Monday, March 12, 2018

Writing for Your Particular Profession

Imagine for a moment that you're sitting in a typical examination room, waiting to meet your new doctor for the first time. When the door opens and the doctor steps in to say hello, how will you feel if he's wearing bib overalls and a Larry the Cable Guy cap? Or a butcher's apron? Or black mourning attire? Most of us would rather see a a polished-looking individual in a white lab coat -- because that's what we expect from a legitimate healthcare professional. Well, if you're promoting your services in a professional field, how you craft your marketing content, from tone to terminology, makes all the difference in how your clients perceive you. But some professional pose special hurdles of their own, and you may find yourself struggling to strike the right balance. Let's look at how you can optimize your marketing writing for your particular profession.

Emotional Tone

Setting the right emotional tone is a critical first step for anyone in the "trust business." If you want people to entrust you with their general health, teeth, personal finances, legal issues, business security or whatever, you have to write content that projects a mix of reassurance, encouragement, and empathy. For instance, have you ever scared yourself to death looking up Internet articles on this or that health symptom? You probably uncovered a blizzard of articles that took a severe, alarmist, worst-case scenario attitude to the subject. Just as a doctor understands the value of a proper bedside manner, you must emphasize that you understand the client's problem, you sympathize with his situation, and you can apply your skill and expertise to help ease that discomfort.

Intellectual Level

Consider the intellectual "mood music" you're including in your content. Of course you want to assure the world that you're intelligent, well-educated, and knowledgable in your field. But as I pointed out in a previous post, overly-technical terminology can put up obstacles instead of getting readers on your side. I've written for attorneys who wanted me to refer readers to specific court decisions -- citation numbers and all. Unless their clients are aspiring lawyers, that strategy is more likely to drive ordinary people away than to draw them in. On the other end of the scale, if you make an obvious attempt to "dumb down" your content, you're potentially insulting your readers. Keep it simple, keep it clear, and let the knowledge shine through.

Professional Protocols

Last but not least, think about whether your content reflects honorably on your chosen profession. For example, are you making inappropriate promises? There's a huge range of commitment between "we will," "we can," and "we may" in a piece of marketing content. Depending on the rules of your profession, you may be highly limited in what you're allowed to offer or how you're allowed to offer it. On the other hand, if your content has no backbone at all, your reader may wonder why you even bothered stating anything. Make sure you know the rules of the game, whatever those may be for your field, and stay inside the lines. But commit to the bottom line: doing everything in  your power to help those who need your professional expertise.

Choose the right "suit of clothes" for your professional marketing content, and you'll make it a lot easier for people to trust you, understand you, and take you seriously. If you need a professional writer's expertise to help you make that happen, you know who to contact!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Beyond Spell Check: The Proof Is in the Reading

Did you take a nice long drive during the winter holidays? Do you find yourself making extended road trips on business? Many of us do -- which means that many of us find ourselves reading roadside billboards and other signage to stave off the boredom of the road. Even those of us who spend all our days in our offices are likely to encounter countless ads online and in print. We may create some of that content ourselves. If we're in a real hurry to beat a deadline, we may rush the copy to the printer after a quick run through a spell-checker. Then we see the final results, and we wish we hadn't done that.

Proofreading matters, if only because the errors you pump out will live forever on the Internet. Even if you're producing a sign or advertisement in a language most of your viewing public doesn't understand, somebody, somewhere, has devoted a humorous website to you.

Yes, your spell-checking tool catches lots of errors. But what about that misused word it doesn't recognize or that proper name it doesn't have in its database? That's why you must always give your marketing content a once-over with your own eyeballs. If your eyeballs are tired, put the content away and proofread it later. But proofread it.

Of course, you can dot every I and cross every T and still end up with a ludicrous misstatement. Somewhere along U.S. Highway 83 (I forget where) stands a roadside sign for a combination gas station and restaurant. The sign proclaims proudly -- and quite seriously -- "EAT HERE! GET GAS!" 

You may encounter entire concepts that needed one more pass through the marketing department. How about that billboard that always seems to pop up in or around small towns -- the one for the BBQ place that depicts a cute cartoon pig squealing in terror as he runs from a guy with a butcher knife? Sure, it's funny if you're into that sort of thing, but does it really pull people off the highway with their stomachs growling? "Hey, you know that pig you were slashing to death on the billboard? I'd like some of that, with a side of slaw."

So consider this post a public service announcement. Don't just run your marketing content through a spell checker and call it done. Use human eyes and human brains. If you want some additional quality control, don't stop with your own evaluation. Have someone else look at it so you can get a second opinion, both on the mechanics and on the content itself. If you really want some quality assurance, hire a professional writer to proofread and edit your content. Better yet, let that professional writer create your content from scratch -- and lock in the quality from the very first word!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Technically Speaking: Marketing Content for Technical Products and Services

I've mentioned before how I once walked into a manufacturing company where the owner greeted me with, "Ah, you're here to rescue us!" This company boasted some truly remarkable new processes and systems, but their target audience received those technical explanations as if they were being gifted with a dead fish. Why? Because the manufacturing people were writing technical content instead of marketing content, and then aiming that content at the non-technical people who actually needed their services. Not a recipe for successful promotion, is it?

But you're facing a dilemma if you sell highly-technical products and services. The very aspects of your offerings that make you stand out may also be the ones least understandable to your target market. So how do you craft marketing content that makes your point with your intended audience?

My first suggestion? Ditch the five-dollar words, starting with your industry's standard buzzwords. If it's a word or phrase you don't hear outside of your industry or workplace, use it with care and/or be ready to explain it in simple terms. This not only prevents confusion among the rank-and-file businesspeople or consumers who view your marketing content; it also streamlines and energizes that content. Sleek, simple, and direct is the way to go when you want to grab human emotions and imaginations -- especially on the Internet, where a few extra seconds of head-scratching can kill whatever impact you'd hoped to make.

Talking to the right person matters just as much as using the right language. Who will actually make the decision to order your product or service? What position does that person hold? What daily tasks and challenges does that person confront, and what background or training is that person likely to have? You're probably not aiming your message at a fellow technician or inventor. The rank-and-file manager or purchasing officer who needs your super-sophisticated device may have no clue, or interest, in how that device actually works -- they only want to know that it does work.

Which leads us to the next major point, which is selling the end result instead of the process. Call me a barbarian, but I don't really care how electrons move through specific circuits, wires, sockets, bulbs and filaments. All I care about is having light at the flick of a switch. So don't sell me an electrical diagram or a list of voltage and current statistics; sell me a bright, cheerful environment that enhances my quality of life. If your technology does things that make me happier or more productive or healthier or wealthier or whatever, place that rosy end result front and center in your marketing message. You can can always create more detailed supporting material to back up your promises --but it's the promises that excite me into action.

These strategies aren't about "dumbing down" your content. There's nothing dumb about communicating simply, clearly, and directly, with a focus on what you do instead of how you do it. So play it smart, get whatever professional copywriting help you may need, and start selling instead of explaining!

Monday, January 29, 2018

3 Powerful Ways to Make Your Marketing Content "Pop"

Many years ago, I helped the owner of a local shipping service create a print marketing onesheet to boost his business. He had a fascinating personal story and a compelling value proposition, with plenty of written detail to back them up. Even so, he was frustrated that prospective customers didn't seem to respond to his marketing message. I explained to him that I could take this body of material and employ my copywriting skills to make his marketing content "pop." The next time I saw him after submitting the draft, he smiled ear to ear and yelled across the room, "I SAW THE POP!"

Does your own marketing content fly off the page and demand the attention of your target audience? Does it pop, or does just sort of lie there silently like soda gone flat? If you're not happy with the results you get from your website or print marketing, here are three things you can do to put some extra "wow factor" into your words.

1. Ask Questions

One of the easiest yet most powerful methods for grabbing readers' attention involves asking them questions. "Are you tired of floor cleaners that don't clean?" "Are you ready for a totally new taste sensation?" "If you could have twice the Internet speeds for half the price, would you go for it?" Questions simulate a conversation by forcing the reader to concoct answers, if only in their own minds. This degree of engagement can make all the difference between keeping and losing your audience within the first few seconds.

By the way, make sure the answer to each of your questions is "Yes." Eliciting this magic word from your audience doesn't just keep the emotional tone of the conversation more positive -- it also gets them agreeing with you, which makes life a lot easier when you finally ask them if they're ready to buy.

2. Use Your Reader's Imagination

Products and services usually aren't that exciting in and of themselves; it's what they can do for people that creates excitement. If you sell personal financial solutions, you could easily bore readers to tears by focusing on stuff like interest rates, stock diversification strategies, or retirement account contribution limits. These issues may be important, but they don't captivate the imagination.

But what about the outcomes of successful personal financial strategies? That dream vacation for your family, the summer home you've always wanted but never dreamed you could afford, a stress-free early retirement -- these and other images will get your audience listening to what you have to say. Dream building is a powerful content marketing tool, and it's as simple as painting the picture your ideal customer has always wanted (but perhaps never dared) to visualize.

Your reader's imagination can conjure negative images as well as positive ones -- and this is a good thing. Make them see in their mind's eye that dreary, painful, or frustrating scenario they currently live through on a daily basis, that problem that keeps them from being happy. Make it as sharp and vivid as possible. Then dispel those clouds by offering the path to a sunnier future.

3. Keep It Simple

"The more I say, and the fancier I get with it, the more convincing I'll be." This all-too-common strategy usually backfires when you're creating marketing content. First of all, most people can't be bothered to read a solid wall of text about anything, no matter what the end reward might be. Second, you can't assume that everyone in your target audience shares the same reading level. Last but not least, short, simple words pack more punch -- and they'll give your content more pop, especially when you include plenty of empty space around them. Less is more.

Taking your audience on a journey is another important technique for keeping your message simple, straightforward, and effective. Give your pitch a shape, starting with your leading questions, pain statement, or dream building imagery and then moving on to your proposed solutions. Once you've given the reader both the problem and the answer, hand them the key to happiness by ending with a strong call to action. Tell them what they need to do right now to make the dream come true.

Don't settle for marketing content that barely fizzes. Get your marketing team or freelance copywriter to put these techniques to good use. With any luck you, too, will "see the pop!"

Monday, January 15, 2018

4 Reasons You Should Let a Pro Write Your Profile

Have you ever been stuck with the job of writing your own bio profile for a social media page, professional directory listing, or your website's About Us section? Fun, isn't it? Although entering that text can be as simple as typing into a box, you may feel utterly boxed in when it comes to making that profile leap off the page as it should. Even so, many professionals think they have to go it alone and write up their own profiles, for better or for worse. Here are four good reasons to let a professional copywriter create that content for you instead.

1. The Wrong Impression Will Be the Last Impression

For the countless people who pull up LinkedIn Facebook, or professional directory bio pages in their search for a particular kind of professional, your profile may be their first impression of you -- and possibly the last, if you blow it. Clunky language, misspellings, grammatical errors, and other wrong notes can reduce a visitor's idea of you in a hurry, despite your impressive list of skills, clients, and  achievements. Not screwing up your profile is the first hurdle toward credibility, so don't disqualify yourself right out of the gate.

2. Your Profile Counts as Marketing Content

Some professionals are perfectly willing to invest time, money and effort into several types of marketing content -- from web pages and blog articles to print marketing copy -- without recognizing profile text as another important piece in the marketing puzzle. All your marketing content should integrate seamlessly to produce a single, congruent, compelling presentation of your brand. That can't happen if you just cobble together bits and pieces of your resume and throw them up on your social media profile page or directory listing.

3. Your Uniqueness Needs to Shine

If someone is searching for the products and services you provide, they're probably looking at more profiles than just yours. If you're in a crowded market or a super-competitive industry, it's especially easy to get lost in the shuffle -- unless your profile stops viewers in their tracks. To achieve this goal, you have to state, in no uncertain terms, exactly what sets you apart from the competition. Do you have more experience? Do you bring special skills or training to the table? Are your products or services better than the other guy's? If you're having trouble isolating or expressing that unique value proposition, a professional writer can offer some helpful outside perspective as well as the necessary eloquence.

4. You've Got Better Things to Do

Even if you have the golden combination of basic writing skills, marketing expertise, and the ability to put your unique spin on your profile -- why would you spend hours laboring away at this task when  you've got business to conduct? Some of my best clients are brilliant, articulate individuals who recognize the value of handing this work over to a trusted professional while they focus on more profitable and/or enjoyable activities. Ask yourself what your time is worth -- and then contact me. I can help you put the "pro" in your profile!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Your New Marketing Year Starts Now

You know that powerful new marketing campaign you've been wanting to unveil in 2018 -- the one that will help you turn your business's fortunes around, build upon current successes, or establish you as a new player in your industry? Well, here we are in 2018, so your magnificent marketing push starts today, in a flurry of activity to rival that New Year's Eve fireworks display that blossomed so excitingly over your community last evening. 


Or maybe, just maybe, you awoke with a kind of entrepreneurial hangover, that sinking feeling of having missed the boat. Too many other tasks ate up your schedule and demanded your attention, so that fresh start you'd intended to apply your business's marketing efforts isn't quite ready to leap out of bed, get dressed, and go attack the world.

Does this mean you've already blown it for 2018? Certainly not. If your dreams ran ahead and left your execution behind as we enter a new year, all is not lost, so don't panic. You can still assemble your creative team and produce some interim or "pilot" marketing pieces to keep your brand afloat while that bigger machine powers up. Remember, a professional copywriter or graphic designer can dream up brilliant content in a fraction of the time you'd spend at the drawing board yourself. For example, you could order a bunch of timely, topical blog articles to keep your online presence active and your audience paying attention. If you have major announcements for the coming year, what better way to get the word out than through some quick, compelling social media posts? A good copywriter can also refer you to plenty of other marketing pros to help you get moving. Ask me how I know this.

While you're buying yourself some time, however, make sure you put that time to good use by completing and implementing a real long-range plan. A strong, comprehensive 12-month marketing campaign typically involves some combination of several individual elements -- copywriting, graphic design, web development, social media, video, et cetera. Your marketing coordinator (or you, if you're in the hot seat) coordinates all of these tools to create a coherent, cohesive statement about who you are and what you do. As you're now all too aware, this stuff doesn't fall together overnight. You have research to do, strategies to implement, and several skilled professionals to corral. You can still make your marketing dreams for 2018 come true, but you'd better start right now, before January turns into February, and then March, and then April....

A new year should mean new opportunities, new dedication, and new growth for your business. Don't let this exciting moment go as flat on you as yesterday's half-consumed glass of champagne. Even if you didn't get your full-scale marketing blitz going by January 1st, you can still do something. So -- do something!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Why I Have No Idea What You're Saying

Have you ever chatted with a professional in a different line of work from yours and walked away wishing you'd brought a translator with you? You're pretty sure it was English -- at least, the little words sounded familiar. But 90 percent of it somehow managed to whoosh right over your head. Are you stupid? Do you have a hearing problem? Or have you simply been buzzed by wall-to-wall buzzwords?

We all fall into jargon from time to time. Car buffs talk about torque and fuel ratios, composers pepper their language with Italian musical phrases, electricians casually drop terms such as "resistance" and "capacitor," and physicists no doubt talk like time-traveling refugees from Star Trek: The Next Generation. It's only natural for people in the same profession to talk shop. The problem comes when the engineer or the musician or the Chief Operating Officer suddenly has to speak to a general audience. We're listening, but we just don't understand. And after a few minutes of not understanding, we're no longer listening.

The problem isn't limited to industry-specific terminology, either. I'm often asked to rewrite or edit content written by people work in a more general business field, and I still have to spend half of my project time just trying to figure out what the heck these folks are trying to say. A lot of it tends toward the nebulous, stuff about "aligning verticals and utilizing granular compartmentalization to achieve a more impactful synergy," yadda yadda yadda. Business-speak is a way for people to talk a lot without saying much. But if you're trying to sell yourself or your product/service to a mainstream audience, don't be shocked if you're rewarded by the sound of crickets chirping. 

As a first step in clearing up your verbiage, try to avoid jargon-like words that ordinary language can handle perfectly well, such as "agreeance" (agreement) and "incentivize" (spur, motivate). And watch out for whiz-bang phrases that describe something that isn't really that amazing, such as "results-oriented." (You'd never guess how many business professionals think it a huge feather in their caps to describe themselves or their company as "result-oriented." As opposed to what, "sitting-around-doing-nothing-oriented?" You actually aim to deliver results? Does that mean your competition doesn't?) "Full-service" is another phrase that doesn't really communicate anything. (Ever hear a company describe itself as "partial service?") 

Finally, don't overuse the relatively simple, easy-to-understand buzzwords just because they aren't as likely to whoosh us -- for instance, not everything has to be a "driver" for something else. (I see that one a lot too.) Get a thesaurus and give another word or two a chance. There are plenty to choose from.

If you're not sure you can veer away from industry lingo, or you can't tell how accessible your stuff is to your intended audience, get a professional copywriter or copyeditor to go over it for you. You may get a revised version that makes you exclaim, "Oh, so that's what I was saying!"