The Character of Legal Marketing Content

"Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion."
Aristotle

Character is inextricably linked to the law firm’s positioning.  It is thoughtful and deliberate.

This character of legal marketing presages the kind of relationship a prospective client might expect with the firm.

It is also an essential ingredient in the position every firm must define, defend, and handle with care.

Some firms may need to shift their position.  They may need to adjust perceptions.  Other firms may need to establish a position, explain their character, and actually create perceptions.  In either case, the goal is to leverage marketing, and the ways in which marketing content illuminates character, so the firm can create a sustainable competitive advantage.

Some firms have witnessed an erosion of competitive advantage.  Whatever perceptions they once enjoyed seem to be diluted, blurred, at risk, or no longer as advantageous as they once were.

There may be a sense in the firm that once favorable perceptions are melting away.  That something new with the marketing needs to happen.

The thirst for this “something new” can easily come crashing into conflict with the firm’s position and its character.  This position represents the permanence and predictability that is ultimately one of the firm’s core assets.

When a short-term search for relevant marketing content fails to be in character, when it fails to support, carefully amend, or update the firm’s existing position, damage is done.

The character and the position of the firm are put at risk because of misguided change.

Prospects may become confused.  Clients may sense discomfort.  The internal attitudes of people working for the firm, sometimes subtle and difficult to discern, at other times on provocative display, can suffer from a shift in marketing that awkwardly alters an established position.

This task of revamping a position requires marketing content that is not simply relevant, but in character.  After all, we are dealing with the fabric of the firm, its core beliefs and its values.

Drinking Native Advertising Cocktails

Native advertising sure sounds like fun.  The term evokes images of languid strolls along spits of sugary sand.  Grass huts and coconut trees.  Maybe even a rum drink packed with chunks of fruit speared with an umbrella

It’s as if all the grime of marketing has been washed away.

Except it hasn’t.  There is nothing new about going native.  Product placement has been with us for ages. So has advertorial.  Contextual advertising isn’t exactly a breakthrough concept.

My clients aren’t calling to say, “Write me some native advertising.”

They say, “Write something so I can do some business.”

Does native advertising make the job of selling easier?  It has been described as...

“An online advertising method in which the advertiser attempts to gain attention by providing content in the context of the user's experience.”

Sounds impressive.

But according to the Internet Advertising Bureau, even banners are members of the native advertising tribe.

I’m a bit suspicious of the notion that advertising placements somehow become more clickworthy when they become less intrusive.

Research from a Sharethrough study claims, “subjects were 25% more likely to look at a native ad than they were at a banner, and they looked at them 53% more frequently.”

What exactly is being compared?  Given the fact that the IAB lumps banners into the native advertising ecosystem, why is the Sharethrough study bashing the already bloodied banner?

I’m also wondering...

How long the term native advertising will be with us?

How did this fresh coat of paint moniker catch on?

How will consumers react as publishers waffle on transparency and fail to disclose appropriate clarity about the source of their content?

(Atlantic has already been stung by shilling content for the Scientologists.)

Native advertising sure sounds like fun.

But will the natives who require results grow restless?

Remarketing Doesn’t Have To Be Creepy

There’s something inherently creepy about a remarketing campaign.  We can easily feel as if we’re being stalked.

A marketer’s good intentions can go sideways.  Helpful intentions can be perceived as annoying persistence... or worse.

These campaigns are largely shaped by the prospect’s perceptions.  And because marketers don’t know exactly how their remarketing is perceived, the job of aligning the creative message for remarketing can easily be a shot in the dark.

One common approach is the ecommerce remarketing tactic of displaying the specific SKUs browsed.  This clearly scores high points for relevance.

This tactic can be strengthened by accompanying this SKU-specific with a simple, helpful message.

“Still available in your size” or “You can still get free shipping” can serve as a benefit-driven call to action.

Abandonment Remarketing

There is one type of remarketing campaign that typically delivers exceptional conversion rates... cart abandonment remarketing.

Abandonment remarketing pays off because these campaigns can rack up relatively easy conversions.  A simple piece of copy sent to the prospect soon after the cart is abandoned is an effective marketing rescue mission.

But only so much can be done.  After all, we’re dealing with a relatively small universe.

One effective tactic is to launch a remarketing campaign that targets a different type of abandonment.  Quite often, the prospect browsing the site is an existing client or customer.  This person’s email address may already in the marketer’s database.

If it is, this means that with the right tagging and tracking codes, the prospect who has been browsing can receive an email.  Instead of using display ads on other sites the prospect visits, the attempt to reengage takes on a more personalized approach through email.

This is where educational content can prove particularly effective.  When the prospect is researching high-ticket items, tools to support this process such as calculators are valued.

These are the ways remarketing can be stripped of its creepiness, how its effectiveness can be enhanced, and how new ways of reengaging prospects can be deployed.

It’s all about sensitivity to the perceptions of the prospect.

Email Open Rates In The Mobile World

Email open rates may be our leading source of statistical obsession.

And with good reason.

So when the analysts with Worldata shake down 25,000 different email marketing campaigns to see what they can learn about open rates, their findings deserve our attention.

Here’s one of them.

Adding a pre-header increases mobile opens up to 19%.

A pre-header is the copy that begins an email.  Quite often, this line of copy appears as the subject line for emails in the in box of a mobile device.

Most of the time, the pre-header is either overlooked, or the person taking the copy and creating the email plugs in, “Click here to view on a web browser.”  Not the most enticing of subject lines.

How important is mobile for the email marketer?

Depending on whose research you look at, it’s roughly 50%.

As we read more emails on our mobile devices, we are growing less tolerant of messages that don’t look good.  Research from Litmus reveals that 80% of us delete an email that doesn’t render well on mobile.

Here are three ways to address this and drive mobile email clickthrough rates higher:

  • Shorter copy with more heads
  • Subheads
  • Bullets

Marketing Content Gifts

At a surprisingly subdued cocktail party the other night, I found myself talking with an accountant.

“You and I probably do much the same thing,” I said.  “We each get a bunch of information from a client and work on organizing it.”

He agreed, and told me about people dumping off boxes stuffed with documents.  Massive messes of paperwork to be turned into a tax return, a balance sheet, or a P&L.

He grasped the idea that marketing content needs to be thoughtfully arranged to do the hard work of proof and persuasion, because he does the exact same thing.

But here’s what I wonder, and never thought to ask him the other night.

Do his clients ever help him out without even realizing it?

It’s not unusual for a copywriter.

G. Lynn Sumner wrote the very first ad for Harry & David in 1936, a full page ad in Fortune.  The headline came verbatim from an offhand comment the client made while he was standing in Sumner’s office, staring out the window.

“Imagine Harry And Me Advertising Our Pears In Fortune.”

Because Sumner was a disciplined listener, as well as a skilled writer, he knew he had the headline the moment David Rosenberg’s words were spoken.

It’s a marvelous ad.  It gave birth to a flourishing business, and sold something never previously sold by mail.

Click here to see the very first Harry and David ad from 1936.

The Lineup of Brilliant Losers

It is admired as the longest-running direct response advertisement ever.

Every serious copywriter has a copy of it.

Between 1918 and 1959, the Maxwell Sackheim advertisement for the Sherwin Cody School of English kept running and running.  The same headline, the same subheads, the same offer, and only minor cosmetic changes.

The ad showed up in publications ranging from The Black Mask to The New York Times, where it appeared for the final time in a December, 1959 edition of The New York Times Book Review.

In his book Breakthrough Advertising, Eugene Schwartz didn’t just encourage copywriters to study this ad.  He urged us all to memorize it.

When Edwin J. Battistella set out to tell the story of Sherwin Cody in his intriguing 2009 book, he used the ad’s headline for the book’s title.

“Do You Make These Mistakes In English” contains a section that is fascinating for copywriters.  It is a list of 22 headlines that were tested to try and topple Maxwell Sackheim’s control.  None of them pulled in more response.

Here they are.

A New Invention that Finds and Corrects Your Mistakes in English
Stop Making Mistakes in Speaking and Writing!
Astonishing Facts About Your English
Stop Abusing The English Language
His New Invention Finds And Corrects Your Mistakes In English
His Simple Invention Has Shown Thousands How To Break Bad Habits In English
New Way To Find And Correct Your Mistakes In English
Mistakes In Writing And Speaking Made Every Day
Your English is Your Trade-Mark – It Tells Just What You Are
Ten Mistakes in English – How Many Will You Make?
If Only People Knew How They Are Hurt By Their Unconscious Mistakes In English!
His Simple Invention Has Shown Thousands How To Stop Making Embarrassing Mistakes
How To Discover Your Mistakes In English In One Evening
Are YOU Ever Overheard Making Mistakes like These?
What Are YOUR Mistakes In English?
Stop Groping For Words!
Sherwin Cody’s New Method Has Improved The English of 41,000 People
How To Avoid Embarrassing MISTAKES In ENGLISH
Does Your English Help You Or Hurt You?
He Thinks He Is Speaking Correct English!  Can You Find His FIVE Mistakes?
Which of These Mistakes In English Do You Make?
How You Can Master GOOD ENGLISH – In 15 Minutes a Day

Because we are boxed in by hindsight, and can’t judge the heads fairly knowing that each one came up short, it is easy for us to pick them apart and find their flaws.

Some of these headlines were written by copywriting giants, such as Victor Schwab.  There are obviously some great headlines here, and this list of losers is both illuminating and thought provoking.

For example…

When a number was attached to the number of mistakes, in one headline 5 and in another 10, each failed to topple the less precise “These.”

Intriguing, because most of us who write copy know that specific numbers tend to wrap irresistible credibility around an otherwise vague claim.  Perhaps because the specific number in the headline wasn’t attached to a claim, it never had the opportunity to work as a source of credibility, and simply got in the way.

Perhaps the reader was intimidated by the notion of moving ahead into the copy to find a specified number of mistakes, worried that he wouldn’t find them all.

Whatever the case…

This lineup of losers reminds us that the Sherwin Cody control was constantly being tested, and earned its position as a battle-scarred direct response classic.

Mornings With Maxwell Sackheim

Maxwell Sackheim has upended my early morning reading habits.

Before sunrise, every single morning, I’ve been reading the Maxwell Sackheim advertisement for the Sherwin Cody School of English.

All of us who write copy know about this ad.  Many of us have studied it extensively, exhaustively reverse engineering its structure, which is both brilliant and beautiful.

If you are not familiar with this Maxwell Sackheim advertisement for the Sherwin Cody School of English, click here to see it.  Those of us who are copywriters generally agree that it is one of the top five ads ever written.

After all, it ran for more than forty years, and with minor tweaking, kept pulling in responses.

This morning, I was burrowing into the method Sackheim used to shift from the presentation of the problem to the introduction of the solution.

Eight different and specific examples of the problem are presented to the reader in the first paragraph.  Each example is easily relatable.  The reader’s deficiencies in speaking English are not mocked or taunted.  The reader is not spoken down to.  Rather, the prospect is embraced, and shown why the deficiency exists.

Maxwell Sackheim wrote…

“The reason for the deficiency is clear.  Sherwin Cody discovered it in scientific tests which he gave thousands of times.   Most persons do not write or speak good English simply because they never formed the habit of doing so.”

The way Sackheim introduces his proof and presents a “reason why” is as powerful as it is simple.

This method plunges us deeper into the copy.  We are swept up, eager to learn more about these thousands of “scientific tests.”   The inferred promise of more information to bolster this proof is immediately paid off under the subhead, “What Cody Did At Gary.”

This was the perfect position for the subhead.  We skim, and immediately we’re assured that this general statement of proof is about to be paid off with specific facts.

Countless copywriters have weighed in on why this ad worked so well.  The great John Caples pointed out the power of the word “These” in the headline, which promised the prospect specific information.

There are dozens more brilliant aspects of this ad.  Everything is right.  The structure is flawless, and requires just five simple subheads.

Why Most People Make Mistakes

What Cody Did At Gary

100% Self-Correcting Device

Only 15 Minutes a Day

FREE  - Book On English

Early this morning, reading the Sackheim ad once again, what struck me was the consistent and measured ease of transition.  I was intrigued with the grace Sackheim used to encourage the reader to move forward.

He created invisible and irresistible momentum.

Before you know it, you want to read the free booklet offered, “How You Can Master Good English in Just 15 Minutes a Day.”

You are clipping the coupon, and mailing it off to…

The Sherwin Cody School of English
8811 B & O Building
Rochester 4, New York

When Content Marketing Won’t Ask The Girl To Dance

You probably know somebody like this.

An otherwise savvy marketer who doesn’t want to ask for the order.

Last week, a friend of mine who has a marvelous grasp of promotional marketing, sent me a video for his marketing agency and asked for my comments.

The video did not ask for the order or make an offer, so I told him, “You need to ask the girl to dance.”

He replied, “I intentionally took a subtle approach.  Make companies feel a twinge of pain.  The 'sell' is my proven history of success with real life examples.  So, I don't try to close by design.  We'll see.”

The good news… very strong content marketing detailing a “proven history of success with real life examples” is a big part of my friend’s video.

What’s sad is that all this powerful proof is not given the fuel it needs to create response.

My friend has what amounts to a Lamborghini Aventador LP 720-4 50th Anniversario with an empty gas tank.

Maxwell Sackheim, the copywriter who, among other achievements, wrote America’s longest-running direct response ad, knew better than to put marketing at risk with incomplete selling.

In his wonderful book, My First Sixty Years in Advertising, Sackheim wrote:

Nearly all advertising should demand some kind of action from the reader.  It should insist upon the reader doing something after he reads an ad.  It should refuse to be content with having acted as a reminder, or as an improver of corporate image.  In one way or another, advertising should do a complete selling job, at once.

As my skilled marketing friend says about his presentation, we’ll see.

The Loudest Shouting

In the old world you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it.  In the new world, that inverts.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

Perhaps more eloquently than any other leading CEO, Bezos explains how marketing has changed, and how actual customers, not brand managers, are setting the content marketing agenda.

Where does this leave the copywriter?

Pretty much where we have always been, since the days of Claude Hopkins, John E. Kennedy, John Caples, and all the rest of our heroes.

We live in that space that connects the prospect and the product.  This is the turf we till to create content marketing that doesn’t shout, but informs, influences, persuades, and ultimately, sparks a response.

A hundred years ago, Claude Hopkins badgered his clients to give away free samples.  Today, this practice unfolds constantly.  The free report, the free video, the white paper.  Email sequences packed with information rather than platitudes.  Blog posts that nurture a relationship between the consumer and the product.

Jeff Bezos and his disciples correctly grasp that consumers who previously had no way of weighing in on their purchase now have a strident voice.  A voice that is often perceived by others in the market as significantly more credible than the voice of the marketer.

Don’t you love it when you go on TripAdvisor and see the picture of the hotel that the guest took?

Or when you jump on Google Maps to see what’s next door to the hotel, or across the street, all those potentially awkward images that have been artfully managed by the marketer via careful cropping and camera angles?

So where does all this leave the marketer who needs to create content?

In a position where the quality of this content marketing must be more be more thoughtfully created than ever before.  This is because the marketing message no longer exists in a vacuum.  It is one member of an increasingly complex chorus.

For years, the other members of this chorus were limited to the product’s competitors.  But today the voices rise from anyone with an internet connection.

It is in this environment that the copywriter helps a client compete.  And it is in this environment that products live and die.

Managing Viral Marketing Expectations

Obivously, viral marketing works.

But it works differently for different types of content.  And marketers who are depending on their marketing content to go viral should keep two things in mind.

  1.  The difference between content that is shared and shared content that gets a click.
  2.  Different kinds of content pull in dramatically different levels of sharing and clickthrough rates.

 33Across has shaken down the numbers.

All the noise we hear about consumer reviews…

A paltry 1% sharing rate and a 4% clickthrough rate from the recipient its shared with.

Business content:  4% sharing, 24% clickthrough.

Breaking news and celebrity content drive the strongest sharing and the highest CTRs with clickthroughs in the 70-80 percent ranges.

The fascinating finding from the people at 33Across...

Content sharing is "…motivated primarily by ego."

Check out what they've discovered.