Tuesday, April 13, 2021

3 Tips for Creating Holiday Marketing Content

When the word "holiday" comes to mind, does your mind automatically fast-forward to the end of the calendar year? The holiday season may have good reason to hold this grip on the public consciousness due to the mad rush of buying and selling clustered around November and December. However, smart business owners and marketers recognize their opportunities for building marketing campaigns around the many specific holidays, large and small, that pop up throughout the year. Here are three quick tips to get you thinking about your holiday marketing strategies and help you make the most of those special occasions.

1. Think About Your Target Market

Some holidays seem to affect practically everyone, while others might have special significance for specific populations. For example, Independence Day is a big deal across the U.S., but your customers in the UK or Japan probably couldn't care less about it. Cinco de Mayo holds a special place in the hearts of the Mexican-American population, especially here in Texas. Mardi Gras is an important holiday, not just for New Orleans alcoholics, but for observant Catholics in general. 

The calendar is stuffed with days that commemorate major achievements or promote awareness for specific pockets of individuals. Ask yourself which of these holidays might have a special meaning for the buyers of your products and services. Then latch onto those days for dear life, dream up special promotions for them, and market them with appropriately compelling content.

2. Put Your Brand's Unique Spin on the Holiday

Don't fall into the trap of creating generic, forgettable marketing campaigns for your chosen holidays. This danger can prove especially tricky for those holidays that always seem to spur the same consumer responses. Say you sell flowers and Valentine's Day is approaching. How many of your competitors will produce essentially identical offers, marketed with the same bland sentiments? This might be your cue to go in a different direction by employing a different tone, going for a different emotional response, or promoting a somewhat different gift package than the norm.

Whether you're running a marketing push for Mother's Day, Father's Day, Labor Day, or whatever other day matters to your audience, make sure that your brand's inimitable style shines through. Never stop reminding those individuals or businesses of the qualities that make your brand what it is. The holiday may take the center ring, but you're still the ringmaster.

3. Start Early!

We often complain about seeing images of Santa Claus and reindeer the day after Halloween, and not without reason. Even so, don't those images get you thinking about Christmas -- and mightn't those thoughts get you to start filling out your holiday shopping list? If that marketing waited until the before Christmas to make its appearance, would it make any difference to your buying behavior?

Proper holiday marketing requires advance planning and early implementation. Early marketing touches might drop little hints about the upcoming holiday, with later ones revealing more and more details about your special offers and events. You have to build the excitement and awareness over time -- so there's no time like the present to lay out your strategy. Don't forget that high-quality marketing content also takes a certain amount of time and effort to complete. Contact your professional marketing copywriter to discuss ideas and get that content going!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

3 Tips for a Better Bio

Who are you? That may seem like a simple question, but think about it. Most of us present different personae in different situations or to different people. So if you're posting a professional bio to your website or a popular social media channel such as LinkedIn, then you'd better customize that bio to produce optimal results. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Imagine Your Audience

Would you use the same approach to ask for a date that you would use to ask for a job (assuming that asking for dates isn't your job, of course)? Business owners or representatives need to introduce themselves, not just to the public, but to their public -- that specific target audience they aim to cultivate. Think hard about exactly who constitutes the ideal reader of this bio. What do you want them to do -- offer you a job? Check out your products and services? Recommend you to an associate? Focus on telling that person exactly what they'll want to hear so you can get that response.

2. Match the Surrounding Tone

I've been called in to rewrite employee bios that stuck out like broken teeth on the client's website because they simply didn't match the style and tone of other previous bios, or of the site in general. There's always one guy who insists on providing 500 words when everyone else has made do with 100 (or vice versa), or a first-person address in a sea of third-person entries. Some bios may seem overly friendly or even childish within the larger context of the page, while others may seem dry and stiff. If your bio will be added to a general bio page, read the existing entries carefully and try to match their tone and length.

(The exception to this rule comes when you've been asked to provide a bio that will sit next to your competitors' bios on a directory page. On those occasions, by all means stand out, as long as you can do it in a way that scores points over neighboring entries instead of making you look silly.)

3. Keep it Clear and Readable

A bio is not a resume. Your goal is not to include every single detail of your professional, academic and personal life; it's to get the reader interested in who you are and what you offer. Ever looked at the author bio on a book jacket? In most cases, you get the least you need to know to think, "Wow, this author has some impressive credentials. I think I'll give this book a shot." Feel free to write a long draft, but be willing to go back and cut (and cut, and cut). As for word choices, go for clarity above all. Impress the reader, not with your vocabulary, but with the high points of your professional history, skills and experience.

Good luck with telling your story -- and if you need help, just let me know!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

3 Ways to Make Your Marketing Content More Digestible

Does your written marketing content go down smoothly and easily, or does it give your target audience a case of literary heartburn? Even the most graceful language and helpful wealth of detail can prove too much for today's time-pressed consumers and business clients to handle. We're all in a hurry, and at the same time we're all overwhelmed with the sheer amount of marketing content we encounter every day. So how can you get your audience's attention without trying their patience? For a start, try these three strategies.

1. Break Up That Wall of Text

The infamous wall of text has turned countless web pages, blog articles, and other marketing pieces into an impossible obstacle for the very people that they're meant to affect. How many times have you pulled up a website or social media post only to balk at the massive amount of information on display? Did you keep reading, or did you click over to some other, less demanding offering from someone else?

Create digestible chunks, not mountains of words. Look for logical opportunities to break up your content into short paragraphs. Use bulleted or numbered lists if it makes sense to do so. Think twice before adding tons of supporting data and details. Add some breathing room in the form of surrounding white space. These changes will help your readers scan the content more quickly and easily -- instead of scaring them away from the outset.

2. Make Smart Use of Microcontent

Potential customers who have only a few seconds to scan websites or social media sites need more than just easy-to-read content. They also benefit from tiny chunks of content that make their point even when viewed out of context. Welcome to the world of microcontent. These pieces of information serve as essential guideposts and teasers that compel further attention.

Typical examples of microcontent include titles, headers, and summaries. A gripping title that clearly lays out the subject matter to follow will hook your readers from the beginning, while sensible headers help them fast-forward to the sections that interest them the most. A juicy summary sentence describing what's to come helps readers decide whether to read further.

If you really want to make your microcontent work across your entire marketing campaign, stack those chunks of digestible data. Create a chunk on one platform that links or points to another, related chunk on another platform. Now you're telling your story one easily-managed piece at a time while leading your readers on a guided tour of your various marketing channels.

3. Simplify Your Vocabulary and Structure 

A huge vocabulary and elaborate way with sentence structure might impress people, but don't expect it to sell your products or services. When in doubt, cut it out. Express yourself in simple terms that make for fast, easy reading. Craft sentences with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Don't send your readers into the weeds searching for the point of what you were trying to say -- unless you want to lose them for good.

Make sure that your marketing content also provides clear directions and instructions for your readers. If you want them to click a particular link, email you, subscribe to your channel, or perform some other key action -- then say so. A clearer path keeps readers from getting lost halfway through the journey.

Do you have trouble creating those potent little bite-sized morsels of marketing content? Contact me, and let's rework your marketing feast into a lean-and-mean appetizer platter!

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

More Than One Target Market? Create Marketing Content for Each of Them

A typical conversation about marketing strategies and implementation usually includes some discussion about a business's target market. We all spend tons of time thinking about this preferred customer base -- narrowing it down to this or that ideal buyer persona, fine-tuning our products and services for that buyer persona's projected needs, and creating marketing content aimed at tickling that buyer persona's fancy. All pretty straightforward so far -- but what if you have more than one target market to appease?

I've had plenty of writing clients who faced that question. For instance, one of my regular clients provides IT services for markets in several major cities across the U.S., each of which has its own set of technology and industrial challenges to be met. Recently I began writing articles for a promotional products franchise that has two distinct audiences: business owners who might need the products themselves, and franchisees who need to market their own promotional businesses in a more unified and effective way. The article topics that might appeal to one group aren't so likely to appeal to the other.

Can you see where this is going?

If you need to make a marketing impact on more than one target market, you need to think about how to aim the right kind of content at each of those markets. For many businesses, the answer lies in a multi-track approach. One of my real estate clients offers a prime example. Her website's home page directs her two different target audiences (career real estate investors versus ordinary folks who just need to manage a rented property) down two separate tracks. Depending on their needs, her potential customers click on one option or the other, and from that point on they go down a separate online sales funnel that addresses their concerns and offers the specific solutions they need.

My IT client serves as another case in point. Since Google slaps companies down for duplicating content across multiple websites, I ended up writing a whole new website for each major city that the company serves. The homepage for the parent location gives visitors the chance to click on their respective city, an action that sends them directly to that local city's website. Of course it takes extra time and effort to create and maintain these multiple site paths. But it also allows my client to configure each location's marketing content for that particular audience, resulting in more effective local marketing and bigger sales overall.

How about the promo products franchise? Well, we're devising a year's worth of email articles for each of the two target audiences. The company can then send the emails crafted for each audience on a rotating schedule, influencing both audiences by addressing their specific preferences, needs, questions, and concerns.

Do you want to attract more than one target market to your products or services without diluting your overall brand? Contact me and let's talk about marketing content creation for each of your ideal audiences!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Blog Stockpiles: We All Need Them!

Have you ever missed a scheduled blog post? Confession time: I have, and more than once. A variety of problems can interfere with your usual blog posting routine, from simple user error to major personal or professional setbacks that make "business as usual" anything but.

What do you do when you suddenly realize that you're facing a blog article deadline without a blog article? Well, you could whip up something resembling an article on the spur of the moment, if you're really great at that sort of thing. Or you might just wait and post the following week as if nothing had happened (which is technically true; something didn't happen), whistling to yourself and avoiding eye contact with studied nonchalance. "Blog? What blog? By the way, here's this week's article."

Unfortunately, neither of those responses are likely to make you look very good to your target audience. What's the big deal? First of all, each new blog post represents fresh, relevant content. Google loves fresh, relevant content. Second, every post you publish allows you to include links to your various networks, forums, previous posts, or specific parts of your website. Those links often boost incoming online traffic, especially if they lead to well-traveled, highly-visible sites. So every blog post you skip represents a wasted opportunity to connect with new followers.

Here's another thing to remember: An irregular blog won't sustain a regular audience. I know business owners who blog maybe once a quarter, twice a year, or on other infrequent schedules, if they follow any schedule at all. You can't maintain a readership when you offer nothing new to read. Even if you do post occasionally, how can your audience possibly guess when the next post will come out? They can't, so they don't try. Any new blogs that do get posted then play to the sound of crickets chirping. Regular readership comes from regular posts -- once a day, once a week, once a month, whatever. You have to train your audience to come back for more, which means that you must make it obvious when they should expect new content from you.

That's why you, and I, and everyone who blogs can benefit from keeping a blog stockpile. An extra article here and there, held back in case of emergency, can make all the difference in the consistency and professionalism of your blog management and your blog's effectiveness. I'm working on mine, and I hope you're working on yours. If you can't find the time or energy to build up your stockpile, contact me and I'll keep you in fresh content for a long time to come!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Why You Need an Editorial Calendar

You're too busy to create your marketing content yourself, so you contract that task out to a freelance copywriter. Problem solved right? Well, up to a point. Your copywriter can work wonders to keep your blog posts, newsletter articles and other content fresh and up to date -- but have you told that person what you want far enough ahead of time to ensure that it gets done? It's all too easy to bury yourself in other work and assume that your writer is fulfilling assignments you never assigned. Then one February 14th you sit bolt upright with the horrified realization that you forgot to request that special Valentine's Day article. 

If that chill down the spine is a familiar sensation to you, then you probably need to block those assignments out with an editorial calendar. It doesn't actually have to take the form of a calendar, of course. But you need to list your anticipated needs for content over the coming months or quarters and then distribute that list among your marketing professionals.

This calendar can prove incredibly beneficial for all concerned. Your creative folks will always know which assignments are coming up and when, and you'll have eliminated the "Oops, I forget to tell you" factor on your end. In fact, it's smart to have multi-stage editorial calendars for collaborative pieces such as direct mail postcards or newsletters, with separate schedules for idea submissions, graphic design, copywriting and revisions. The whole piece then comes together with Swiss-watch precision, and your team can roll right onto the next job. I once received a 12-month editorial calendar from a mortgage firm in January that showed me quite clearly what I'd be writing come December. As a result, we had a year's worth of direct mail ready to go before Spring had sprung.

Of course there will be times when you need to respond to or take advantage of a recent event. But that's okay. You don't have to give your content creators license to bull ahead with a year's worth of stuff. Just ask them to keep an eye on the upcoming month or quarter with the knowledge that things could always change. It's much easier to change something that exists than something that doesn't, and if you have no editorial calendar in place everyone's just operating on the fly. This can hurt you if your freelancers are non-exclusive, because they haven't pre-booked the necessary time in their work schedules and may not be available when you need them.

If you're a marketing firm that includes blogging among the services you provide for multiple clients, then you face another obvious challenge. How can you prepare articles months in advance if you can't always get your clients to send you the necessary background information in a timely manner? Here's where you hedge your bets by adding alternate titles to the mix -- pre-approved, evergreen topics that will work pretty much anytime. As publication time draws near, if you can't get the intake for a particular topic on time, go with a tried-and-true alternative. Your copywriter can go ahead and write, you can post on time, and everybody's happy.

Editorial calendars can make the difference between a last-minute scramble and a clam, smooth ride for your marketing campaign. Create yours today -- and then assign the writing to me!

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

How to Raise the Curtain on Your Marketing Content

The curtain rises on a murky, foggy night in Elsinore. A man stands a nervous guard atop a castle rampart, his lantern the only point of light in the gloom. He hears a sound, leaps to his feet and demands that the unseen figure identify himself. Fortunately, it's only his friends who have come to relieve his watch, though they appear as unsettled as he. Why the terror? Because of the ghost, of course -- the shadowy figure who has appeared on the ramparts as of late.

Obviously I'm describing a play -- Hamlet, to be precise -- and not a brochure, website or print ad. On the surface, in fact, this scene would appear to have nothing at all to do with marketing or sales copy of any kind. After all, Shakespeare's not selling anything here, is he?

Sure he is. He's selling Hamlet.

An arresting opening to a play, film or literary work sells interest in the rest of it. It must hook its audience quickly and strongly if the author wants that audience to show up for Act Two. A great opening to a gigantic epic novel can persuade a reader to wade several hundred pages deeper than he otherwise might. ("Call me Ishmael" has a lot to answer for.) Raising a brilliant opening curtain is like casting a magic spell -- it may not hold for very long, but it'll do its job long enough for you to strengthen and reinforce your command over those people for the period of time you need it.

The beginning of your marketing piece must command the "stage" -- in this case the inner stage of the mind -- just as firmly. This is especially, brutally true on the Internet, where we all have the attention span of a gnat with attention-deficit disorder. When someone lands on your homepage, you have a precious few seconds to cast your spell, so hit hard and aim true. Whether you open with an all-enveloping mood, a vivid depiction of a painful moment, a hearty laugh, an astonishing concept, or any of the other weapons in your mage's staff, make sure you point that initial moment straight at the heart, mind or funny bone of the specific people you want to enthrall. First ask yourself, "What will get my ideal customer's attention right now and hold it long enough to turn them into potential buyers?" Then fire away.

The same principle holds true for print marketing as well, though generally people will give you more time as they take in the pretty pictures or the nice slick paper. Even so, they want to hear what they want to hear, because they've got stuff to do. So tell them in a big way, right from the opening header, and then follow up on that initial promise with more goodies as you guide them through the piece.

You don't have to be Shakespeare to grab your audience's attention. You just have to know what will make their collective heart skip a beat, and then put it in front of them as the first thing they encounter.

Curtain up!