Get Engaged to Your Audience and Customers

Get Engaged to Your Audience and Customers

Roses are Red
Violets are Blue
Valentine’s Day is Tuesday
Why is content marketing so hard?

Welcome to the week before Valentine’s Day! As it happens, it’s connection and engagement week at Copyblogger — and the content this week is all about how you can create a more profound bond with your audience.

On Monday we had a fun day, because we got to finally let you know about something cool we’ve been working on behind the scenes — StudioPress Sites. This new product was conceived and shaped based on our in-depth conversations with customers, and we’re super proud of it. If you’re looking to launch a new site with all the flexibility of WordPress — and without the irritating parts — check it out.

On Tuesday, Brian gave us an in-depth post about how to create content that deeply engages your audience. This is a meaty post, so plan on giving it your full attention and spending some time with it (and your caffeinated beverage of choice, if you choose).

And on Wednesday, Jerod talked about cognitive biases — how your brain is wired to work, whether or not you’re aware of it. He explained ethical ways we can use these biases to shape content to work with our natural tendencies, instead of against them.

Finally, a little earlier today we announced our Content Excellence Challenge prompts for February. These are community challenges we do together every month. This month, I’m giving away five copies of Jonah Sachs’s fascinating book Winning the Story Wars, which is stuffed with ideas about how to connect more closely with your audience … and persuade them to take action.

You can learn more about Winning the Story Wars on the Copyblogger FM podcast this week.

Hope your weekend is an excellent one, and I’ll catch you next week!

— Sonia Simone
Chief Content Officer, Rainmaker Digital

Catch up on this week’s content

not just another wordpress siteIntroducing StudioPress Sites: WordPress Made Easy … Without Sacrificing Power or Flexibility

by Brian Clark

What you say is crucial. But how you say it can make all the difference.How to Create Content that Deeply Engages Your Audience

by Brian Clark

we tend to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms our preconceptions.5 Cognitive Biases You Need to Put to Work … Without Being Evil

by Jerod Morris

2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The February Prompts2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The February Prompts

by Sonia Simone

Copyblogger Book Club: Winning the Story WarsCopyblogger Book Club: Winning the Story Wars

by Sonia Simone

Creating a Productized Service, with Dan NorrisCreating a Productized Service, with Dan Norris

by Brian Clark

How Screenwriter and 'All Our Wrong Todays' Author Elan Mastai Writes: Part TwoHow Screenwriter and ‘All Our Wrong Todays’ Author Elan Mastai Writes: Part Two

by Kelton Reid

[Guest] Expert Tips for Conducting Better Interviews, with Krys Boyd[Guest] Expert Tips for Conducting Better Interviews, with Krys Boyd

by Jerod Morris & Jon Nastor

The post Get Engaged to Your Audience and Customers appeared first on Copyblogger.

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2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The February Prompts


Leave a comment with your entry for this month’s content challenge. You’ll have the chance to win a really good book!

Hey, it’s February! And that means we have two new prompts for our 2017 Content Excellence Challenge.

This month, we’re going to send a copy of Jonah Sachs’s book Winning the Story Wars to five randomly selected commenters. (See the details below for more about who we will and will not be able to send books to.)

Remember, you have two weeks before comments on the post close, so don’t dawdle. :) Give the creative prompt a try and show off how it turned out.

February’s Creative Prompt: Speak to one person

This is one of my all-time favorite ways to make your writing much better, instantly.

The prompt is:

Craft your writing to speak to one, and only one, person. As you write, imagine you’re sitting down with this person over a nice beverage.

Keep in mind that this may take some courage. The political climate at the moment is so charged that even rather innocuous statements can take on a political meaning.

But fortune favors the bold. The courageous voice will always win out over wimpy, dull, “safe” content.

Why it works

When you write for a crowd, you start to pontificate. That verb comes from the word pontiff, and it means to speak to an audience as if you were the Pope delivering a speech from a balcony at the Vatican.

That works great for the Pope, but it won’t work for you.

In your content, imagine one perfect human who’s the exact right match for your business. (Re-read this post if you need better clarification on who that might be: How to Attract Your Ideal Customer with Perfectly Positioned Content.)

I like to visualize this person in great detail. Not just gender, age, or other raw demographic information, but the kinds of details a novelist notices.

  • What kind of drink are you sharing? A beer? A coffee? Kombucha?
  • Do they have freckles?
  • Are they tall or short?
  • What are they wearing?
  • Where are you meeting?
  • What color eyes do they have?

This mental exercise is just to let you imagine a real, warm, flesh-and-blood human across the table from you.

Now, with your next piece of content, write individually to that person. Choose your words, your tone, your metaphors, the stories you tell, and the points you make all with that human being as your audience of one.

If you’re going to play along in our contest this month, leave a short paragraph in the comments showing us how it looked. No more than five lines — just enough to give us a flavor of the tone and voice.

February’s Productivity Prompt: The pivotal technique

This month’s prompt for productivity is one I’ve used for many years, detailed at some length in my post on The Complete Flake’s Guide to Getting Things Done.

It comes from Robert Fritz’s Path of Least Resistance, and in a nutshell, the technique is:

  1. Visualize where you want to go. In other words, what will the world around you look like when you’ve achieved what you want? Get extremely clear on this.
  2. Notice where you are now. What does the world look like as it is today? Get extremely clear on this.
  3. Without a lot of drama or self-flagellation, notice the specific differences.

The point here is not to beat yourself up about all the ways in which you don’t live up to your dreams. The point is simply to get very clear on where you are, and where you want to be.

The next step is just to figure out … what the next step is. What action, large or small, would move you in the right direction?

You can keep cycling through these steps — today, tomorrow, or quite literally for the rest of your life. Each cycle “pivots” you in a small way in the right direction. Over time, small pivots, with forward movement, add up to major changes.

Notes on the contest

A few caveats and clarifications for the free books:

  1. We’ll choose five folks at random from those who leave a comment with a brief (five lines or fewer) example of how they used this month’s creative prompt.
  2. You’ll need to be in the U.K., U.S., or Canada, so we can get a copy to you without a lot of delivery stress. If you’re somewhere else and there’s an easy way to get a book to you, we’ll consider it.
  3. If we choose your comment, we’ll contact you via the email address you leave in the comment form.
  4. We won’t share any of your info or use it for something weird, because that would be really dodgy. We’ll just send you your book.
  5. Comments that look spammy will get deleted. The editorial team, as always, has the final word on what looks spammy. If you want more specific advice, check out my podcast episode on Leaving Much Better Comments.

Let’s hear those one-to-one voices! Drop your entry in a comment below …

The post 2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The February Prompts appeared first on Copyblogger.

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Why is marketing so dang hard?

As marketing grows ever more complex, columnist Scott Vaughan has some practical tips for marketers on how to simplify your efforts so that you can better focus on the outcomes that matter.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.
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The Single Advertising Factor That’s More Important than Demographics (And How Measuring It Makes All the Difference)

When it comes to online advertising, no one is disputing that demographics are important. After all, they’re what powers your media buying and customer personas. The data you collect is meaningless without demographics to help you properly filter and segment it.

But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find something much more important than demographics powering actual conversions. And using it effectively could make a huge difference in your sales. Let’s take a closer look at what it is, and how you can leverage it to the fullest.

The Dismal State of Online Retail Conversion Rates

According to a report just released by Monetate in November, online retailers continue to struggle with e-commerce sales. A meager 3% conversion rate is something these retailers get excited about. But I’m of the opinion that this number could be much higher, and it has nothing to do with demographics.

online-retail-conversion-ratesFourth quarter e-commerce conversion rates across devices for the US, UK and global markets

Let’s use the just-passed holiday shopping season as a perfect example. Let’s say I’m in the market for a technology gadget of some kind. I’m already not in the target demographics for this market, which tends to lean heavily toward the 20-something male segment. I go to a website where I find the gadget, and proceed to buy it, but the shipping is a bit too high for my tastes, so I abandon my cart and go back to my search.

If you, as the online retailer, carried the same gadget at a better price or value, wouldn’t you want the opportunity to earn my business? Of course you would – which is why demographics go right to the back burner when it comes to enticing me to do business with you instead.

This is known as customer intent.

“So what?” I can hear you saying. “That was for a gift, and it was a one-off purchase, so it doesn’t count.”

But when you consider that 56% of mobile searches for sporting goods are made by women, and 68% of influencers for skincare and beauty were male, you can see how targeting by demographics alone goes right out the window.

How Do You Measure What You Can’t See?

chart-graphicsYou leave telltale traces of your intent every time you browse the web

Currently, there is no “one size fits all” tool to measure something like customer intent. It’s far too complex. We can, however, measure the things that lead up to intent. You do it right now without even realizing it. Cookie-based ads, remarketing, email automation — all of these things have been used successfully for years to help target ads relevant to the customer’s search.

But it’s not enough. Until now, marketers have relied on their existing automation systems, their CRM cata and other traditional sources (known as first party data) to better understand their customer base. More and more, however, a new type of data known as third-party data, is coming into play. Third party data is often captured through things like IP tracking, shared cookies or user opt-ins.

Let’s say a user comes to your site through a link on social media. They find an article funny or entertaining and decide to continue reading other, similar articles on other sites. Maybe they even leave a comment or two.

All of these actions leave a sort of “breadcrumb trail” for publishers to follow and glean insights from. Maybe the article you read had to do with funny images of babies, and perhaps your comment was a story about your own little one. From these few points alone, advertisers can deduce that you’re probably a mother of an infant or toddler, and that information, combined with other sites you visit, could paint quite a picture of you without ever being personally identifiable.

It’s questionable from a privacy perspective, but welcomed by marketers, as it gives them little tidbits of information about a prospect — just enough, perhaps, to measure their intent on buying.

So the question then becomes, how do we attract the kinds of people that are intent on buying?

Crafting Content for an Intent-Centric World

Just as all these first party and third party data snippets come together like pieces of a puzzle, so to must marketers and content creators do a little detective work to determine what kinds of content best resonate with that audience. One of the most well-known companies to leverage this kind of information in a meaningful way that boosts their own sales is the Home Depot.

A couple of years ago, they discovered that their do-it-yourself customers were browsing YouTube on their mobile phones to determine how to do different home improvement tasks, ranging from painting a room to building a fire pit. So Home Depot made several YouTube videos walking customers through the process of the most popular types of DIY projects:


Currently, the Home Depot’s YouTube channel has hundreds of how-to videos, all of which have received a remarkable 48 million views combined. There are lots of different ways you can leverage this strategy yourself, including:

  • How to clean/repair/care for the products you sell
  • Reviews of the products or their ingredients
  • Recommended accessories or add-ons for the products

There are plenty of analytics tools available – including Kissmetrics – which can help you ascertain customer intent and then harness that intent to the fullest with helpful content, reviews and recommendations.

And although it may be a bit of a stretch to say that intent is more important than demographics, it nevertheless fills an important role that all marketers should be aware of when planning campaigns both now and in the future.

Which Do You Think is More Important? Demographics or Intent?

Do you weigh demographics more heavily than customer intent? Or is intent simply too cumbersome to measure? Do you think both deserve a place in your marketing plan? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversions through content marketing and SEO copywriting. Get your free printable conversion checklist and web copy tune-up at or follow @sherice on Twitter.

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5 Cognitive Biases You Need to Put to Work … Without Being Evil

"We tend to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms our preconceptions." – Jerod Morris

All writing is persuasion in one form or another.

This is more obvious in some types of writing than others, but it is nonetheless true for all.

When it comes to copywriting, it is clearly true. Every piece of copy we write should drive a reader toward a specific action.

“Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it’s just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it.”
– David Sedaris

But even the best piece of copy in the world doesn’t actually control a reader’s actions. Well-written copy only provides the “illusion of control.” What a reader does after reading is dependent on the “stuff” they brought into it.

That “stuff” includes past experiences, preconceived notions, and, above all else, cognitive biases.

Let’s discuss a helpful handful of these cognitive biases — some you’ll know well, some you may not — and how understanding them and structuring your content in a way that acknowledges and appreciates them will help you connect, compel, and serve better.

What are cognitive biases?

“A cognitive bias refers to the systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion.”

In other words, cognitive biases are mental shortcuts we all make, all the time, without consciously realizing it, that can lead to irrational thoughts and actions.

An example:

We tend to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms our preconceptions.

I sat down to write this article believing that understanding cognitive biases would be useful for content marketers. So, I researched articles that discussed how marketers use cognitive biases to influence decision-making. Naturally, I found many, which confirmed by preconception.

This is called confirmation bias.

In this case, my clear confirmation bias did not lead to a poor or irrational decision. The scientific evidence is quite clear, and ever-expanding, that cognitive biases are indeed constantly affecting people’s decisions and behavior. So, the premise of this article is built on a solid foundation of unbiased evidence.

But what if my goal had been to poke holes in the idea of cognitive biases existing and affecting behavior?

I would have had a hard time finding any credible evidence to support my hypothesis — and, if I did, I would have been much more likely to place undue weight on its validity due to my preconception.

We’ll never eliminate cognitive biases, in ourselves or others. There’s no use trying. All we can do is understand them, embrace them, and endeavor to use them ethically and morally*.

*This is important: There can be a fine line between understanding cognitive biases and then using them for good or exploiting them for evil. If you’re not committed to staying on the ethical and moral side of that line, please stop reading this article now and consider not coming back to this site. You’re definitely not for us, and we’re probably not for you.

4 more cognitive biases you need to know to better serve your readers

Hopefully it’s clear why acknowledging your own natural proclivity for confirmation bias is important. You and your audience will be well-served by your commitment to combating it.

Now let’s run through several additional cognitive biases that your readers bring with them to your content and how those might help both you and your readers make better decisions. (This is a carefully curated list, but I recommend this blog post at Neuromarketing for a deeper dive into 60+ cognitive biases that are useful to know.)

1. Attentional bias

We have a tendency to be affected by our recurring thoughts. Brand advertising is built on that premise.

The more people see an image or a message, the more likely they are to remember the brand, trust the company, and then do business with it down the line.

So if you want to influence your audience with a call to action — for example, trying out our new StudioPress Sites product — then you’re much better off repeating it often, and in several different places.

Consider how often we have subtly and not-so-subtly exposed people to StudioPress Sites as they’ve navigated through the Rainmaker Digital universe over the last few weeks:

  • has been revamped to display Sites as a major component
  • Brian Clark dropped hints, then followed with explicit mentions on his podcast Unemployable
  • We reached out to StudioPress affiliates prior to the launch to prepare them, and many have published posts alerting their audiences to Sites’s arrival
  • We published an announcement here on the Copyblogger blog
  • We’re running paid ads announcing Sites

You get the picture.

Don’t say it once — say it often, and in many different places.

2. Framing effect

There is the offer. And then there is how you frame the offer.

For example, we recently had a fundraising drive for The Assembly Call — a live postgame show and podcast about Indiana basketball that I co-host. We have sponsors for the show, but we are also listener supported.

Our goal was to generate $2,613 (more on the odd specificity of this number in a minute) during an eight-day window. We promoted the fundraising drive to our email list of about 3,300 people.

The offer — in this case, more of a request — began with:

“All we’re asking is for you to contribute what you believe our content is worth. If you do find value in what we do, any donation helps.”

Okay. Fine.

Now here is how we framed the donation request:

“The average donation has been $52 and the most common donation denomination has been $50. But we’ve had donations as small as $4 and as large as $300.

In fact, this email will go out to roughly 3,300 people … so if every person just donates a dollar, roughly the cost of a gas station coffee, we’ll fly past our goal.”

The initial request left so much open to interpretation: How much should I donate? What’s reasonable? What have other people donated? Will my donation actually make a difference?

Questions like these, left unanswered, can lead to friction that prohibits action.

But framing the requested action based on what’s common and what the range has been — and then explaining how a comparatively small contribution could still make a difference — helped to reduce this friction and induce action.

(In addition, you can see the bandwagon effect at work here: the part that explains what other people have already done.)

We reached our goal in less than 24 hours. I have no doubt this framing had a huge impact.

So, did we play a psychological trick on our audience?


We had many donors who actually thanked us for giving them the opportunity to contribute to the cause. They wanted to support us. We have a good product, a good relationship with our audience, and this was a fair request that we’d earned the right to make.

This is the difference between ethical and moral use of cognitive biases in marketing and using knowledge of cognitive biases to take advantage of an unsuspecting target.

3. Bizarreness effect

So, why the oddly specific number $2,613? Why not $2,500 or $3,000?

Because people are more likely to take notice of — and remember — something that stands out rather than blends in. This is also referred to as the Von Restorff effect.

I’ve found it to be especially true when it comes to headlines and email subject lines, and I knew that the amount of donations we’d receive would be in part dependent upon the open rate of the email blast.

The subject line we used was: “Will you help us reach our goal of $2,613?” I also had the email come from “Jerod Morris” as opposed to “The Assembly Call.”

The number shouts from the inbox, inducing curiosity and demanding a click. As does the request of “help,” especially from a person’s name rather than a brand name; it’s compelling.

We never ask our audience for “help” and they rarely get an email from my name. Bizarre. We figured they’d want to know why.

An open rate of 70 percent suggests they did.

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 11.28.43 AM

And the donations that were coming in as late as a week after sending that email (without another email blast to remind them) suggest that the offer was indeed memorable.

4. Risk compensation

Some of these cognitive biases just make simple sense. Like risk compensation, which suggests that people adjust their behavior in relation to perceived risk — we’re more likely to take a bigger risk when perceived safety increases, and vice versa.

This is precisely why every single product we sell at Rainmaker Digital comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

And why we focus on the guarantee toward the ends of promotions.

For example, we recently announced that the price of the Rainmaker Platform was going up. (Spoiler alert: the promo is over; the price has already gone up.)

Here’s what the final email, sent two hours prior to the price raise, looked like:

“Subject: [2 Hours Left] The Price of Rainmaker Goes Up Soon

One last reminder …

Start your free, 14-day trial of the Rainmaker Platform in the next two hours so that you lock in the current price (before it goes up).

Of note:

  • If you cancel prior to your 14-day trial ending, you won’t be charged at all.
  • If you decide to cancel within 30 days of your first payment, you’ll get a refund with no questions asked.
  • In either situation, you can export whatever progress you’ve made with your site and take it with you elsewhere.

So there’s no risk, just a massive annual savings you can lock in.

Click here to start your no-risk free trial of the Rainmaker Platform today.”

We’d proudly suggest the Rainmaker Platform to any of our audience members who have a desire to build and sell digital products. Still, that doesn’t mean starting a trial is without risk, or perceived risk.

A few risks people might identify — rationally or irrationally — before signing up:

  • I have to enter a credit card, so am I going to get charged right away? (Nope, you aren’t charged until the trial ends.)
  • If I make a payment, but then realize Rainmaker won’t work for me, am I out the money? (Nope, you get a refund within the first 30 days of payment.)
  • But what if there is nothing wrong with the Platform and I just decide I don’t want it? (Not a problem! We don’t ask any questions.)
  • I just don’t want to be hassled if I want to cancel and get my money back. (Again, no problemo. The money-back guarantee is no questions asked.)
  • Okay, but what if I did a bunch of work to set stuff up. I don’t want to lose that if I cancel. (No worries. You can export any work you do and take it elsewhere.)

See how that works?

The copy answers the kinds of questions that will naturally come up before action and can even preempt the fears that cause the questions in the first place.

By dissolving the fears that risks induce, we offer people a more comfortable journey down a path they are already interested in walking (and that we know, long-term, could be a path they’ll be thankful we presented to them).

And this is a big reason why (along with the cognitive bias that induces FOMO, of course) the last day of the promo was by far the most successful one. Thirty-eight percent of new trials during the promo period started on the final day, many after this final risk-compensating reminder email was sent out.

So, is the “illusion of control” really such an illusion after all?

It’s interesting to note that illusion of control is also a cognitive bias, suggesting “the tendency for human beings to believe they can control or at least influence outcomes that they clearly cannot.” (Via

You’re not there with your reader as she consumes your words. You’re not inside her brain, finding out exactly how she’s interpreting what you’ve written. You’re not present to offer any additional arguments about why she should take the action you’d like her to take.

So any control you feel you have as a copywriter does, indeed, seem like an illusion.

And yet …

We know that well-written copy is more likely to influence desired outcomes than poorly written copy.

We know that well-written copy contains words that make sound logical arguments, that empathize, and that possess the ability to compel useful emotional reactions in a reader.

Your ability to understand and acknowledge cognitive biases with your copy allows you to empathize with your reader, and that is what opens the door to compelling a useful emotional reaction.

And we know that emotion drives action more than logic — the latter of which serves more to justify than compel.

Look, who am I to defy the words of a writer like David Sedaris? And to deny a known cognitive bias? Writing probably does give you only the illusion of control.

But maybe, just maybe …

By committing to a better understanding of the “stuff” our readers bring to our words, we increase our ability to turn an illusion of control into … let’s call it … an opportunity to connect.

And when we connect, we have a chance to compel — a privilege and responsibility that truly unlocks the next level of service to our audiences.

The post 5 Cognitive Biases You Need to Put to Work … Without Being Evil appeared first on Copyblogger.

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