Marketing and Promotion — Do you have an idea file?

A question to ask yourself each night is:

 What have you done to promote your business today?

Other valuable questions are: 

  • What did you learn today?
  • What new promotion did you hear about this week that you could adopt or adapt for your business?
  • What technique did you read about that could make your business more efficient?
  • What new website did you hear about that can help your business?

Rick Siegel, a master at retail selling, suggests creating an idea book.  This is something I have been doing for years but I have called it a swipe file.

You can use a file on your computer, buy a notebook just for the “idea file” purpose, or set up a folder in your filing system or even use all three methods.  Each and every time you read or hear something that you could use and adapt, add it to your “idea file”.

 I collect ads, from every kind of publication ranging from the daily newspaper, the Wall Street Journal and even AARP magazine, that trigger an ah-ha moment.  Looking through this file, ideas are generated for headlines, graphics, and even descriptions.  It’s like having more brains than my own working together to create effective marketing materials.

For example, an ad that I cut out of the Wall Street Journal several years ago was something about an investment company not being a cookie-cutter company.  I took the idea from my “swipe file” and created an ad with a graphic of a gingerbread man and the headline “Creative Gifts To Go is not a cookie-cutter gift business.”

Try an “idea file” for yourself.  I think you’ll be surprised at how helpful it can be

Edit What You Write

I am a busy person.  I check the computer many times each day in order to pull orders as they come in.  Once or twice a day, when I log in, I quickly check my emails, forum postings, and blogs that I follow regularly.  And I have no interest in along self-indulgent email or post about something of little importance to anyone other than the person who wrote it.  Fortunately, I don’t run across these very often and I read by scanning. 

But your customers may not be speed readers and will quickly go to something else if you don’t catch their attention immediate and KEEP IT!

Here are some tips for doing just that!

  • When writing business memos, letters, blog posts, emails, and articles, get to the point quickly and don’t digress from your message.  Follow the journalist’s mantra of include who, when, what and why in the first paragraph.
  • One of the most important things that I learned in writer’s workshops was that it is best to set your work aside for a few days, let it season, and then come back and reread it before clicking send.  That’s not always possible in today’s fast-paced techno world, but at least take the time to read through it again before sending it off.
  • If you’re a fisherman, you know you have to keep the tension on that line all the way from the time you hook that trout until you reel him in.  A reader shyould feel the same sort of tension.  Otherwise, just like that big fish, you’ll lose him!
  • If you’re writing something that will be around for awhile, such as an article, it helps to read it out loud.  Some writers read into a tape recorder and then play it back.  If you stumble while reading or something doesn’t sound right to your ears, it may not read right either.
  • Remember to use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs. 

Is your Marketing Letter Effective?

I’m a professional writer–have been for years.  It’s exciting to see your byline in a national or online publication as I’ve seen mine in many.  But it’s even more exciting to create a marketing letter that works — that brings in customers — that creates results!

Anyone can write…some better than others.  As I said in a previous post “That Myth Called Talent” , it takes more than talent to create results.  It takes techniques.  When I first started writing and taking classes, I wasn’t at all interested in writing fiction.  Nonfiction seemed much easier to write and to sell.  But I quickly learned that using Fiction Techniques to write non-fiction can make a world of difference.  And, isn’t a sales letter just a non-fiction article that you’re sending to a potential customer?

There are lots of fiction techniques that can make you a better copywriter.  Here are just a few to get you started:

  1. Be yourself.  Your personality creates your writing style and allows you to create intimacy with your reader.
  2. Make the letter conversational.  The reader of your letter should feel that you’re talking directly to them and are not just sending out a letter to lots of people. 
  3. Start the letter with something to get their attention.  It could be a story.  A question.  A quote.  Or simply a dynamic statement.  You want to create interest — even excitement.  You want to make them read further.
  4. Tell a story — from either your point of view or that of your customer’s.  By telling a short story that relates to the reader’s situation, you create empathy with him/her.  If your letter is a long one, you can draw out your story for added suspense, saving the outcome for the end. 
  5. Think like your reader.  What do they want most?  How can you provide it to them?  Their primary question to you is “What’s in it for me?”  What do their own customers want and need from them?  How can you help them answer that need with your products.  If you want to sell to them, you have to forget your own ego and how great your business is and concentrate on theirs.
  6. Ask for their business.  And provide yourself an opportunity to follow up. An example is:  “We want your business and we’re willing to work to earn it.  I’ll call you next week to discuss how we can help you…..”

There are many other techniques of course.  But incorporate these and you’ll have a much more effective marketing letter.

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Create a PDF easily and for FREE!

So you want a brochure or a document that your customers can easily print out to your website.  There are lots of different programs and ways to create PDF documents but I’m going to share with you one that incredibly easy to use and best of all, it is free. 

Change your habits and don’t begin by creating the document in Word.  Instead go to and download Open Office for free.  It is very much like Microsoft Office and is similar to use.  But there are some differences.

Once you have the program installed, open it and choose Text document. It will open a word processor program called Writer.  It’s very similar to Word so you should find it easy to use.  Just as in word, you can add images or screen shots to the document.  And you can create links that work.

Now comes the best part.  To convert your document into a PDF, all you have to do is click that little PDF button at the top of the screen.  You’ll be asked for a file name.  Name the document and click “save”.   

Don’t forget to save your original “writer” document as well.  In case you ever want to make changes, you can make them in the original document and then convert it into a pdf as many times as you want to. 

Try it.  It’s easy.  And  what could be better than FREE.

25 Easy Tips for Creating Happy Website Visitors

Is your website attracting traffic but no sales?  Do you wonder what you can do to make those potential customers stay at your site instead of clicking on to the next one? 

As the owner of, my directory can send you potential customers that are ready and willing to buy.  But it’s up to you and your website to convince those customers that you’re the company they want to buy from.  Here are 25 easy tips for creating happy website visitors.

  1. Make sure your site loads quickly.  Use your photo program to reduce the pixels in all your photos and graphics.  Photoshop Elements will do this automatically for you if you click “save for web”.  Other photo programs should have the same capability.
  2. Provide easy-to-find contact information on every page of your site.  People need to know that you are real and can be reached in case there is a question or a problem. 
  3. Send an e-mail to customers to confirm that you received their order and then a follow-up one with tracking information when the order ships.
  4. Answer all emails from your customers quickly.  If you have an online business, you need to check emails at least two to three times daily.
  5. E-mail your customers around two weeks after they receive their product and thank them once again for ordering from you and ask if you can do anything else for them.  This is a good time to send a discount offer for their next order. 
  6. Don’t make them log in before they can checkout. Customers, including me, hate that.  This is one of the most frequent reasons for abandoning an order that has been placed in a shopping cart. 
  7. Use a type size that is no smaller than 10 points.  Some of us are getting to be old geezers and can’t see as well.  Others sit slouched in their chair several feet away from the monitor.
  8. Make sure your photos are ones that will sell your product.  I find all too many gift basket photos on the web that look like someone just stuck some stuff in an empty basket.  Or that have a huge piece of cello wrapped around the gift and tied with a pull bow.  Pull bows are not the enemy.  I use them on low-cost gifts.  It’s the total presentation that makes the difference.  Also gifts wrapped in cello usually do not photograph well.
  9. Make your products easy to find.  Navigation that is clear and direct as well as categories that make sense are important.  Home pages that have the product link simply say “catalog” or “products” or “gift baskets” invite the customer to click to another site.
  10. Write clear accurate descriptions.  Don’t keep the customer guessing.  Many of us don’t use specific brands, using a more generic term such as gourmet cookies instead, because our product inventory changes and varies throughout the year.  Most customers seem to accept that but if you are using the exact same product all the time, specify what it is.  If you have chocolates listed as part of the gift and you substitute something else in the summer, say so.
  11. Tell people who you are on your website.  An About Us page is ideal for this.  Customers trust people they know and the only way they can get to know you is if you don’t hide who you are.  All too many “Who We Are” pages are so generic that you may as well not even include it.  For an example of an about us page, see “Who Is Behind Gift Basket Owners” on this site.
  12. Give your customers all the pricing information up-front. Don’t hide the shipping cost until the end of the process. Let the customer see the shipping cost as early as possible in the checkout process. 
  13. Use dark text on a light background on your website.  Those dark backgrounds may make you look creative but they’re hard to read.
  14. Make sure your shopping cart is secure.   Your customers won’t thank you for security. But they’ll  hate you if you let someone make off with their credit card info.
  15. Keep your website  simple.  Flashing pictures, slide shows, music, and flash entry pages (those pages that say click here to enter the site) are real turnoffs.  Think of your customer and your budget.  Customers look for gifts while sitting at their desk at work.  They will click away as fast as possible if they hear music when they open your site.
  16. Words are powerful.  Be careful of what you say and how you say it on the website as well as in your emails. You’ll win more business.
  17. Offer ways to stay connected. Let folks sign up for an e-mail newsletter or subscribe to a latest news feed (or a special deals feed).  You’d be surprised how many folks appreciate that sort of thing.
  18. Don’t be sneaky. See that ‘Register for our newsletter’ checkbox in your information request form? Is it checked by default? Change it to unchecked. That’s not a decision your customers want made for them.
  19. Make them feel special. Give past customers a special deal just for being a customer. Too often we work like mad trying to create new business while ignoring our old customers.
  20. Don’t stereotype and never assume that your target audience is a niche demographic.  That golf bag gift that you are offering just for men may be the perfect gift for a woman golfer.  And women can be junk food junkies as much as men are.
  21. Be descriptive in your page’s title tag and headline.  This is what most search engines show and will determine whether they click to your site or go down to the next one.
  22. Write content that can be easily scanned.   Write for your customers — not for the search engines.  Use bullets and short paragraphs to  break up the page. Have no more than 14 words on a line.  Many gift basket websites have long paragraphs at the bottom of the page filled with links.  These are obviously written in order to increase links within the site and to increase keyword density.  Or how about the “We deliver to” with a list of every state in the Union and even some major cities thrown in for emphasis. Seach engine spiders are aware of these “cutesy” ploys and mark you down for it.
  23. Make sure that your site looks good, not only in the latest version of Internet Explorer, but also in Firefox which is becoming a popular browser.  Others that are used by many people are Opera and Safari.  Different browers show your site differently in many cases.
  24. Check for errors and fix them. Your server logs every kind of error thrown by your site: Review the list periodically.
  25. Always think like the customer.  Think about what makes you abandon a website when you are ordering online.  Put your own ego aside and create your site so that it intrigues rather than turns off that potential customer.