Browsing articles by " Chris Help"

Tips on Treating Clients Right (or Applying the Golden Rule to Your Online Business)

Feb 6, 2012   //   by Chris Help   //   SEO, SEO Blog  //  11 Comments

Going one step further than the competition

I’ve heard some people say they got into their online business, be it SEO or copywriting, so they could work from home and not have to interact with people. And every time I hear that, I can’t help but take a step back and think, “That’s stupid.” I mean, sure you may not be dealing face to face with people on a daily basis, but a large part of what you do involves client interaction. You absolutely must know how to work with people in order to succeed in any sort of business venture.

Now having said that, I fully realize that some people who “retreats” to an online job in order to avoid social duties may require a little extra help in respect to client relations. If that describes you, here are a few tips to help you out. Follow them and you’ll be retaining clients and getting referrals in no time.

1. Go the extra mile to fix your mistakes—I’m writing this post today because quite frankly, it’s fresh on my mind. See, I did another post for this blog that I was supposed to schedule for 9 A.M. this morning. But I screwed up and it published overnight. Well, after thinking about it, I decided that it just wasn’t right for me to say “OOPS!” and move on. So instead, I decided to supply the blog with an extra post. And it just so happened to be fitting material. Would Gerald have let me keep posting to his blog if I had simply said “Sorry,” and moved on to next week? More than likely. But hey—I want to make sure I keep my business relationships moving in the right direction. I plan on working with him for a long time. So why not scratch his back?

Update: Gerald ended up not using this post last Monday so it’s getting used this week. That said, I’m still glad I went the extra step and I’m sure he took note. Make a habit of doing business the right way!

2. Deliver as promised (and don’t promise if you can’t deliver)—Sometimes I’m lucky and acquire a project that has a flexible deadline. But more often than not, if a client contacts me then they needed the piece written yesterday. So they ask when is the soonest I can finish for them. I’m always tempted to overcommit in order to secure the project. However, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s better to give them an honest answer than to promise and not deliver. Nothing makes a client unhappier than having to wait for work that should have already been completed.

3. Keep communication lines open—Again, sometimes you get the low maintenance client that just wants you to send them the finished product and shut the hell up. But always go into a new relationship assuming your client needs his hand held. In other words, give him frequent updates. And ask him if he has any questions (and be ready to answer them). Bottom line—make him feel important.

Have you run into client issues before? What have you done to go the extra mile?

Chris Help

Chris HELP started his own copywriting agency, HELP! Copy and Design, a few years back as a sort of side project to showcase his passions. But what ended up happening is it snowballed into full-fledged thriving business. So whether you need press releases, SEO articles, or good old fashioned high-conversion copy--he's ready, willing, and more than able.

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Tips on Treating Clients Right (or Applying the Golden Rule to Your Online Business)

Jan 30, 2012   //   by Chris Help   //   Copywriting, SEO Blog  //  3 Comments

I’ve heard some people say they got into their online business, be it SEO or copywriting, so they could work from home and not have to interact with people. And every time I hear that, I can’t help but take a step back and think, “That’s stupid.” I mean, sure you may not be dealing face to face with people on a daily basis, but a large part of what you do involves client interaction. You absolutely have to know how to work with people in order to succeed.

Now having said that, I fully realize that some people who “retreat” to an online job in order to avoid social duties may require a little extra help in respect to client relations. If that describes you, here are a few tips on how to help you out. Follow them and you’ll be retaining clients and getting referrals in no time.

  1. Go the extra mile to fix your mistakes—I’m writing this post today because quite frankly it’s fresh on my mind. See, I did another post for this blog that I was supposed to schedule for 9 A.M. this morning. But I screwed up and it published overnight. Well, after thinking about it, I decided that it just wasn’t right for me to say “OOPS!” and move on. So instead, I decided to supply the blog with an extra post. And it just so happened to be fitting material. Would Gerald have let me keep posting to his blog if I had simply said “Sorry,” and moved on to next week? More than likely. But hey—I want to make sure I keep my business relationships moving in the right direction. I plan on working with him for a long time. So why not scratch his back?
  2. Deliver as promised (and don’t promise if you can’t deliver)—Sometimes I’m lucky and acquire a project that has a flexible deadline. But more often than not, if a client contacts me then they needed the piece written yesterday. So they ask when is the soonest I can finish for them. I’m always tempted to overcommit in order to secure the project. However, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s better to give them an honest answer than to promise and not deliver. Nothing makes a client unhappier than having to wait for work that should have already been completed.
  3. Keep communication lines open—Again, sometimes you get the low maintenance client that just wants you to send them the finished product and shut the hell up. But always go into a new relationship assuming your client needs his hand held. In other words, give him frequent updates. And ask him if he has any questions (and be ready to answer them). Bottom line—make him feel important.

Have you run into client issues before? What have you done to go the extra mile?nbsp;

Chris Help

Chris HELP started his own copywriting agency, HELP! Copy and Design, a few years back as a sort of side project to showcase his passions. But what ended up happening is it snowballed into full-fledged thriving business. So whether you need press releases, SEO articles, or good old fashioned high-conversion copy--he's ready, willing, and more than able.

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Why Bad Writers Don’t Necessarily Make Bad Bloggers (and Vice Versa)

Jan 30, 2012   //   by Chris Help   //   blogging, SEO Blog  //  12 Comments

Thinking about getting into the blogging game but afraid that since your college professor always gave you D’s on papers that you won’t cut the mustard? Here’s a little secret for you: there’s little connection between how good you were at writing papers in school and how successful of a blogger you can become.

The fact is, you don’t have to be a good writer, technically speaking, to be good at blogging. Here’s why:

  • You can get away with sloppy mechanics—You’re English teacher isn’t going to be reading your blog posts with a red pen in hand. In fact, chances are almost no one will be checking out your mechanics. And in some cases, grammar errors can actually enhance your writing. Unless your mechanics are so poor that they take away from the meaning of your posts, you’re probably going to be okay. Sure there may be a few commenters who give you a hard time (see: grammar Nazis). But you can just tell them to go to hell.
  • You don’t have to have an SAT vocabulary—Back in school, it was all about flexing your vocabulary muscles. The bigger words you used it seemed, the better grades you received. However, when it comes to blogging, the rule of thumb is to keep the vocabulary to a junior high level. That way you can keep things conversational and make sure people of all reading levels can join the conversation.
  • Complex sentences are frowned upon—Again, when you write online, the idea is to keep things simple. You should only do things to enhance readability, not detract from it. One way to go about it is to keep your sentence structure relatively simple. That means weaving together 3 line long sentences with subordinate clauses and conjunctions and blah blah blah simply is not necessary.
  • It’s more about voice than anything else—What it comes down to is does your personality come out in your writing? Furthermore, do people like this personality? Is it witty? Knowledgeable? Approachable? If you can answer yes to these questions, then you’re going to do just fine.

What might be more surprising here is that often people who were “good writers” before will attempt to enter the blogosphere and go on to suck it up. Why? Because they’re style is too stiff. A good blogger needs to be able to bend and not break. He needs to be able to make the words work for him—not the other way around.

What about you? Have I planted a seed of faith inside of a would-be blogger?

Chris Help

Chris HELP started his own copywriting agency, HELP! Copy and Design, a few years back as a sort of side project to showcase his passions. But what ended up happening is it snowballed into full-fledged thriving business. So whether you need press releases, SEO articles, or good old fashioned high-conversion copy--he's ready, willing, and more than able.

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Why You Should NOT Friend Me on Facebook and Follow Me on Twitter

Jan 23, 2012   //   by Chris Help   //   SEO Blog  //  2 Comments

Last week I posted about all the annoying things people do that make me wish I had never accepted their friend request in the first place. Of course, I’d be a hypocrite to say that I have the social media thing down perfectly. In fact, if I’m truthful with myself and to all you guys—well I pretty much suck in respect to social networks.

Don’t believe me? Here, let me point the spotlight back on myself and uncover all the annoying things I do.

I Talk Too Much about My Kids

Before I had my own, I despised when friends would fill my feed with updates on their kids. Why? Because let’s be honest here—no one cares about your kids other than yourself. Yet here I am with back to back posts about my daughter and our experience with her toddler bed. Me<–hypocrite.

I Get Pissed off about Sports

Okay, so lots of people like football (and sports in general). And perhaps you follow certain people on Twitter to get updates. For example, I follow @houstontexans to get score reports in case I can’t see the games. But let’s be honest, no one wants their Facebook newsfeed clogged with some drunken buffoon (me) bitching about his team for 3 hours straight. Take a look:

I Post Inside Jokes to Get on the Radio

Why are they called “inside jokes?” Because outside of the people you are speaking directly to, no one gets what the hell is going on. Not exactly a great way to make friends (“secrets don’t make friends”). Well, I listen to a local station here in Houston, 1560 the Game, and I constantly tweet the show in an effort to have mine read on air. Lame, I know. So everyone outside of the hosts I’m tweeting to have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m surprised they haven’t given me the boot yet (some have).

I Don’t Stick to My Word

We all make promises, but few of us keep them. Count me in the few. This past summer, I did a guest post for Search Engine Journal explaining what to do when you run out of ideas for business blog posts. The post itself was pretty good, I must admit…but at the end, I made a promise. See for yourself:

Guess how many times I tweeted out post ideas? Ummmm… 3, maybe 4. Did people start following me after this post? Sure. I gained a few new tweeps (I hate when people say “tweeps”). But what did they get in return? A few good ideas mixed in with all of the above. Poor guys.

Is It Too Late for a New Year’s Resolution?

So now what? I realize I’m not the best follow or friend. Do I vow to make a change? I suppose I could. But let’s be honest here: leopards don’t change their spots. And truth be told, I’m probably not going to quit doing what I do in respect to social networking. At this point, it’s not important enough for me to try.

So why did I post this? For you to learn from my mistakes. You want to be an interesting follow? Want to use your social media accounts to pull in business? Do the exact opposite of what I’ve shown you in this post and you can!

Do you have any annoying Twitter or Facebook habits? Be honest—share them!

Oh, and also, if you want to put up with my crap, give me a follow on twitter: @chris_HELP

Chris Help

Chris HELP started his own copywriting agency, HELP! Copy and Design, a few years back as a sort of side project to showcase his passions. But what ended up happening is it snowballed into full-fledged thriving business. So whether you need press releases, SEO articles, or good old fashioned high-conversion copy--he's ready, willing, and more than able.

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3 Ways to Make Me Unfriend You on Facebook

Jan 16, 2012   //   by Chris Help   //   SEO Blog  //  13 Comments

Whether you like it or not, Facebook is becoming a part of everyday life–personal and business. Even my last few friends who insisted they would never join the social media revolution are slowly giving in. Why? Because it’s an easy way to keep in touch with people without actually having to talk to them or put out any real effort. And it’s also a great way to acquire news.

Having said that, with so many people joining, I’m finding my friends list getting way too long for its own good. So I’ve been trying to do some pre-spring cleaning. How am I deciding who gets the axe? Well, I’m looking for people who:

1.       Constantly complain—I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy. And as most of my friends can attest, I’m pretty much content in all aspects of my life (except I’d love to be rich—but who wouldn’t?). Having said that, I absolutely abhor when people bitch and moan on Facebook. Now make no mistake, I’ve had a few negative status updates in the past. But they’re few and far between. And being that I am generally positive, when I do update to complain about something…well, it matters a bit more as opposed to someone who is just a Negative Nelly. Newsflash, your life isn’t that bad. But mine is because I have to read your constant crap.

2.       Give soapbox status updates—I have one friend that I keep on my list only because she’s an old friend. But every time I see her updates, I cringe. Why? Well, they’re always a page or two long. And they’re always about whatever cause she has decided to take on for the day. Could be a certain candidate, a political issue, a news story, or whatever. The messed up thing is, even if I agree with what she has to say, after reading her rants it makes me want to change my stance—just to spite her.

3.       Do nothing but self-promote—In the last year, many businesses have started to view social media marketing as a legitimate part of building their brand. So along the way I’ve started liking various companies that have impacted me in one way or another. But I’m starting to regret it. Why? Because most of them post nothing but why I should go visit their place of business or send them my money. ANNOYING. I befriended you to get news on your products and…wait for it…DEALS. 

Want me to be your Facebook friend? Great, I’m all for it. Just don’t do any of the above and we’ll get along just fine.

What about you? What drives you crazy enough to push you over the edge and start unfriending?

*Stay tuned for next week when I post about all the stupid stuff I do on Facebook and Twitter that should make people unfriend and unfollow me!*

Chris Help

Chris HELP started his own copywriting agency, HELP! Copy and Design, a few years back as a sort of side project to showcase his passions. But what ended up happening is it snowballed into full-fledged thriving business. So whether you need press releases, SEO articles, or good old fashioned high-conversion copy--he's ready, willing, and more than able.

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My Experience Delving into the World of Contracting Out Jobs

Nov 7, 2011   //   by Chris Help   //   Copywriting, SEO, SEO Blog  //  8 Comments

A few months back I had what I consider to be a divine revelation. See, leading up to this point, I was slowly realizing that I was reaching the breaking point as far as the workload I could take on. When I first started out in the SEO copywriting business, I only had a few jobs here and there, leaving me begging for more work. Now I had built a loyal (albeit still small compared to others) customer base, work kept coming in without me having to really look for it. My main client had quadrupled my work load.

And suddenly those deadlines were starting to choke me out. Not too unlike one of those way-too-masculine ‘roided up UFC guys putting a triangle choke hold on their weakened opponent.

Anyway, that’s when it hit me. Find more writers.

As the lights from the heavens beamed down and the angelic choir sang, I began imagining the possibilities. What if I could actually work on the projects I enjoyed and pay someone else to write the stuff that was just “paying the bills” so to speak?

Not only would my love for SEO copywriting grow stringer, but I’d be able to take on more work. Instead of having to turn down jobs or tell a client “yeah but I can’t get it to you for X amount of weeks,” I’d now be able to enthusiastically reply, “BRING IT ON!” Not only that, but I could start searching for more work—you know, sending out sales letters and what not.

Sure I’d probably take a hit at the beginning, having to turn over a small yet still hefty portion of my profits to the contractors. But this would be a mere short term set back.

My Experience Getting My Feet Wet with Contracting Out Work

It didn’t take much thought for me to decide to jump in head first. I began by asking all my friends if they knew anyone interested in making a little money writing on the side. This attracted a few prospects. However, I learned pretty quickly that mixing friends and business didn’t work out. Not one of these prospects ended up being reliable.

Then I turned to Craigslist. After all, I’d picked up a few jobs there along the way. Why couldn’t I find some decent writers? However, first I had a big decision to make—how much money would I offer? Well, the plan was to contract out a bit of the recurring SEO article writing I had to do, which meant 500 word articles. At this point, I had no idea what the average article writer charged. I knew what I was making, but obviously I had to pay significantly less if I wanted to turn a profit.

After pondering this for awhile, I decided to run a test. I made a series of “Wanted: SEO article writer” postings, each listed at a different price point. One was a bit more than I wanted to pay, one about what I considered reasonable, and one I totally low-balled.

Here’s what I discovered. At the low-ball price, I got one of two things. Either I got really crappy writing and had to redo the articles myself…or I got a decent writer who was flaky and would always be late with some reason why they couldn’t finish.

At the middle price point I got a mixture of bad writers and pretty good writers. I sorted through it all and ended up sticking with a few.

The high price point was especially interesting. I assumed I would pull in some better-than-usual writers through this posting. However, what I discovered is all the same writers that applied for the middle price contacted me for this job too. Interesting…

So the conclusion? Obviously I chose middle ground payment.

How to outsource or Manage Contractors?

Once I settled on a few writers, I got rolling. I started sending out article jobs left and right. But as you can imagine, I ran into all sorts of unexpected issues. First of all, how was I to keep all the jobs straight? And what about the bookkeeping? Furthermore, how did I decide which jobs to send to whom?

Want the answers? Ahhh…but I can’t unveil them just yet. Yes, I know it’s frustrating, but this is a subject for my next guest post. Until then, let me know your experience with contracting out work!

Chris Help

Chris HELP started his own copywriting agency, HELP! Copy and Design, a few years back as a sort of side project to showcase his passions. But what ended up happening is it snowballed into full-fledged thriving business. So whether you need press releases, SEO articles, or good old fashioned high-conversion copy--he's ready, willing, and more than able.

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Google Plus. Yawn.

Nov 1, 2011   //   by Chris Help   //   Google, SEO Blog, Social Media  //  14 Comments

Caution: The opinions in the following blog post represent my own as a guest blogger—not necessarily Search Engine Marketing Group’s or Gerald Weber’s. Just sayin’…

Okay, I’ve got to get something off my chest here. It’s been building and building and if I don’t scream it from the mountain tops, my chest is going to explode. So here it is. Are you ready.

GO TO HELL, GOOGLE PLUS!

Wow. There. I said it. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Who cares. Big deal, so you hate it. You’re a Facebook groupie. Or a Twitter Tweeter. Or whatever. Big deal, join the club.”

Ah, but see, it’s different for me. Why? Because I’m busy trying to pull my foot out of my mouth. Not sure what I’m talking about? Checkout this post I made on my blog a few months back, in which I said that Google Plus was basically going to murder Facebook.

Yeah. Whoops.

Here’s the deal. I wanted Google Plus to be our savior. You know, the one to topple the world system (i.e. Facebook) and bring revolution to the social media world. I prayed that it was true. I hoped with everything within me. In fact, I wanted it to be the case so badly that I wrote a post daring people to argue otherwise with me.

But here I am, a few months later, barely even blinking when I see my Google Plus notifications box pop up. Why? Here’s what I’ve narrowed it down to:

  • My friends aren’t into it. Well, a couple of them maybe. But most of the updates I’m reading are from people I barely know. And quite frankly, I could care less what most of them have to say.
  • People keep adding me and I have no clue who they are. Not sure what the deal is, but I sear the last million people to put me in their circles—I don’t know them. No clue at all. And let’s face it, I don’t really feel like getting to know them.
  • I’m in too deep with the other social networks. My worst fear. I’m too tied into Facebook and Twitter to quit. I’m an addict. Sad, yet so true.

Now, am I saying Google Plus won’t beat them out in the end? Not necessarily. When you compare Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus you can definitely put together a solid argument in Google Pluses favor. But as for now, as for me…sorry Google Plus. I just don’t have the time or the patience.

Chris Help

Chris HELP started his own copywriting agency, HELP! Copy and Design, a few years back as a sort of side project to showcase his passions. But what ended up happening is it snowballed into full-fledged thriving business. So whether you need press releases, SEO articles, or good old fashioned high-conversion copy--he's ready, willing, and more than able.

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Drunk Chatting with Clients Bad for SEO Business

Oct 19, 2011   //   by Chris Help   //   blogging, Copywriting, SEO, SEO Blog  //  14 Comments

We’ve all done it. Went out for a few drinks and a few laughs, and the next thing you know—wasted. And as long as you aren’t getting behind the wheel, no harm no foul, right?

Enter technology.

Let’s be real for a second. Who doesn’t think it’s the best idea to text/Facebook/Gchat someone after a few too many? For whatever reason, it seems like the best idea at the time. Of course, if it really was a good idea, there wouldn’t be sites like www.textsfromlastnight.com.

Bad idea.

I’d even argue that drunk dialing is the best option if you are going to insist on communicating with people who aren’t right there with you when you’re inebriated. Why? Because there is no record of it. But when you text or anything like that, you leave a paper trail that often won’t disappear.

When Drunken Use of Technology Collides with Your Business

It’s one thing to drunk text your ex or accidentally call your mom. But imagine if you accidentally got a hold of one of your clients. Talk about a nightmare.

Well that’s exactly what happened to a friend of mine recently who runs his own SEO article writing business. The other night I was awaken by a text that said, “check your email now.” Here’s what I found. Names have been changed to protect the innocent:

“My drunk ass was trying to Gchat Jason and accidentally clicked on a client. The following is what took place:

 

me: B*TCHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Rob: ?

11:46 PM me: hahaha. oh my gosh. i was trying to click on my friend’s name. he played a prank on me in my apartment, and i was going to give him a hard time.

wow. embarrassed.

11:49 PM Rob: who is this?

oh Anthony…blogger

no worries man

I’ve done something like this many of times

11:50 PM honestly, pretend it never happened because I think it’s funny

done worse myself

me: HAHAHAH

dear God

11:51 PM happy hour beers

disaster!

 Rob: luckily it was a guy and not a girl

imagine IMing a girl

B****TCCCHHH

and trying to explain that one

me: hahahahah, literal lol’ing

thank God you’re cool about it

terrible

 Rob: haha yeah man I could care less

anyone who would get mad about that sucks

and needs to loosen up”

Okay. So any part of me that was pissed for being up in the middle of a work night reading my email was long gone by now. I was literally LOLing my butt off. True story.

What We Can Learn from This

 

Anthony got lucky. He made a colossal mistake that could have cost him a pretty important client. In his intoxicated state he accidentally clicked on the wrong name and proceeded to cuss at a paying customer. And not only that, but let’s face it, there’s no way the guy bought the “my friend played a prank on me and I was giving him a hard time” thing. Obviously, Anthony was bombed.

Luckily, his client seemed to be a kindred drunken spirit. But it’s safe to say that not all clients would take it this well. In fact, this sort of behavior could make you appear untrustworthy, incompetent, and downright unprofessional.

So what can we do to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen? Stop drinking.

I literally LOLed again.

So that solution is out. Now what? Well, perhaps separating our business contacts from personal? Or better yet—keep a separate business email address and don’t add business contacts to your Gchat!

Of course, that won’t keep you from accidentally texting them.

Best bet? Don’t hit the technology when you’ve been drinking. Instead, go home and go to bed.

Have you ever done something similar? How’d you handle it?

Chris Help

Chris HELP started his own copywriting agency, HELP! Copy and Design, a few years back as a sort of side project to showcase his passions. But what ended up happening is it snowballed into full-fledged thriving business. So whether you need press releases, SEO articles, or good old fashioned high-conversion copy--he's ready, willing, and more than able.

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A Rebranding and Reputation Management Case Study Featuring Netflix

Sep 22, 2011   //   by Chris Help   //   blogging, Contests, SEO Blog  //  6 Comments

This is a guest post from Chris Help. It is part of The 2nd annual “Bad Ass” SEO Guest Blogging Contest.

Yesterday I got an email from my wife asking “what the hell is this?” with a long, personal sounding email attached. At first glance I thought it was from her ex-boyfriend (after 3 years of marriage I still hate that guy). But upon closer inspection I realized it was from Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix. My interest was captured.

In case you didn’t know, Netflix recently announced that they were changing their pricing structure. They were offering both online streaming and rental-by-mail services starting at around 10 bucks a month. However, they were now separating the 2 services and charging 8 dollars for each one.

Hey, it pissed me off. And apparently a lot of other people as well. In fact, there was quite the stir about it online.

Now usually in a situation like this, a company will choose one of the following courses of action:

  1. Ignore it and move on.
  2. Attempt to justify their actions.
  3. Issue a public apology.

Netflix chose option 3 and did so in quite the fashion. Did they make the right choice? And how well did they pull it off? I don’t know… let’s take a closer look.

Netflix Gets “Personal” Touch

Below I have pasted the exact email my wife received. The plan is to divide it up into sections and dissect each one to see what they did, how they did it, why they did it, and if I think it will be successful. The letter is in italics to keep it separate. Sound good? Let’s get started…

Subject Line: An Explanation and Some Reflections

Eh. To me this was week. To someone like my wife who pays very little attention to emails from people like Netflix, this subject line could easily have gotten lost in the mix. And it certainly didn’t help her understand who it was from or why. Too generic. Now you’re probably saying “didn’t it say it was from Netflix in your inbox? Not exactly…it said it was from Reed Hastings, CEO and Co-founder of Netflix. The last part of his title was easily lost in the “from” column in the inbox.

Dear Cori,

Here Mr. Hastings begins by directly addressing my wife by name. At this point, we don’t know who this is from but we think “hm, they must know me.” So we read on.

I messed up.  I owe you an explanation.

Okay, now you’ve got my attention. Not knowing who this is, I get that lump in my throat and am wondering:

  1. Who wronged me?
  2. What sort of bombshell are they about to drop on me?

So I read one—but with dread.

 It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming and the price changes.  That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology.   Let me explain what we are doing.

There’s a lot going on here. But first let me state, I still don’t know who the hell this is from. That said, once I start reading and I hit the word “members” I immediately realize this same email was sent to a group of other people. My next thought is “this is an advertising gimmick.” And quite frankly, if my wife hadn’t sent it to me wondering who it was from and what they were talking about, I would have stopped reading on the spot and deleted it.

But I kept reading. Anyway, this paragraph does a few things:

  • It lets us know the company is listening to their customers’ feedback.
  • It explains what the complaints are for those unaware.
  • It offers a personal apology.
  • It lets me know that Mr. Hastings plans to explain his earlier actions in the rest of the email.

Most of this is good, except I can’t help but think I’m about to read something full of excuses. You know, someone trying to dig their way out of a hole. How about just a straight up “sorry, we screwed up!” and leave it at that? Eh...moving on with skepticism.

For the past five years, my greatest fear at Netflix has been that we wouldn't make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming.   Most companies that are great at something – like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores – do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us).  So we moved quickly into streaming, but I should have personally given you a full explanation of why we are splitting the services and thereby increasing prices.  It wouldn’t have changed the price increase, but it would have been the right thing to do.

Hm, I’m starting to change my mind. Mr. Hastings states a very real problem for businesses like Borders that are collapsing. Keeping up with changing times is difficult. He also makes sure to stick by his guns in respect to the pricing change, which doesn’t sound as bad now that we realize his company was in danger of going under. That said, he makes sure to admit fault for what he believes he did wrong—not adequately explaining what was happening. Keeping me, the customer, out of the loop.

           So here is what we are doing and why.

The explanation he made me realize I have been waiting for all along is about to come. I like how he let this sentence stand alone. It created a nice breaking point for the email and helped place emphasis where it should be. A great copywriting technique.

               Many members love our DVD service, as I do, because nearly every movie ever made is published on DVD.  DVD is a great option for those who want the huge and comprehensive selection of movies.

                    I also love our streaming service because it is integrated into my TV, and I can watch anytime I want.  The benefits of our streaming service are really quite different from the benefits of DVD by mail.  We need to focus on rapid improvement as streaming technology and the market evolves, without maintaining compatibility with our DVD by mail service.

Mr. Hastings first explains the benefits of each of their two services. This accomplishes 2 goals.

  1. It makes me realize they are offering 2 very different services, each with its own perks.
  2. It re-sells me on their service offerings. As someone who may have become disenchanted with the company after the big announcement, this is a chance for me to remember what’s in it for me if I continue doing business with them. Another good copywriting move.

So we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are really becoming two different businesses, with very different cost structures, that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently.

Sounds logical now that he broke them down into 2 distinct categories. Darnit all if this guy isn’t winning me over!

         It’s hard to write this after over 10 years of mailing DVDs with pride, but we think it is necessary:  In a few weeks, we will rename our DVD by mail service to “Qwikster”.  We chose the name Qwikster because it refers to quick delivery.  We will keep the name “Netflix” for streaming.

Here I picture Mr. Hastings getting teary-eyed. After all, who really likes change? The guy is tugging at my heart strings here. Meanwhile, he announces the rebranding of the original Netflix—somewhat reluctantly. And while he explains the name, which seems logical enough, I can’t help but feel like the DVD-by-mail thing is going to die a slow death. He doesn’t seem too amped on it and the streaming section gets to keep the original name. If I’m with Netflix mainly for the mail order, I’m not at all happy right now.

       Qwikster will be the same website and DVD service that everyone is used to.  It is just a new name, and DVD members will go to qwikster.com to access their DVD queues and choose movies.  One improvement we will make at launch is to add a video games upgrade option, similar to our upgrade option for Blu-ray, for those who want to rent Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 games.    Members have been asking for video games for many years, but now that DVD by mail has its own team, we are finally getting it done.  Other improvements will follow.  A negative of the renaming and separation is that the Qwikster.com and Netflix.com websites will not be integrated.

Knowing that I’m unhappy with the announcement, Mr. Hastings tries to save himself here. He gives a half assed attempt at assuring me nothing will change. And he even tries to make me think it’s only going to get better. But I’m no fool, Mr. Hastings. Your heart is no longer in this. The writing is on the wall. Bye bye, Netfl…errr… Qwikster!

       There are no pricing changes (we’re done with that!).  If you subscribe to both services you will have two entries on your credit card statement, one for Qwikster and one for Netflix.  The total will be the same as your current charges.  We will let you know in a few weeks when the Qwikster.com website is up and ready.

If I were him, I would have put the first line of this paragraph in all bolds. Because after all, the price increase is the most annoying part of the whole thing. And now he’s saying it won’t go up…anymore. However, if I’m upset enough about the recent price change to unsubscribe, this won’t win me back. But if I’m on the fence, well--maybe.

       For me the Netflix red envelope has always been a source of joy.  The new envelope is still that lovely red, but now it will have a Qwikster logo.   I know that logo will grow on me over time, but still, it is hard.  I imagine it will be similar for many of you.

Rebranding without rebranding. New logo, yet still the same colors we connected with. Will the logo be enough to break that emotional attachment? He hopes not. But he puts himself in this again and explains his own emotional turmoil, bringing back that personal feeling and forcing me to put myself in his shoes… or is he trying to put himself in my shoes? Effective.

       I want to acknowledge and thank you for sticking with us, and to apologize again to those members, both current and former, who felt we treated them thoughtlessly.

      Both the Qwikster and Netflix teams will work hard to regain your trust.  We know it will not be overnight.  Actions speak louder than words.  But words help people to understand actions.

And a closing apology. What’s done is done.

Respectfully yours, 

-Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO, Netflix 

p.s. I have a slightly longer explanation along with a video posted on our blog, where you can also post comments.

Ah the P.S. One of the oldest direct mail copywriter tricks in the book. He knows I’ll read the P.S. and let’s me know I have an outlet to express my thoughts. Smart.

Brilliant or Bust?

Here’s what it comes down to. I think they made some mistakes (like I bet a bajillion people deleted this email before it was ever read) but the email itself is fairly effective overall. And when you have made as many customers upset as Netflix has, the worst thing you can do is nothing. That said, I think they made the right move. A “sincere” apology with a logical explanation and no backing down.

What will this mean for their business? Only time will tell…

What are your thoughts? Reputation management success? Rebranding fail? Tell me about it in the replies.

Chris Help

Chris HELP started his own copywriting agency, HELP! Copy and Design, a few years back as a sort of side project to showcase his passions. But what ended up happening is it snowballed into full-fledged thriving business. So whether you need press releases, SEO articles, or good old fashioned high-conversion copy--he's ready, willing, and more than able.

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3 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Call to Action

Sep 19, 2011   //   by Chris Help   //   Copywriting, SEO Blog  //  4 Comments

Whether you need to create landing pages for various products you’re selling or you’re providing copy for your home page on your business site, your call to action is one of the most crucial pieces of the puzzle. Nevertheless, tons of people get it wrong. In fact, many business websites fail to have any call to action whatsoever. I’ve even had clients ask me to take the call to action out of the copy I’ve done for them. It never ceases to amaze me.

But assuming you’re open to the idea of a call to action, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of yours.

1.       Avoid the generic—Yes, “Contact us now!” is nice and urgent sounding, but urgency isn’t the only thing your call to action needs. You need to avoid the generic line and add some specifics. Otherwise, you run the risk of sounding like one of those late night infomercials. How do you circumvent the generic? Make sure you explain what’s in it for the customer.

2.       Don’t forget the “how”—Research is conclusive: customers need to be told what to do. Like sheep, they need to be led directly to the proverbial slaughter. But guess what? They won’t get there unless you tell them how. You can tell a sheep to go lay down all day, but until you guide him there, nothing’s going to happen. In the same way, make sure your call to action tells the customer the exact step you want them to take.

3.       Make it visible—Yes, good copy usually ends with a strong call to action. But is it possible it can get lost there? Maybe. Assuming your copy is good enough to lead the reader all the way to the end, you still need to do something to make the call to action stand out. Italics or boldings are good for that.

But what happens if your potential customer never scrolls to the bottom of the page? For this reader, you need to make sure you have a call to action that shows up before they ever have to scroll down. Maybe at the end of the first paragraph, maybe on a button at the top of the page…

It may seem silly, but a simple sentence or two can truly make the difference between an interested party and a paying customer. What else do you do to better your calls to action?

Chris Help

Chris HELP started his own copywriting agency, HELP! Copy and Design, a few years back as a sort of side project to showcase his passions. But what ended up happening is it snowballed into full-fledged thriving business. So whether you need press releases, SEO articles, or good old fashioned high-conversion copy--he's ready, willing, and more than able.

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