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Creative Messaging in a Direct Response World

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I've just come off the road from numerous meetings with national and regional advertisers. One common area of interest among advertisers seems to be: how to best communicate to the online audience.

Should a company focus on building their messaging around their brand image, or on driving direct response via their Web site and online media? At the risk of annoying my SEO department, who are happy to pack a keyword into every section of a Web site (no doubt necessary), the answer is both. Branding and direct response messaging can co-exist online, as both are vitally important to short- and long-term sales creation.

Brand messaging allows a company to creatively portray their culture, goals, and offering to their prospects and customers in the form of short code. Some of the best branding tag lines encapsulate the entire essence of a company in very few words. Examples:

Wal-Mart: "Save Money. Live Better"

vs.

Wal-Mart: "We sell Apparel, Baby Goods, Books, Electronics, Garden & Patio Supplies, Gifts, Jewelry, Movies, Music, Pet Supplies, Sporting Goods, Toys & Video Games"

or

GE: "Imagination at work"

vs.

GE: "Your source for Appliances, Aviation Engines, Consumer Electronics, Electrical Distribution, Energy, Finance - Business, Finance - Consumer, Healthcare, Lighting..."

You get the picture. Not every communication needs to be a keyword list. Leverage your brand as a tool to create persuasive copy when writing online content and ad copy where space is at a premium.

Local business profile pages are a good example of how to meld writing techniques for both brand and direct response.

What is a Profile Page?

Profile pages are an information resource to promote your business to customers looking for localized information in search engines, city guides and Internet yellow pages.

Local Business Profile

Many site publishers offer businesses the opportunity to post basic company information either free of charge or for a small flat fee. Here are a few:

Most of the profile page entry forms prompt you for similar information: e.g., year established, business hours, brands sold, etc. It's important to weave a persuasive selling message into your copy. It also doesn't hurt if the selling copy contains keywords (ha, now I'm back in the SEO department's good graces).

The More Things Change the More They Look the Same

For years, one medium has presented advertisers with a similar creative challenge of short, text-based descriptions in a limited ad space environment: the yellow pages. So what can we learn from their time-tested creative best practices? Like everything else in the directory business, there's an acronym used to describe the practice: RASCIL. I'm not sure who coined the phrase; however, it has become a universally accepted creative process used for local advertisers.

RASCIL is:

  • Reliability: Relates to creating credibility for your business via attributes: years in business, size of your firm, specific licenses, certifications, and awards your firm has achieved.
  • Authorization:What brands do you represent/sell or service? When possible, list specific brands you're authorized to sell or service. Stating "we service all major brands" is not as powerful as listing the brand names out. If you're constrained by space, list your best and most profitable lines first.
  • Special Features: What makes your business or location special? What do you do better than the competition? Often called the unique selling proposition, this is what you communicate to set your firm apart from the competition.
  • Completeness of Service: Now here's your chance to use those keywords; list your products and services, hours your firm does business, audiences served (e.g., commercial and residential), free pick-up/delivery/estimates. And don't forget your phone number.
  • Illustration: Pictures often sell better than words, and online videos sell better than pictures. According to Jared Simon, VP, Corporate Development from TurnHere, "Nothing builds trust better than watching the business owner talking about his or her business and what makes it unique." Take advantage of the Web's ability to visually show your physical location and highlight your Special Features.
  • Location: Most profile pages contain a map of your location. When appropriate, the map should be augmented with other directional information and landmarks that aid in consumers finding your location (e.g. 15 minutes from downtown in the Lakeview Mall). If your business is service based and location is unimportant (you go to the customer); make sure you define your service territory here. Here, again, specifics are better than "we service the entire Chicagoland region."

When you create profile pages across multiple Web sites, keep a list so you can remember which sites to go to when your copy needs to be adjusted or updated as your business grows and changes focus. One final piece of advice: track and measure the leads that come in from profile pages. Telephone tracking can be a great way to understand where your online leads are coming from.

Profile pages can be one of the most cost effective ways to promote your business online. Research the sites that serve your local trading area and create some persuasive messaging to drive more customers to your doorstep or phone today.


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