Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Running Low on Blogging Ideas? Turn to These 3 Tried-and-True Categories

It happens to every marketer sooner or later. You sit down to create your latest piece of social media content, only to realize that the well has run completely dry. One of the (many) issues that make small business owners dread blogging is the need to continuously feed the bottomless pit known as the Internet. Better not to start something you can't maintain, right? The thing is, you have to maintain that ongoing marketing push if you want your target audience (and Google) to notice you instead of your competitors.

Fortunately, ideas aren't as hard to find as you might think once you know where to look for them. Sometimes it's just a matter of focusing on a particular type of article. Working within the constraints of a particular form or category can focus your thoughts and allow relevant, compelling topics to jump out at you. Let's look at three examples.

1. Evergreen Anchor Posts

Anchor posts, also known as pillar posts, cover those critical major topics that your target audience is always looking for. These pieces feature overviews of, or introductions to, essential basic areas of what you do and how it relates to what your readers are searching for online. If you repair cars, for instance, you'll want to write several anchor posts about specific automotive components and symptoms, from troubleshooting danger signs to preventative maintenance tips. 

These articles are evergreen, meaning that they'll never lose their relevance to your audience. (You can always update certain details as needed in the future.) Pay attention to the hottest search queries related to your industry or profession, and write anchor posts that seem to answer those pressing questions and concerns.

2. New Developments

The one constant in life -- and in the business world -- is change. Your target market, brand image, products, services, or economic environment may all shift beneath your feet due to all kinds of circumstances. Some of these surprises may prove cause for celebration, while others may require reassurances and explanations. Either way, you can turn that breaking news into relevant blog content.

Has some headline news made an enormous impact on your industry? Have technological breakthroughs or hot new trends left your customers both excited and confused? Do you have some particular expertise to offer on the subject? This is your chance to create a topical blog article that showcases your knowledge, insights, and individual spin on the situation. You have the answers -- and that's exactly what your target market wants.

3. Case Studies

Nothing sells success quite like a "before and after" story. You've probably seen pictures or read reports of a broken-down home, mud-caked pet, chaotic business department, or wrecked car that appeared utterly hopeless until an expert stepped in -- producing amazing improvements that you never would have dreamed possible. If your business can tell similar success stories, why not tell them on your blog?

Think about a time when your products or services rescued a grateful client from a disastrous situation. If you can tell that story within several hundreds words, you've got yourself a case study. Present the problem, describe how you handled it, and trumpet the positive results. Who wouldn't want to align themselves with a company with a real-life track record of success? 

Need more ways to jog your creative mind -- or need another creative mind to take up the slack? Contact me for writing services that can keep yourself stocked up on blog articles indefinitely!

Monday, August 31, 2020

Want a Strong 4th Quarter? Push These 4 September Marketing Themes

For obvious and understandable reasons, many companies have experienced shaky, unpredictable, or downright rotten business during the first three quarters of 2020. Maybe you've found your own enterprise bumping along on a rickety roller coaster this year. But even in the face of change, certain key elements of life remain, including seasonal milestones. September has always played host to some key themes for sales and marketing campaigns, and there's no reason you can't or shouldn't work these themes as hard as you can to boost your fourth-quarter success. Let's look at four flags worth rallying around.

1. Autumn

Autumn is always, well, autumn. The leaves change color and fall, the temperatures start to drop (even here in Texas), the shadows lengthen, and the world generally takes on a particular flavor and color that puts people into fall-weather mode. In other worlds, everything changes, however slightly. If change is indeed in the air, why not emphasize that point in your September marketing content? Your clients or customers will definitely welcome any shift that gives them reason to feel reassured, energized, and positive. Now is the time to roll out that exciting new product, helpful new service, or stunning new brand.

2. Labor Day

Despite the layoffs and furloughs that have jeopardized so many incomes, people are still working. Sure, many of them are working from home now, and individuals who lost their jobs are either seeking new employment or starting their own businesses. It follows, then, that Labor Day might hold an especially valuable place in your 2020 marketing calendar. People want to work, appreciate the ability to work, and generally think about work with a special intensity right now. Can you create marketing content that addresses their concerns, supports their feelings, and gives them fresh optimism? If so, you've got a message the world wants to hear.

3. Football

What's up with football this September? College conferences have cancelled their entire seasons, while the NFL is prepared to alter its season calendar in the event of coronavirus-based delays. Even so, you'll see football fans raring to talk about their teams, participate in fantasy football, and grab opportunity to enjoy their favorite sport. And when they can't have football, they actively miss football. Give them what they want -- or a whiff of it, anyway -- by creating football-themed content for your fall marketing efforts. You just might win big.

4. The Holiday Season

Yes, the holidays are still coming. Your target audience may have gotten sidetracked from their normal razor-focus on early holiday planning and shopping, but that doesn't mean that they aren't ready to hear about your special offers. It's up to you to turn their attention back toward the approaching end of the year. Holiday-themed marketing offers a comforting sense of familiarity and order that can restore your customers' sanity and prime their enthusiasm to have some fun for a change.

As you can see, September offers loads of marketing opportunities for clever, on-the-ball businesses. If you want to make that list of fourth-quarter success stories, contact your marketing professionals and put them to work right now!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Take a "Back to School" Approach to Your Marketing Strategies

Normally, this time of year is dominated by the mad rush to get back to school, from parents buying up cartfuls of school supplies to kids reacquainting themselves with an early-morning wakeup time. This August obviously feels a little different, but education will resume in one form or another. Maybe it's time you also took yourself back to school, in the sense of re-examining your marketing strategies and techniques -- or maybe you need to educate your target market on certain aspects of your business. Here are some suggestions to help you get your third quarter off to its usual bustling start.

Adjust Your Content for Changing Attitudes

Your current and prospective buyers have gone through a lot in the past year. What shifts in your target market's spending habits, needs, fears, concerns, and goals might require you to alter the tone or direction of your marketing content? You can't necessarily keep charging forward with your usual message as if nothing has changed. Give serious thought to creating fresh blog posts that directly address your target market's current mindset. Add content to your website that answers specific questions about your ongoing availability and services.

Update Yourself on the Latest Technologies

Have you allowed your marketing technologies to fall behind the times? Especially over the past several months, individuals are embracing social media and other interactive platforms more deeply than ever -- and you can reach them through these avenues. For instance, have you thought about incorporating Zoom into your marketing arsenal? You can use this video conferencing platform for marketing pitches, webinars, and other presentations that promote your products, services, and brand. You can even record those presentations and then figure out ways to repurpose the content for blog posts and other marketing pieces.

Take Another Look at Networking

Speaking of online platforms, business networking has taken to the Web in a big way lately. Weekly or monthly networking meetings that once met in person have shifted to a safer online-only environment -- and these networkers are still passing referrals and generating income for each other. Better yet, these (frequently Zoom-based) meetings don't have to limit themselves to one physical location, meaning that business owners and representatives can hob-nob with each other from anywhere. If you've avoided networking activities because you simply couldn't tear yourself away from your desk, guess what? You can now promote your business and learn about other business to your heart's content without leaving your computer.

Mark the return of the school year (more or less) by turning your business focus toward some timely marketing self-education. After all, you can always profit from learning!

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

How to Make Your Marketing Quite Interesting

If you're any kind of Anglophile, you've probably seen or heard of a popular BBC quiz show called QI, which is short for "Quite Interesting." The moderator (formerly Stephen Fry, currently Sandi Toksvig) poses questions loosely related to a topic of the week, and a four-person panel tries to come up with answers that win points. The panelist with the highest score at the end of the show wins. All very simple and straightforward, right?

Well, not quite. One of the most, ahem, interesting things about this freewheeling quiz panel show is its eccentric, almost arbitrary scoring system. As you might expect, panelists win points for providing a correct answer to a given question -- but they get even more points for an interesting answer. (If your answer is both correct and interesting, you can really clean up.) They get points taken away for an answer that's not only wrong but actually dull and predictable in its wrongness. Why? Because amusing, captivating responses are generally more entertaining than mere facts. 

Many businesses fail to take this "sparkle factor" into account when promoting their products or services to their target audience. In my own experience as a marketing content writer, I've noticed that businesses in more the more technical industry verticals are especially vulnerable to falling into this trap. They feel an obligation to present the most accurate, precise, detailed data possible as a means of demonstrating exactly why they're better than their competitors. 

Unfortunately, clubbing your buyers over the head with facts doesn't necessarily have anything to do with sparking their interest. Fact sheets tend to make poor marketing documents because successful marketing touches its audience on an emotional level. Outrage, delight, confidence, anxiety, relief -- these and other feelings move people to take action in a way that sheer logic cannot. The targeting of emotion doesn't just spur action; it also enhances memory. Research indicates that people find it easier to remember things that trigger emotional responses.

Successful marketing also means find an unusual hook or arresting entry into the material it presents. I'm not suggesting that you attend sales meetings wearing a rubber nose or program your website to run circus music and cartoons every time someone goes to it. But whatever information you present in your marketing content needs to grab the reader or viewer on some emotional level or other, and presenting it from a clever or unusual angle is one way to accomplish that. 

Amuse, astonish or jolt your audience, and you've got your foot in the door. Once your audience is engaged, you can begin throwing those serious facts out there with some certainty that they'll get a friendly welcome. It's still important to be accurate -- but in the world of marketing, it's even more critical to be interesting.

Now go out there and score some points with your audience. If you need some help, you know who to call!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Launching a New Business? Start by Taking These Marketing Steps

Many entrepreneurial individuals are taking the current wave of layoffs and furloughs as their cue to finally pull the trigger on starting their own businesses. Having made the leap myself back in the day, I understand how intimidating and confusing it can seem. Fortunately, you'll find plenty of sound advice from your fellow entrepreneurs, your local Small Business Association branch, chambers of commerce, and of course the wealth of websites and available books that tackle the subject.

While you're filling your brain with all that information, you need to start putting your marketing game plan together as well. Here are some key steps you'll want to take sooner rather than later.

Examine the Marketplace

Who needs what you do, and what form does that need most commonly take? When you answer this question in detail, you gain a clear picture of your target market. If your business will serve a local marketplace, you need to find out everything you can about the particular quirks of consumers of business clients in this particular neck of the woods. If you're going for a national market, you need to narrow down your ideal purchasers as sharply as possible, from their individual demographics to their preferred social media platforms. This collected data gives you an imaginary buyer persona to whom you can sell.

Study the Competition

Who are your direct competitors, and what are they doing to market themselves to your target audience? Do your homework on these businesses by visiting their websites, viewing their social media activity, and digging up whatever press releases or ads they've been putting out to promote themselves. Of course you can't just copy them, since there's no point in looking and sounding just like everyone else. But ask yourself why your competitors made the choices that they made, how well those choices will likely work, and whether you see any key areas where their marketing falls down or their offerings don't completely meet specific needs -- needs that you can fulfill more completely.

Prepare Your Value, Vision, and Mission Statements

What does your company stand for, what does it value, and what is its mission in the marketplace? The answers to these questions will clarify your marketing vision for both you and your customers. For instance, your company values may include honesty, integrity, cultural diversity and/or customer service. Your mission might be to help your customers manage their money, protect their property, or enjoy a higher quality of life. Your vision might be to serve your local area as the premiere provider of your industry's products or services. Once you've crafted these statements to suit your business, you can then make sure the messages permeate your marketing content.

Invest in Talent

Start looking around right now for the key marketing talents your fledgling business will need to make itself known. If (like so many small startups) you have limited resources, you might cherry-pick individual freelance copywriters, graphic designers, branding consultants, SEO experts, and other professionals. If you want a ready-made team, check out small "boutique" marketing firms that serve cost-conscious entrepreneurs as well as larger companies. Make sure to head whatever team you select with a marketing coordinator who can bring all the pieces of the puzzle together effectively.

Develop Your Brand

Now that you're on top of your market, your competition, your vision, and your marketing team, you can build a cohesive, memorable brand. Think of your brand as your company's voice or personality, the "best version of you" that you present to the world. A comprehensive branding strategy will include a vivid, evocative logo, a color scheme that conveys the exact tone and mood you want to express, and other visual elements that provide a consistent picture of your company throughout all your marketing channels. It also includes strategic use of written content that melds tone, style, and information into a clear, distinctive voice.

Starting a new business, and then marketing that business, takes a lot of thought, work, and planning. If you could use some help putting your written marketing content together, contact me and let's talk about it!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Are You Using the Wrong Freelance Copywriter? Here's How You Can Tell

"Freelancers are flakes." How many times have you heard that warning from colleagues who got burned by a project that ended up costing twice the anticipated amount, took a year instead of a week to complete or just ground to a halt mid-job? 

People sometimes cut freelancers a weird amount of slack that they wouldn't give their own employees, especially the ones who perform creative work: "Oh, those right-brain eccentric artists, they march to a different drum and we're just lucky they come down to Earth once in a while to help us regular folks." But freelancers aren't flakes, or at least they don't have to be. The successful ones take their freelancing seriously and run it as a business instead of a lark. They tend to stand out, if only by outlasting the dilettantes. Unfortunately, the serious ones still suffer from the flakiness of the less-serious ones who give the profession an apparent case of terminal dandruff. 

Watch out for these red flags when dealing with a freelance copywriter:

The unknown price tag. Beware the freelancer who refuses to give you a firm quote for a job before starting work. For many of us who charge flat per-project rates for most of our jobs, this issue never comes up. But even if your freelancer bills by the hour, you should still insist on a realistic estimate of what you'll pay, even if that estimate falls into a range. a freelancer who has no clue what a job will cost probably has no clue how to go about it efficiently either.

Excuses, excuses. There's always a good reason not to get a project done on time, and some freelancers want to make sure you hear all of them. "Sorry this is a month late, but my dog came down with mange and my kid's having attitude problems and I had to get my tires rotated and the recent spell of bad weather has deprived me of Vitamin D and...." Some of these excuses may even be legitimate. But even if there's always a reason the work is always late or sub-par, the end result is still late or sub-par work.

"My way or the highway." Ideally, your freelance copywriter knows a great deal about how to achieve the results your business wants and needs -- possibly more than you do, in fact. It's great when you find an expert who can give you a fresh perspective on your marketing content. On the other hand, you don't want a know-it-all who insists on an approach that simply doesn't feel right to you. Ultimately the client is the boss, for better or for worse. If your freelancer doesn't understand that, go find another one who does.

So what should you look for in a freelancer? A portfolio of strong samples, a solid track record, recommendations from satisfied clients and clear ground rules. Always ask about the freelancer's billing and work processes, turnaround times and availability. If they're booked solid, they should tell you so. (Of course being booked solid counts as another a promising sign, and even if you may have to wait a bit, the freelancer should be able to tell you about the next available opening.) 

Get hard numbers and hard deadlines, and hold your writer to them. The good ones will make every possible effort to deliver as promised. As for the flakes -- well, you don't put up with dandruff, do you?

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

How to Keep Your Marketing Positive (Without Sounding Stupid)

If you're like many people who encounter a flood of marketing and advertising content on a daily basis these days, any phrase that begins with "In these uncertain times..." may prompt you to retire to a darkened room or throw a brick at your computer/TV/radio. Businesses are understandably struggling to capture the right tonal mix of sympathy, reassurance, realism, and optimism in their marketing messaging during the current pandemic. How do you keep your target market engaged, positive, and enthusiastic without sounding like Pollyanna or sounding totally ignorant about the current state of affairs?

This question doesn't just apply to the current scenario; it's something that comes up time and time again. From terrorist attacks and declarations of war to epidemics and financial collapses, businesses have to find a way to market their brand, products, or services successfully if they want to survive. So how might you present a clearly positive message that transcends the times without trivializing or denying them? Here are some tips that may help.

Adopt a Can-Do Attitude

People facing tough situations often experience a stressful lack of efficacy, the feeling that they can't fight back against whatever's threatening their well-being, especially during a global challenge such as a pandemic or a world war. But recall famous wartime images such as Rosie the Riveter. A strong, positive, can-do attitude can help your audience feel more empowered to seek answers, solutions, and workarounds instead of falling onto a state of confused helplessness.

Lead by Example

What steps can your organization take to send positive ripples out through your community? Can you sponsor food drives, health awareness webinars, job fairs, or other helpful activities? Can you produce blog articles, email blasts, videos, or other marketing content that offers clever, practical ideas and advice for combating various challenges? By taking action in this manner, you not only provide genuine assistance to those in need; you also show your brand taking strong, positive steps against negative circumstances. People respond to that kind of inspiration.

Pay Attention to Your Verbiage

Your choice of words, phrases, and writing mechanics can affect your marketing tone in subtle but meaningful ways. Want to grab people's attention with a no-nonsense attitude? Use short words and sentences. Want to sound more optimistic? Keep your sentence structures positive, avoiding words like "don't," "won't," can't" or "never." Avoiding opening with well-meaning but Debbie Downer phrases such as "In these uncertain times" or "Times are hard right now." Even if you quickly pivot from there to a more positive place, you've already cast a pall over your marketing content. Tip your hat to the times, yes, but couch the realism in a positive context. ("Do you want to have a fantastic, unforgettable evening without risking public contact?" etc.)

You can excite and inspire your audience in just about any situation as long as you find a clear-eyed but positive way to market what you do and what you're all about. Contact me if you'd like some professional help getting the (right) word out!