Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The FAQ Page: Content Marketing's Neglected Gem

Many times when a client and I are discussing content creation for a new website, the client will list many of the "must haves" such as the home page, the "About Us" page and various product or service pages. At some point or other I'll ask them, "What about an FAQ page?" And they'll mumble something along the lines of "Well, maybe later, I don't know, possibly, if it turns out we need one, sometime down the road...." blah blah. The notion seems to be that the only reason to build and populate an FAQ page on a website is to straighten out hopelessly confused buyers and prospective buyers. Okay, that's a good reason -- but it's hardly the only one.

Your FAQ page isn't just an online troubleshooting guide or information kiosk; it can also serve a powerful piece of marketing content in its own right. Here are some specific actions your FAQ page can perform to help you sell.

De-Cluttering Other Pages

Countless organizations pack their websites hip-deep in details, turning critical top-level pages like the home page into dense, unreadable, uninteresting messes. That's not to say that the details don't matter -- in fact, the right detail presented at the right time can help clinch a sale. The home page just isn't the place for it, but the FAQ page frequently is. By breaking these important specific into paragraph-sized chunks preceded by fairly open-ended questions ("What other chronic ailments can this therapy treat successfully?" etc.), you can lay out these details in manner that makes them easy to spot and absorb while freeing up other pages to do their work more effectively.

Spinning Your Side of the Story

At some point or other you may need to defend your products, your services, your company or even your entire industry against negative press or rumors. Even when all is generally well, there will be instances where you need to relieve prospective buyer's concerns over particular aspects of your offerings or processes. Hence the need for FAQs such as "Why does your product cost more than competing brands?" or "Is it true that some people have had allergic reactions to this item?" Your FAQ page can double as both a natural place to address any lingering concerns and as a positive-spin zone for shooting down false accusations and getting the best possible face on genuine shortcomings.

Guiding the Reader From Pain Point to Final Pitch

An FAQ page can act just like a landing page if you arrange the questions in the right sequence. Start with general introductory questions that include pain points (a literal example would be "What is sciatica?" "What symptoms does it cause?" "How debilitating can this problem become?"). Then go into questions and answers directly related to resolving that pain ("How fast does this therapy yield results?" or "Can this technique eliminate the need for surgery?"). Finally, wrap up the FAQ with a section that compels a call to action ("Why do you recommend that I schedule my first treatment as soon as possible?" and so on).

An FAQ page can do a lot for your online content marketing, no matter how knowledgeable your target market might seem to be. Ask the questions you want to provide the answers to -- and aim those answers right at your audience's sales triggers.

Any questions?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Features and Benefits: Your Marketing Content's One-Two Punch

You may have heard the following phrase, or some variation on it, over and over again: "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." In other words, emphasize the benefits of your products and services in your marketing copy instead of simply trotting out a laundry list of features and expecting those features to get your target audience excited enough to buy from you. I've made similar statements myself from time to time, and the basic principle is a sound one. But there's more it to than that, because features and benefits actually make a great tag team when they're used in the service of each other.

Common marketing wisdom holds that no matter how much compelling data people receive, their decision to buy is ultimately an emotional one. As impressed as they might be by a lengthy set of features, their purchase is fueled by a desire to experience some great end result that replaces their current distress or frustration and with a feeling of satisfaction and happiness. If you're just going on and on about all the things your product or service can do instead of describing the benefits of those actions, you're likely to slam up against what I call the So-What Factor. Readers are scanning your marketing content with the overriding thought, "What's in it for me -- how will this make my life better?" Answer that question with the right benefit statements, and you've got genuine sales content (and hopefully sales) instead of just information.

So are features unimportant? Hardly! Obviously you wouldn't have a business without features, since they represent the specific things you provide and the specific tasks those things perform. If you claim to provide a bunch of benefits without illustrating how you can make those benefits happen, you've got no credibility. So features are definitely important for lending legitimacy to your marketing content -- but they're not what you're really selling. What you're really selling is the promise those features provide, from a fresher-smelling home to a more productive workplace. The features are a means to an end for the buyer; the benefits are that end.

How do you make these two great tastes taste great together? Wherever possible in your marketing content, a feature should be tied to a benefit. For example: "Our new mop has [feature] nano-tubular microfiber static-cling head strands for [benefit] quicker, easier cleaning." Whenever you spout out a feature, be quick to follow up with an explanation of what that feature really means in terms of making your target audience's life better. By addressing the So-What Factor right away, you're keeping your readers' eyes on the prize and helping them envision the final result of owning that product or using that service in everyday life. This approach is especially critical if you offer jargon-heavy features such as legal services, high-tech equipment or medical procedures that require clarification foe the average Joe.

Can you introduce the benefits first and then tie them to features? Of course you can -- and in fact, that's probably the most effective order in which to proceed. Start with the emotional hook of "How much better would your life be if...." or "Imagine solving X problem more easily than ever before" or "Wouldn't you love to have...." This whets the reader's appetite to find out just how such a Shangri-La is possible, at which point you back up your promises with the features that turn them into a reality.

Anyway, don't think in terms of features vs. benefits. Think features and benefits -- because with the aid of this dynamic duo, your marketing content will pack a powerful one-two-punch!