Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Want to Convince Potential Customers? Write Case Studies for Your Company

When you're trying to decide on a particular solutions provider for your personal, household, or workplace needs, what piece of evidence serves as the final tipping point? While some technically-minded folks might fixate on a particular specification or feature, many others will respond to a first-hand account of how that provider helped somebody else in a similar situation. You can (and probably should) spread the word by sharing your success stories through in-person networking opportunities. But if you'd rather dazzle your whole target market in one fell swoop, it's time to start writing case studies for your company.

A typical case study takes a short-and-sweet form, unlike its more detailed big brother, the white paper. You'll want to include the following basic elements:

Introduction

Introduce the subject of the case study to your readers. Give a brief description that includes the client's line of work, its status within its industry or profession, and anything else that might make a prospective buyer say, "Yep, that's a lot like what we do." 

Challenge

What kind of challenge brought this client to your door? What problem did the company have, and how was it damaging either their current business or their ability to grow? What other solutions, if any, had they tried without success? (Don't slam another company by name; just indicate how they tried and failed to solve the problem before discovering you.)

Solution

How did you evaluate the client's problem, and what steps did you take to diagnose any underlying causes? What measures did you recommend to fix the problem? How did you implement those measures, and how long did the process take? You don't have to go into a huge amount of detail. but make sure you explain your strategies and tactics in enough detail that the reader can get an impression of your expertise.

Results

None of the sections above will really matter unless you go on to describe their final effectiveness. Get specific here by providing whatever hard numbers will really make an impact. "As a result of our efforts, Company X increased its annual revenue by 32% percent within just 2.5 years," and so on.

Testimonial

A testimonial quote from a client representative serves as the icing on your case study cake; it's the closest thing to a direct referral in terms of its ability to sway readers. but resist the temptation to drop an entire wall of praise, no matter how glowing, into your case study. Isolate the most powerful sentences in your client's account and position them at the end of the case study for maximum impact.

Once you've collected all the necessary data for your case study, do you have to write it yourself? Certainly not! If you're looking for a professional writer with years of experience writing case studies and other kinds of marketing content, bring your success story to me and let's tell the world in style!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Just One More Thing: The Columbo Approach to Content Marketing

 "Just one more thing...." If you can't read that phrase without hearing it in Peter Falk's voice, then you're probably one of the countless fans of the classic detective series Columbo. This show, which originated as a stage/TV play entitled "Prescription: Murder," was a huge hit throughout the 1970s and continues to attract a mix of old and new viewers. They hey to that attraction lay in the show's hero, a rumbled-looking cop who never seemed to have his act together -- lulling his too-smart-for-their-own good adversaries into a false sense of security before finally pulling all the clues together and arresting them for murder. In the midst of his feigned disorganization and confusion, Columbo would throw out little questions and insights here and there -- "just one more thing" at a time, with those bits and pieces snowballing their way toward an inevitable conclusion.

Successful content marketing often takes this same basic approach. Take your typical email drip campaign. You might start out with a series of cold email messages aimed at a specific target audience, each email offering a casual, brief, breezy combination of greetings and eye-catching details about your product or service. "Hey, I know you're busy, but I just wanted to share a fun fact with you." Share enough of these fun facts, spread out over enough email messages, and you've started to put together a pretty compelling case for your business.

If you've got prospects opting in to learn more about your company, that's another audience entirely. So you also create a series of warm emails that go into greater depth and detail, since you already know that these folks have shown an interest in learning more. Each email might tackle a different product, service, common customer objection, or success story illustrating how you helped another individual or organization with similar needs. This would be the equivalent of Columbo explaining his concerns or discoveries with that exasperated bad guy who desperately wants to know just how much this detective has on the ball, or who throws out various reasons why Columbo might be on the wrong track. The preponderance of supporting detail really matters here. This is the stage where you start including links to longer articles, cut sheets, technical specifications, case studies et cetera.

It's worth noting that this approach doesn't limit itself to email campaigns. The "one more thing" technique can also work well whether you're sending out a series of direct mail postcards, sales letters, or other marketing touches. In a somewhat different form, it also pays off when creating inbound marketing content. For instance, the top pages of your website may focus on sizzle, teasing visitors to dive into supporting pages that provide in-depth information. The deeper they dive, the more they learn -- and the more likely they are to buy.

You don't have to be a master detective to benefit from a master detective's methods. Columbo may be a fictional character, but his "one more thing" approach can yield very real benefits as a content marketing strategy. If you want to make sure you're dropping just the right details in just the right sequence, contact a professional copywriter to put that messaging together for you. Case solved!



Monday, September 13, 2021

Writing Marketing Content for Regional or International Audiences

As usual, it's a hot, sunny day here in Texas, which of course means that it's time for a Coke. But if it were a hot, sunny day in Minnesota (yeah, I know, just humor me), it wouldn't be time for a Coke; it would be time for a pop. If you found yourself battling a mighty thirst in California or New York, you would find yourself asking for a soda. No, these aren't different beverages -- just different ways people in scattered parts of the U.S. tend to refer to the same beverage.

Confusing? It can be, especially when you're trying to aim your marketing content at a specific regional audience. As you might have noticed from the examples above, the terms and phrases used in different regions of the country can vary significantly. While you might still get your point across, the use of a term or phrase alien to your target market may either blunt the effectiveness of your message or call attention to you as being "not from around here," and therefore not truly attuned to the needs of a specific population.

Differences in style and tone can prove even more challenging when you seek to market your products or services to audiences in the UK, Canada, Australia, and other English-speaking countries. Simple differences, such as the addition of a "u" to words like "color" and "labor" represent just the tip of the linguistic iceberg. Other subtle differences include the use of "shall" instead of "will," "have got" versus "have gotten," and so on. Tone-wise, American marketing content almost always tends to take a more aggressive, in-your-face edge to it than, say, British marketing content, which employs a less direct, more polite approach to appeal to local audiences.

How do you manage to navigate through these potential pitfalls? Well, depending on your audience, you may not have to. If you're selling to the entire English-speaking world, your best bet is to create the most global, universal content possible. This strategy may produce uneven results, but it has the best chance of producing good results right out of the chute. You can then look at the areas where your approach isn't working and make tweaks, localizing the content to suit those individual markets.

What about those regional differences here in the U.S.? First and foremost, you or someone at your company needs to be in touch with a specific regions' colloquialisms. If you're selling to your own corner of the country, then you can focus on the particular vocabulary employed by your target demographic, whether it's down-home rural talk, slick cosmopolitan banter, or Middle American plain speech.

When in doubt, consult a professional copywriter who has experience and training writing for multiple regions and audiences. (My own early training as a playwright and screenwriter helped me learn how to listen to different dialects and regional turns of phrase, incorporating them into the speech of a variety of characters.) That way, you can focus on the core points of your marketing content while your skilled copywriter crafts those ideas into text your target market will love -- and respond to.



Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Opinionated Blogger: Blog Content That Expresses Your Point of View

Once upon a time, blogs were all about referring readers elsewhere. This was back in the days when they were known by their full name of "weblogs." A typical weblog would serve as a link-enabled guide to all the cool, helpful and otherwise interesting sites or news stories the blogger discovered -- a sort of mini-directory of sites related to the blogger's (and presumably the reader's) primary interests.
Over time, bloggers began commenting on the sites, and those comments eventually took the center stage as technology made it easier for a wide range of people and companies to make their voices heard. Suddenly your blog could serve as an editorial column, a how-to archive, a promotional page, or the instigator of an ongoing interactive conversation. Business owners realized that their blogs could help them establish an online reputation as the reigning expert on a particular subject, while also encouraging readers to explore the rest of the company's site for related products and services.
Why, then, do so many company blogs read like throwbacks to the late 1990s? You know what I mean: You click on, say, a financial website to read about the latest big economic news story, and the blog article there simply refers you over to a generic story from CNN or Money or whoever. Or if that website has posted on the subject, it's simply a retread of the same information, or a general overview that you could find anywhere else. I imagine this occurs because the person tasked with creating the blog content simply doesn't have time to compose original literary gems on a regular basis, so the company either outsources the work to "writer mills" or links to articles hosted on another business's site.
And the reader is left thinking, "Yeah, but how did you feel about the story?" And you've blown an opportunity to demonstrate your industry wisdom and insight.
When you compose an article for your business's blog, stop and think about how the subject matter relates to the business's mission, vision, products/services and viewpoint. Then weave that voice into the text alongside all the generic who-did-what-to-whom-and-what-do-the pundits-say-about-it stuff. What do you say about it -- and how does that opinion color your recommendations and solutions for concerned readers?
If you can't get your opinions out there with the necessary skill in a timely manner, then you can still outsource the actual writing. But instead of simply throwing that job out to the lowest bidder on a big, impersonal content board, forge a genuine relationship with a professional writer who can actually get to know your business. When I ghost-blog for clients, I take the time to learn about their unique value proposition, experience and perspective on what they do. This allows me to spin your article so that it doesn't just relay the facts, but it also presents your opinion, your personality, your conclusions, and of course your brand. That's the difference between simply referring readers to other people's expertise and dazzling those readers with your own.
In my opinion.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

4 Kinds of Content Marketing That Can Boost Your Business

The world of marketing seems to grow more complex every day. Like some many-headed mythical beast, a modern-day marketing campaign often makes use of multiple media channels and platforms, not to mention multiple kinds of content, to draw their target audience into their sales funnel. With so many kinds of content marketing to choose from, which ones are most likely to make a difference in your success? Let's look at four powerful traffic drivers worth considering.

1. Blog Posts

As I've pointed out in the past, your company blog can give you an online voice that constantly reinforces your online authority and relevance as a major player in your industry. Certain types of blog posts can prove especially effective in this regard. For instance, list posts have grown immensely popular for their ability to pack several compelling points into a shareable, easy-to-digest format. (Look no further than this very post for an example.) These points don't have to well up from the depths of your own imagination; you can collect compelling bits of data from all over the Internet, if need be. I've seen entire posts that consisted simply of inspiring quotes related to a particular topic. You can also interview celebrity guests or invite them to blog on your site.

2. Infographics

Infographics combine written content and visual design into a uniquely user-friendly package. How many times have you found yourself zeroing in on a helpful infographic embedded in a larger article or web page? Just as you don't necessarily have to write all your own blog content, you don't have to have graphic design skills to create infographics for your content marketing campaign. Your copywriter can work with the graphic designer of your choice to produce infographics that make a big splash with your potential buyers.

3. Long-Form Guides

Nothing demonstrates a business's expertise more thoroughly than a detailed, practical guide that helps people understand a concept or solve a problem. These guides often take the forms of eBooks, industry reports, white papers, quarterly newsletters, or plus-sized articles. You can make these pieces available in return for the interested party's contact information or subscription. This approach builds your prospect lists and helps pre-qualify leads, especially if you end up sending your subscribers a steady stream of helpful information.

4. Videos

Did you know that people spend one-third of their online time watching videos? This form of content marketing can entertain, enlighten, and compel sales just as effectively as others that rely on writing and graphic design. Just about anything you can convey through a blog post, infographic, or guide can prove equally effective in video format. Just don't make the mistake of assuming that you can simply take some video footage, slap a voice-over narration on it, and call it a day. Videos require careful organization and structure, with narration that really sells and graphic images that support the moving pictures and reinforce your brand identity.

There are plenty of other kinds of content marketing that I could (and very well may) write about in future posts. For now, however, these four key types of content marketing should keep you busy and boost your revenue. Contact me if you need help bringing your content to life!

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Working With a Copywriter? Remember These 3 Tips

Congratulations on hiring a freelance copywriter! This skilled, experienced professional should greatly enhance the effectiveness of your marketing content while also freeing you from the burden of writing that content yourself. Just keep in mind that your experience, and your final result, can only go as smoothly as your interactions with this expert will permit. If you want to get the most out of working with a copywriter, take heed of the following four helpful tips.

Tip 1: Discuss the Process

Different copywriters have different ways of working, so don't assume that your experience with your current copywriter will necessarily follow the same process as any previous experiences you may have had with others. Always ask plenty of key questions in your initial conversation. How much does the writer charge, and on what basis? What's the schedule for making those payments? How long will it take the writer to deliver a first draft and any revisions? What materials do you need to give the copywriter before the work can start? What other professionals (web design team, SEO specialist, etc.) do you need to copy on all communications with your copywriter? Make sure you're clear on all these points right from the beginning.

Do you want to engage your copywriter to address recurring content needs, such as weekly blog posts or content for a quarterly newsletter? If so, you need to work out a long-range editorial calendar that clarifies exactly what content you want and when you want it. Ideally, you and your writer can hash out a whole schedule of article topics and delivery dates to prevent any last-minute scrambles or crossed signals. You can always adjust the details as you go -- but only if you set those details down first.

Tip 2: Consolidate Your Feedback

In an ideal world, your copywriter will deliver such a brilliant first draft that you see no need for any changes. But even if you and your writer communicated like a dream throughout the initial phase of the project, you may still see little bits and pieces in the text that require tweaking. You may also need to include some additional point that you forgot to tell the writer about or only just discovered during the composition of the draft. Most revisions can easily accommodate these changes. However, if your changes actually change the scope of the project, don't be too surprised if your writer has to charge an additional fee to reflect the new work.

Try to avoid the "committee rewrite" if you can. You might have no choice but to send the draft past multiple respondents, each of whom may make contradictory rewrite requests. This approach can cause two major problems. First, you may have to sit on those comments forever until everyone has chimed in. Second, you may end up sending your writer little constant dribbles of comment after comment, creating a state of perpetual revision. Make sure all the necessary comments go through one person, who can then coordinate them into one cohesive set of requests. Require all parties to submit their comments within a set timeline.

Tip 3: Keep the Ball Rolling

That set timeline I mentioned above will help you follow this third tip. Don't let a copywriter's first draft or revised version go unnoticed once you have it. I've had clients who sat on a project for weeks or months before finally replying with revision requests -- by which point, I'd moved on to the next project without even remembering much about the previous one. Sitting on content forever (as opposed to requesting changes promptly or indicating your acceptance of the content as is) may also hold up the work of your web designer, blog manager, graphic designer, or other professionals who need that final approved content before they can finish their work.

Make these three tips part of your overall plan for working with a professional copywriter, and you'll always get exactly the content you need, on time and on budget. Contact me to learn more!

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

4 Tips for Writing Stronger Marketing Content

Marketing content creation can prove immensely frustrating. No matter how well you know your business and industry, no matter how brilliant your products or services, no matter how desperately your target audience needs what you've got, you just can't seem to score with your website, social media, or print marketing content. What gives?

Sometimes tiny details can make all the difference between a solid but unremarkable piece of marketing content and a powerfully effective one. One of my writing teachers used to say that there's no such thing as good or bad writing: "There are only stronger and weaker choices." Do you make weaker choices here and there without even realizing it? We all do from time to time. If you want to make your written marketing content hit harder and turn more readers into buyers, take the following four tips  to heart.

Tip 1: Trim the Fat

Flabby writing can't compete with firm, lean statements. Watch out for empty, unnecessary phrases such as "Adding insult to injury..." or "Another point to consider is...." If you can get to the point without this baggage, do it. If you can't, then re-examine that point until you can make it as economically as possible.

You can also trim the fat from your marketing content by choosing slimmer words. Don't reach for a four-syllable word when a one-syllable or two-syllable word will get the job done. If you need to get flowery for purposes of style or tone, fine, but don't make "purple prose" your default setting as a content writer.

Tip 2: Get Specific

Good, great, beautiful, nice, bigger, better -- these words don't really convey much useful information, do they? As a potential customer, I don't get anything from the description of your product or service as "great;" I want to know what's great about it. Is it cost-effective, convenient, time-saving, sleek, powerful, long-lasting? Does it improve my gas mileage, kill bugs on contact, or clean my windows effortlessly? Ditch the vague, meaningless adjectives and give me clear, vivid descriptions that tell me what I need to know.

Tip 3: Guide Readers' Thoughts

Even the sharpest images and most efficient language will fall flat if your content lacks an effective structure and flow. Think about the journey you take every time you read a blog article, web page, or other marketing piece for the first time. You begin with no knowledge of what lies ahead, only a nagging problem that you seek to solve. So you naturally want to see that problem acknowledged right from the beginning, yes? Since this company clearly understands your needs, you keep reading -- and you discover the solution to your challenge in the text below. Now that you know you've found your answer, of course you'll click that link to the Contact page to place an order or schedule a conversation. If your current content doesn't guide your readers' thoughts from A to Z in a smooth, organic manner, consider reassembling it from the ground up.

Tip 4: Use Imperatives

"If you have my answers, then tell me what to do." This subconscious plea drives the path from interested bystander to new customer. Too soft a sell can leave your potential buyers undecided about committing your product or service, while overly vague directions can make it harder for the committed ones to go forward. Don't go all coy about your call to action with phrases such as "Doesn't it make sense to talk to our team about your needs?" Instead, say: "Contact our team today so we can discuss your needs." Feel  that extra push toward the finish line? So will your audience.

Try these tips and see for yourself what kind of extra oomph they add to your marketing content's effectiveness. Or if you'd rather hand the task over to someone who works with words for a living, just hire a freelance marketing copywriter!