Archive for November, 2012

Royalty Free Stock Image: Website Traffic Concept. Image: 15411636

© |

There is more than one way to write a case study, AKA application story, for proud posting on your web site. One that deserves more consideration in today’s skeptical marketplace is the straight, no-frills interview with a hard-nosed buyer.  Somebody your reader can immediately relate to and identify with. Ideally, a person who’s the hands-on user of highest-rank in the purchase decision chain.

More and more feature stories you see in the general media today, usually outside of business and technology, let the subject of the story do the talking without the filter of the intermediary’s flourishes. In Web 2.0-speak, this is about “authenticity”.  To our way of thinking, it’s just a more intimate, engaging and compelling way to tell the story of your product’s application. The key is to avoid softball questions.  Ask the candid, no-nonsense questions a third-party market researcher would pose. Or a veteran moderator of a focus group.  “What did you like about this product?”  “What made you hesitate?” “Why?”  What overcame your hesitation?” 

Another way is to use interview technique, but written in the first-person style under the interviewee’s by-line. Along with a product illustration, use the author’s photo. If all of this seems like a close relative of the website video it’s because it is.  Research shows that your site visitors spend about 30 seconds checking out your wares.  Make it stickier. And do A/B testing of the pages.  First-person testimonials may well do the trick of holding–and converting–more readers.

What are you doing to make your site’s content more engaging and likely to convert more visitors to buyers?

(When he’s not posting on this blog, Stan DeVaughn sees that technology companies place priority on customer value in their marketing content and communications.  You can also read him on The Write Stuff, the blog of technology writing service Write Angle.)

Id Theft


In a recent issue of Dark Reading, Tim Wilson writes that there is a “happy medium” between grabbing the latest technology at every opportunity and holding onto technologies that are clearly outdated: “The digital certificate is one ‘old’ technology worth another look”, he said. We concur. Security vendors need to factor customer value into their marketing initiatives, especially in how they position and promote all things “new” in the content of their market outreach.  Digital certificates are not invulnerable. They can be breached by the more sophisticated attackers out there, but —  they can still secure your data.  They also can prevent the vast majority of attackers from getting away with pretending they are someone they’re not. “And”, he writes, “there is still great value in that”.

The lesson for technology marketing content creators: Because something is new does not make it inherently more valuable.  “New” may merit a press announcement, but it does not necessarily justify a purchase. Marketing content must still contain–and convey–a real value proposition to the user.  Only then will a purchase be truly compelling to the most buyers.

What does your marketing content routinely contain that establishes and conveys value?  What are you doing to ensure consistent standards for customer value?  How are you communicating it in your marketing content?

(When he is not posting on his namesake blog, Stan DeVaughn sees that technology companies place priority on customer value in their marketing content and communications.  You can also read him on The Write Stuff, the blog of technology writing service Write Angle.)



Several years ago, as publicist for product design consultant Smart Design, I worked in close collaboration with the firm’s marketing head, Abby Godee. Today, as executive strategy director at Frog Design, Abby gets the chance to look into the future as she did earlier this year in this piece for Fast Company. Happy to say I’m in violent agreement with her take on where mobile technology is headed. Much of the work we’re doing right now for IT vendors in Silicon Valley confirms that things really are, in her words, “moving quickly into a technology space where mobility is becoming less about a set of devices and more about the data we all generate”. In practice, the tsunami-like trend of employees bringing their own devices (BYOD) with them to their offices has created a mandate for IT departments to say “yes” to employees who want to use these devices the way they would anywhere else, easily and securely.

Consumer technology has turned enterprise IT on its head. Employees, from the CEO on down, use their own smartphones, tablets and notebooks in everyday business. So it’s all about multiple platforms and operating systems and mobile consumer apps being used for business purposes. This makes it necessary to ensure corporate data security and compliance, but with no compromise to productivity. It’s BYO device, apps, data and ultimately IT. And make no mistake, enabling BYO behavior promises new levels of efficiency far too important to ignore, whether you’re in IT or product design.

The New York Times Website

Is there such a thing as “best practices” for writing online?  

When it comes to website writing there are some very specific do’s and don’ts. Not surprisingly they are consistent with the practices and preferences of online readers and website visitors of all stripe. The most important rule, according to a variety of digital resources: keep the content short. Online writing needs to be much shorter and more concise than other forms.  Another truism: very few readers scroll down.  Research shows that people are scanners when looking at a web page as opposed “readers” when they’re consuming the content of other media.  New visitors to your site will, on average, spend no more than 30 seconds per page.

“You want to make it easy for your readers to scan for information quickly”, says GroundWire, a Seattle-based environmental consultancy that advises clients embarked on campaigns in digital media. This also means heavy use of subheads and bold-face type to signal important points. Another way to break-up content on a page is to use bulleted lists. Write short sentences introducing ideas and then explain them with a short list of support-points.

Our two-cents: use hyperlinks effectively, not effusively. While some people insist that you can’t include too many links because people want all the important information they can gather, our experience is that too much information is a turn-off for busy people. We advise careful curating of all relevant content with your target reader in mind because quality trumps quantity online. As with all things marketing, knowing your audience is key.  Be judicious about links and respectful of readers’ time. They will appreciate it and reward you with repeat visits and recommendations.

Slightly off-topic but relevant in light of video content playing a heavier role in the online strategy of every business today: search engines don’t read your videos like they read your writing. Keywords in the title and description is a good start but there is more to consider, according to Jessica Sanders of  “If you want to improve the visibility of your B2B marketing videos – whether you’re hosting them on your site, or YouTube and Vimeo – consider sitemap build and search engine availability.”  She explains that the main search engines, Google and Bing, “are working on their ability to locate, crawl and judge video content for search. So for now, you’ll want to submit your video sitemap to the search engines instead of hoping they’ll find it themselves”. More practical tips here.