Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Meaningless Words and Blah Blah Text: Three Buzzwords to Avoid

“”When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’” L. Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

As another year comes to a close, folks are taking stock of the year in buzzwords – especially pertaining to business-to-business marketing communications.

It can be fun reading posts about “PR Buzzwords” or “Overused Words in LinkedIn profiles” – but it can be painful, too. 

As a marketing communicator, I’ve written a fair share of content with words like  “Value Add,” Award-Winning,” “Industry-Leading,” “Mission Critical” and “Thought Leader.”

Beware the Blah Blah

Granted, these are useful concepts in PR or marketing communications.

Yet terms like these and others quickly become meaningless and instead of adding “more” they start to mean “less” as so aptly put by Humpty Dumpty in the quote above.

In fact, they become “blah blah” text, and are best deleted.
The Long and Short of It
Mark Twain once said about an essay or a letter he had written, “I am sorry this is so long. I didn't have time to make it shorter.”
It takes time to write concise and compelling text.  One must first capture the essence of the idea, write an initial draft, go back and reorganize, then return a third or fourth time to “slash and burn” meaningless blah blah that adds no value. 
Top 3 Offenders of 2010
In the spirit of “slash and burn,” here are my suggestions for the top 3 offending blah blah terms of 2010.
  • Transformative – This isn’t a word.  Using the word in a proposal or marketing blurb does not make it so. Exactly what does "transformative" mean anyway?  This is a major blah-blah word. Best avoided 
  • Deep Dive – I hate hearing this term in a meeting when it means, “to explore an issue or subject in-depth. "We should meet to do a deep dive on this issue." What’s the converse – a “shallow dive”? 
  • Going ForwardThis is “filler” and of no value.  It means “looking to the future” and can be deleted anytime you see or hear it, as in the following sentence:  "Going forward, we anticipate earnings improving in core industries, with even better results in the expanding diversified markets."   Simply remove “Going forward…” and the meaning of the sentence is not impacted.

Additional Resources

As for additional reading, here’s a suggestion for going forwardVisit these transformative websites to take a further “deep dive” into the subject:

BuzzWhack - demystifying business jargon & buzzwords - check out the funny warning on the home page! 

The Ridiculous Business Jargon Dictionary - the most complete A-Z "blah blah" resource there is! 

Happy Buzzword-Free New Year!  

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mind Your Manners: 5 Basic Rules of Twitter Etiquette

Anybody with a keyboard and an Internet connection can connect to a group via social media,  whether through FaceBook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. 
For social media to be “social”, it’s a good idea to remember one’s manners. 
In the case of the micro-blogging site Twitter, it’s a place for business-to-business marketers to engage with customers, prospects, influencers, analysts, media and others. 

An effective business strategy is to use Twitter to share key industry topics, trends, regulations or other relevant and timely issues.

Twitter as a Reflection of Your Brand
I’d also like to suggest that Twitter is an expression of your brand.

A brand is a collection of perceptions in the mind of your prospect. Thus if follows that your Tweet stream contributes to that perception.

So it’s wise to operate within the constructs of common courtesy to lock in positive branding. Your Tweets are a reflection of your brand!

5 Easy Rules: A Matter of Common Courtesy
Inspired by conventional wisdom from Emily Post, Miss Manners and other etiquette experts, these tried and true rules are relevant when engaging in “virtual conversation” – especially if Tweeting on behalf of a client.

1. Listen when people tweet. A great conversation stopper is when someone is not paying attention or looks everywhere else but at the speaker. Same holds true with Twitter – acknowledging a compelling Tweet or content is polite – it lets folks know you are listening.
2. Don't monopolize the Tweet Stream.
 Avoid a one-way series of “all about you” or “all about your client” messages. Retweet industry trends, link to expert blogs, business forecasts, or respond to a Tweet of interest.  Don’t broadcast or blast Tweets about the client. (this was a hard lesson for me when coordinating Tweets for a tech client– PR habits die hard!)
3. Tweet specific questions to show interest & go deeper.
 A classic conversation tip: nothing is as effective as the follow up question.
4. Watch your language. Good spelling, appropriate language, and a grasp of the English language all have a place even within the confines of 140 characters.
5. Please & thank you. Even in the virtual world, common courtesy never goes out of fashion.

A Success Story
It’s been a distinct pleasure to be at the helm of the Tweet stream for Plex Systems, a client under the auspices of Markit Strategies and PR. 

These rules noted above were assembled as a result of managing the program. By taking this approach, and using powerful tools like Twiangulate to link to relevant followers, here’s what has been accomplished.  

-  Relevant followers have grown by 60%.
-  Mentions and retweets by influential followers have grown 500%.
 Results also include several new media placements as a result of Twitter connections.

It pays to connect on Twitter, while minding one’s manners. There’s still much to learn – but it pays to be polite. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thank You, Google Instant, For The Gift of Nearly One Full Hour

Remember the introduction of Google Instant? It was launched in early fall 2010.  As you recall,  Google Instant is a search enhancement that shows search results as you type.

I found it quite distracting at first, and now hardly notice it. In fact, it’s an expected feature.

The brainiacs at Google did study after study and found that on average, people take 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only milliseconds to glance at another part of the page.

They figured users scan search results page as they type. Heck, they figured correctly!

Don’t you find you often get the right content much faster than before because you have been “trained” not to finish typing a full search term, or even press “search?”
If I Could Turn Back Time
So by predicting my search and showing results before I finish typing, the Google smarty-pants assure me that Google Instant saves 2-5 seconds per search.
OK so here’s where math skills take over.
20 Average Searches Per Day
Between work-related, family and personal tasks, I guestimate I perform between 15 – 25 Google searches per day. Emphasis on the word “guestimate”….(Note:  this data is hard to find, so let’s just use this number. In fact I likely performed an over-average number of Google searches just searching for  “average number of searches one person performs in one day”)
Back to the math…(Thanks, Colleen of Sullivan Leh Designs, for checking me on this...) 
100 Seconds Saved Per Day
So if on average I perform about 20 searches a day, with a savings of 5 seconds per search with Google Instant, average daily savings total 100 seconds each day with Google Instant.
11.5 Minutes Saved Per Week
In a given week, that’s 700 seconds, or about 11.5 minutes saved.  
50 Minutes Saved Per Month
So last month, I saved a total of about 50 minutes.   (By golly, that’s 10 hours savings per year! Can’t wait for 2011!)
The Gift of Time
Sincere thanks to Google Instant for saving me about 1 hour last month, what a gift! 
Unfortunately that hour was wasted coming up with this blog posting. Ah, the irony. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Button Button, Who’s Got the Button?

My colleagues and I have been chatting a lot about buttons this week. Yes, it’s been that kind of week. 
Can a seemingly insignificant web button make a difference in how a business to business website, direct marketing email, or newsletter generates leads? 
You betcha!
How a button is designed; colored; written and placed on a page makes a big impact in how prospects behave after opening up an email or visiting a website.
The “click to take an action” button comes in a range of varying shapes, sizes and styles. Conventional wisdom reminds us to consider the following.

---Text   Using images or icons on buttons makes them more useful, for sure. An icon makes it clearly obvious to the user as to what function the button provides. For instance, an arrow indicates that a button guides to the next or previous step or page.The text depicted on a button is also critical, and should be short, concise, and indicate what will happen when the button is clicked. Command verbs rule. (I.e. “Register Now” button takes the visitor to a registration page; “Download Free Paper” takes the prospect to a Resource Center 

--- Design  Buttons come in a variety of shapes – the highest performers are rounded and somewhat dimensional like a keyboard button. 

Again, wiser folks than I regularly perform A/B testing to see what design produces optimal results.  Their findings show that the highest performing buttons look clickable and clearly portray what will happen when clicked. Sticking with a recognizable standard (rounded corners) is likely a good strategy. 

--- Operation   The ‘hover state’ and ‘click state’ of a button can mimic the physical reality of clicking a key on a keyboard, complete with a clicking sound.  All these operational elements have been tested.  Again, the standard operations always perform best (a clicked button that looks “depressed” is what a user expects.)

--- Color  Once again, this is an area where user testing is critical. Lots of studies out there that concentrate on this one issue. I can’t imagine doing this for my day job, but there are many studies that show yellow is the highest performing button color, and can make a huge difference to an e-commerce site. Next time you browse eBay or Amazon, check out the button colors!

--- Placement  Much has been written and studied about button placement.  I can’t add too much of value here, other than to note that providing multiple buttons and calls to action on a website is proven to increase conversion rates and performance. 

Consider Your Buttons

If the goal of a website, direct email, or eNewsletter is to convince a prospect to take action, consider your buttons.  Making it easy for a user to find a button and take action will make all the difference in your programs.

And if you can, A/B test.  In the case of a direct mail, send out one message with one type of button; and the same exact message with a different button design.  See which one performs the best.