’re on to Home Improvement, which is a good idea as it broadens the appeal of the tool.
   ‘a project in and of itself’
Seems a bit wordy.
   Organize Your Next Work Trip or Vacation
   Planning a trip with colleagues or friends? Stop emailing back and forth when you can post information and plan easily in Trello. Add your collaborators to a Trello board and divide and conquer.
This I like the most, though it comes last. Again, I’d tighten it up.
Not sure ‘planning a trip with colleagues’ sounds right.
Likewise, this seems a bit verbose
   Stop emailing back and forth
Let’s get to the point and change it to:
No more emails.
when you can post information and plan
Instead of information, giving an example might work better.
   Help your customers see what they could be organizing. Give them ideas. Information and plan sound a bit jaded.
Like I said, Trello is a great product. Simple to use, practical, and effective.
But the text would be more persuasive if they:

  1. Reduced the callouts
  2. Mentions of the brand name and
  3. Gave concrete examples of how others use it.

PS – this is the best line. Add collaborators to Trello – divide and conquer.

How to price 'special offers' and 2-1 bundles

Next, how to price special offers and bundles? For example, buy two, get one free.
Let’s say you’re selling high-resolution Nature photographs online. One tactics to increase online sales is to offer bundles. You see these in most online retailers, for example, Amazon, where you ‘buy one, get one free’ or similar bundle offerings.
The goal here is to entice the reluctant customer into buying at least one product – going through the sales lifecycle, from getting out the credit card to hitting the Buy Now button – so they understand how the shopping experience works on your sites, download at least one of your products, and hopefully feel comfortable enough to come back again.
Getting your potential customer to ‘cross the rubicon’ and get out their credit card/paypal is one of the major challenges in selling online. Bundled offerings are one way to tempt the customer to try.
When to sell bundled offerings for digital products?

  • If they’re on the front-page of your online shop all the time, customers may take it for granted that they’ll be there next week and not take action.

To avoid this, consider offering special offers, such as bundled products, only at certain times, for example:

  • The last Friday of every month
  • Only to your email readers
  • Black Friday
  • National holidays, such as Christmas or Easter
  • Connected to local events, for example, offer 10% of sales to a specific charity.

This may evoke goodwill on the part of the customer, especially if they know they can get the product elsewhere for the same price.
But if you agree to donate a percentage to a charity or a local cause, then maybe they’ll shop with you. Twitter is a very effective way to get the message out for these special ‘time-sensitive’ offers.

How to Improve Top Performing Pages with Google Analytics

One mistake to avoid when you start selling online is to offer too many products. Try to focus your site around 3-5 products at most and you’ll have get sales. Ideally, your site should focus on your money pages. To identify your money pages, use the advanced features in Google Analytics.

google-analytics-identify-top-content

One mistake to avoid when you start selling online is to offer too many products. Try to focus your site around 3-5 products at most and you’ll have get sales. Ideally, your site should focus on your money pages. To identify your money pages, use the advanced features in Google Analytics.

Identify Money Pages with Google Analytics

To get a better understanding of your money pages, log into Google Analytics.

  • Select the blog/website you want to analyze.
  • Select a 3 month range so you get better picture of how your site/products have performed.
  • Select Top Content from the side menu.
  • Select the top 50 pages from the Show Rows at the bottom of the screen. This is more than enough to determine and optimize your top performing pages.
  • Select Percentage from the View option (far left of screen). This displays the top performing pages based on the percentage of traffic to the overall site. It’s also color-coded so you can identify the top pages faster.
  • Click on the Second most visited page. This opens the Content Detail page.

Note: your homepage is probably your most visited page. Ignore this for now and look at the other pages as these are pages your customers (and prospective customers) are interested in.

Drill Down into Google Analytics

You now want to examine a few stats:

  • How visitors found your content
  • Navigation Summary,  i.e. Entrance Paths visitors used to get to your content and where they go next
  • Entrance Sources per page
  • Entrance Keywords per page.

To do this, you need to look at the Navigation Summary:

  • Click Navigation Summary – this shows you the paths/pages visitors used to get to your content and where they go next.

This shows you the:

  • Percentage of Entrances
  • Percentage of Previous Pages
  • Percentage of Exits
  • Percentage of Next Pages

What you’re interested in is the Exits and Next Pages.
If you look at the Next Pages, you can see where they went next.
Did they go to your sales page?

Use this screen to examine where your customers are going and see what patterns emerge. For example, instead of going to the Buy Now page, they go to the About Us page.
That makes sense. They want to know who you are before they buy.
But, look at the About Us page in Google Analytics and see if they are going back to the Buy Now (salespages).
If they are not, then look at where they do and see how/where you can adjust these pages to return to the sales pages. Sometimes this is as simple as including a prominent link/button to the Sales page. Other times you need to be more creative.

Other Sales Stats to Examine

Once you get to know how Google Analytics works, look at the:

  • Path they take once they enter your money page
  • How long they stay on these pages
  • Where they leave the site

Tip: if you’re running an ecommerce site, or any site that sells things, the Exit page SHOULD be the page where they buy the product, right?
You’re trying to get them to the site, read about the product, and then hit the Buy Now button.

Use Excel to Filter Sales Data

You can export all the data in Google Analytics into Excel (and XML and PDF). I often do this as I know Excel fairly well and can create charts faster in here. It also lets me compare the data against data from other sites such as Google Adwords, AdSense and other site analytics software.
google-analytics-identify-top-pages-export-csv-excelTo do this:

  • At the top of the screen, click Export.
  • Select CSV for Excel from the submenu.
  • This downloads the stats to an Excel file you can examine when offline and /or data mine with Excel.

Next week, we’ll look at Entrance Keywords as these are the words, terms, and expressions that customers are using to land on your site. While the other information is useful, the keywords tell you what they are looking for and… how close your site/products meets their needs.
What other ways do you know for finding your money pages?

What’s the sales target for your digital product?

Next, let’s look at your Sales Target, the number of products you expect (need) to sell.
This is the most variable of our variables and you can play around with it based on your own numbers
Should you offer tiered pricing for your digital goods?
Tier pricing lets you price items differently for higher quantities. For example: you sell expensive cakes and you want to create a promotion where customers who buy three boxes of cakes save money compared to buying just one cake.
You can also offer a bronze, silver, and gold model, which is very effective if you’re selling membership sites or access to online courses.
Let’s say that you’re selling a product which has a standard, regular, and premium offering. For example, AgileWords.com offers this.
Using a tiered pricing system, you can offer customers are entry-level product and then, if they are pleased with this, move them up to the premium offering. However, there are a few areas to be aware of when pricing like this.

  • Bronze – most customers will start here. This means you need to develop a way to upsell, ie suggest that the customer should move to the next product, after a certain amount of time. This takes some trial and error to determine when you should make this offer. If you do it too soon, it makes the customer feel uncomfortable as you probably come across as pushy. However, if you leave it too late, they may have unsubscribed or cancelled their subscription. One way to address this is to sign up with competitors and examine how and when they make upsell offers. Create a project folder on your PC and save all their materials in here, including email sales letters. You can use these for inspiration later on.
  • Silver – once you have moved the customer to the mid-level product, you have at least two choices. The first is to recommend another ‘partner’ product, something that compliments but doesn’t compete when your product. Let’s say you’re selling a course about learning Latin, then you could recommend some books you’ve found useful, for example, books on grammar. Of course, you can sell them using the Amazon Associates program and make a modest affiliate fee. It all adds up.~
    Note: The second option is to begin the process of moving them to the Gold product offering level. One way to ‘warm up’ the customer is to send emails (plain text emails often work the best) including interviews with other Gold level customers. Interviews are very persuasive as it gives the potential customer an opportunity to listen to someone who was probably facing the same issues as themselves. If the interview is structured correctly these fears should reduce the customer’s anxieties.
  • Gold – once you have the customer at the Gold level, you have the following options. The first is to make sure they stay as a customer. You don’t want to lose them after all this hard work. So, that means finding ways to engage with them, keep in touch to see if everything is going fine (with no sales agenda), and also trying to learn from them. What do they like most from the product? What could you change? What other types of products should you develop?

Of course, you can also offer other partner products to this customer in time. The skill is to make the offer at the right time and also to keep them engaged. One tactic is to offer special offers or exclusives before they go on public sale.  This makes the customer feel privileged to be in the inside track, especially if it’s a significant release.
A final suggestion is to send free, no strings attached, products to your customers as a small Thank You. Of course, you can suggest that they ‘give this a tweet’ to their Twitter friends.

How to determine the cost to create your digital product?

Your aim here is to determine if the cost of making the product allows you to make a profit. In other words, can you create, produce, and market a product and make a profile with consideration to what the customer is willing to pay?
The good news is that if you’re developing it at home, for example, in the evenings after work, there may be few overheads. You can also save money by promoting the product on social media sites, guest posting, and writing articles for industry publications.
However, as you begin to scale, which hopefully happens if the business kicks in, you’ll need to allocate some funds to the following areas:

  1. Advertising cost – the cost of ad campaigns for your product, for example, Google Adwords, Facebook Ad, as well as in newspapers, sponsored posts, or offline advertising.
  2. Distribution cost – if you’re selling digital downloads, such as online courses or ebooks, you’ll need someone to take the payments as well as help setup affiliate programs. The most popular include Clickbank $49.95 to setup plus percentages of each sale, EJunkie.com $5/month, Shopify, 1ShoppingCart, Digital River and a range of others.
  3. Production cost – how much does it cost to hire a software developer, graphic designer, voice-over artist for tasks that you may not be able to handle?

Of course, you may be able to do this yourself but the time, cost, effort and quality may delay your product development. In retrospect, trying to do everything myself just to save a few hundred dollars was a mistake.
For example, I got ALL the graphic design work for this site for less than eighty dollars on Odesk.com. If I tried to do this by myself (as I did in the past) it would have taken weeks and the results would have looked amateurish anyway. Now, it finally looks professional. I’m certain this helps sales.

What type of customers will buy my digital products?

Before you create your product, especially if this is the first time in digital product development, you need to know exactly who will buy it. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it?
However, what often happens is that what looks like a great opportunity to you – I bet many people would like to buy that – may not have many potential customers. And those potential customers may be hard to find.
A second problem is ego. It’s hard to let go of an idea if you’ve invested time in it. It feels part of you.
Surely, someone will but this.
Maybe, but maybe not enough to make a profit.
So, how do you verify that there is a real market with potential customers looking for this type of product?
Identify the price they pay for similar products.
Is there a demand for my product?
One way to approach this is to develop a business case for your proposed product.
In other words, imagine that you worked for a ‘real company’ and you had to convince your manager, who has to convince the Finance Dept, and so on, that there is a real, immediate demand for this product.
How would you do it?

  • Creating a business case is a simple exercise in determining both to yourself and others if it should get development and marketing funding.
  • Use the business case as the foundation for your marketing plan. It helps you identify the justification for the product. It also ‘proves’ to you and potential investors that a gap exists in the market and that your product will address this.
  • Is there a gap in the market for my product?

Well, how do we find out?
Gap Analysis is another task which helps determine if there really is an appetite for your product as opposed to a ‘gut feeling.’  Gap Analysis looks are what currently exists in the market, what should be there, and how you can fill that gap.
Take languages for example. These are very popular. I’m learning Greek at the moment with GreekPod101.com.
The most popular languages are well served. Italian, French, Greek, Chinese, Arabic and so on.
But how about smaller, less well-known languages, for example, Gaelic Irish, or different Chinese dialects?
If everyone is competing to build the Italian, French, Greek, Chinese, Arabic products, the market is probably already saturated. Instead, look at other languages which are underserved. I’m sure you can think of two or three right now.
How to perform low-cost market research on my products?
If possible run polls on your site, ask questions in forums, perform searches on Twitter, and look at your competitors. In other words, take your own feelings out of the equation. Prove to yourself that Yes, there is a potential market for this.

How To Negotiate Daily Rates When Starting as a Freelance Web Writer

If you decide to start contracting, one of the hardest things to work out is what daily rate to charge. Many of the readers on this site are looking at ways to escape the 9-5 and moving into contracting is one way to start this process.

If you decide to start contracting, one of the hardest things to work out is what daily rate to charge. Many of the readers on this site are looking at ways to escape the 9-5 and moving into contracting is one way to start this process.

How much should I really charge?

I’ve heard people use different approaches to determine what to charge. Some make sense, others are a bit flaky.
For example:
Divide your annual salary by 52 weeks and then add on 20 percent. If you’re on 52k, and divide by 52 weeks, you’d get 1k per week.
Add 20 percent and you’re up to 1200 per week.
Divide this by 5 days and you get 240 per day.
I’m not so sure about this. It doesn’t take into consideration the real world, so to speak, or at least why your peers are charging for their work.

How to Work Out Daily Rates

Here’s an approach that I’d take:

  1. Look at the recruitment websites and find the type of job you want. Make a list of the daily rates across several sites. The ideal is to get an average daily rate and not rely just on one site. If you’re a total beginner to the field, say just out of college, your rates will be more towards the lower end.
  2. Contact the local Recruitment companies, explain the type of positions that you’re after. Ask them what daily rates you can expect to get based on your experience. Let’s say they believe you can get 200 per day. Now, as a rule of thumb, Recruiters add 20 percent to the rates they charge clients. In other words, if they offer you 200 per day, they’ll probably charge the client 240 per day. The extra 40 per day (i.e. 20 percent) is their fee.
  3. Once you know the average daily rates, you can go directly to a company and offer your services from 200 – 240 per day. If you charge 220 per day, then they stand to save 20 per day, 100 per week, and 400 per month. Try to highlight this when talking to them. Otherwise, they may assume that you’re rates are the same as the recruiters.
  4. Contact the HR Dept of the IT companies. Ask if they hire ‘direct’ rather than through recruitment companies. Some companies, especially large multi-nationals, have a policy of using recruitment firms only. It’s mostly for legal reasons and no reflection on your abilities. Smaller companies tend to be more flexible.

Tip: if you’re new to contracting, target local companies with less than 50 employees. These are usually more receptive to independent contractors and, even if they don’t have large 3+ month contracts, may have many smaller pieces of work. This can be a good way to build your portfolio while paying the bills.

Succeeding as a Freelance Contractor

Your success as a freelance contractor depends not only on your ability to do the job but to sell your services to prospective clients.
I can’t emphasize this enough.
Companies won’t come to you offering you work. You have to go to them. Before you do this, prepare everything in advance, from your sales pitch, writing samples, business cards, and of course the answer to their last question: how much do you charge?

Conclusion

If you have done your homework, you’ll feel confident when discussing the rates. If the person refuses you, at least you know its not because of your prices but something else.
Try to find out what that is before you hang up!
Let me know how you increase your daily rates.

How to identify the target audience for your digital product?

The first step is to learn more about the customers you plan to sell to.
For example:

  • What country are they in? This affects copy, imagery, delivery methods, and other issues such as tax and VAT.
  • What currency do they prefer to pay in? Will your shopping cart support different currencies? If not, how do you address this?
  • What’s their average age?  This may affect, for example, the font size in your PDFs, ie to improve readability, and also the type of wording you use on your sales pages.
  • How much are they willing to pay? What’s the average price they pay for digital products? How frequently do they make purchases?
  • Where do they prefer to shop online?  Some customers prefer to buy on the site where they find the item, i.e. on your site, and you may lose them if they leave to another site, such as Amazon if you’re selling your product there.
  • So, before you start developing your digital product, you need to examine the buying patterns of your target customers.

Here are several low costs ways to do this:

  • Quora – a goldmine of very valuable information in particular is you want specific answers to industry topics. The contributors to Quora tend to be professionals and share excellent research findings. If you’re not using Quora, sign up now. It’s free. You can find information by topic, keyword, and tag. You can also track topics by adding it to sites, such as Feedly, which allows you to aggregate information. In other words, the website comes to you instead of you going to them.
  • LinkedIn groups – similar to Quora though it offers one advantage Quora doesn’t: size.  Some of the groups of LinkedIn are very active, has very lengthy discussions (Quora’s tend to be more concise, distilled information). The best way to use your time is to zero in on specific groups, ask questions, and then follow-up with those who give the most interesting answers. This works very well is you’re prepared to contribute and share back.
  • Publishers – monitor the blog posts and press releases of publishers connected to your subject matter. See if there is a specific trend emerging or gaps that you can possibly fulfil. Use Google Alerts to track press releases. Setup a dedicated folder in your email and filter them there. That way you can control the flow of information a little better.
  • Best-sellers lists – look outside the fiction lists and examine the bestsellers lists for niche topics. One way to do this is to select a category in Amazon and see what books, products and items sell the best and are the most expensive. You can sort by High to Low instead of the default Low to High.
  • Google Adwords – this is an interesting way to see the price of keywords. What difference does this make? In general, the more expensive the keyword, the more valuable the product. You can use this to judge the relative value of different topics (i.e. is this an underserved area and if so can you create products for it?) and also see if there is sufficient interest. And, of course, you can use it if you ever want to use Google Ad for your site.
  • Forums – choose a forum that is active with lots of recent threads. Forums are a great place to get specific niche questions answered. They also appeal to users who are less likely to use Quora or LinkedIn for different reasons. Forums tend to be for real users as opposed to people who are indirectly trying to sell you their product or services, which happens a lot on LinkedIn. Warrior Forums is one of the best.
  • Research publications – search for industry reports on buying patterns, spending habits, and any research findings on digital downloads, digital products, and information products. All of this will help determine the price, not only of this product, but your future releases.

Another suggestion is to write down any catchy book titles and headlines you come across when reviewing bestseller lists. I have a text file on my Desktop where I paste in great headings, blog titles and phrases that I come across during the day. If you have a smart phone, you can also use Evernote.

  • Current Customers – ask specific questions, especially in Twitter, and follow up by email if possible. One tactic is to say ‘do you feel x amount is a rip-off (or great value)’ and see if others agree.

In other words, ask questions that are likely to prompt a response. When people get angry, they get to the point and say what they mean. Political correctness go out the window. I’m not suggesting you start flame wars on twitter deliberately, but look for ways to get people off the fence so you get a deeper understanding of what irritates them, what they really want to read/buy, and who’s doing it best.