Monday, November 18, 2019

Add Some Thanksgiving to Your Marketing Content

Here comes Thanksgiving again! You probably have a great many things to feel thankful for -- including, of course, a chance to fill up on turkey and enjoy some much-needed rest and relaxation. But if you're thankful to have a business, you'll want to keep that business healthy through the upcoming holiday season. So maybe this is the perfect time to inject a little of that Thanksgiving spirit into the season's marketing content.

Are You Thankful for Your Customers?

A business can't survive and thrive without its loyal customer base, not to mention the new customers who discover it and then pass the word on to their friends. You need your customers or clients to understand that you care about them and appreciate their business -- and what better occasion than Thanksgiving to launch a "thank-you" campaign? Consider such options as:

  • Direct mail or email offers such as storewide discounts and coupons to save on specific products/services
  • A letter thanking your customers for their service and pledging to serve their needs for years to come
  • A TV or radio commercial that expresses thanks to your customers, local community or national audience
  • A public event, sponsored by your organization (and promoted through press releases), that benefits your target audience in some way

Are Your Customers Thankful for You?

If you've done a wonderful job of meeting your customers' needs and providing stellar customer service, those customers are probably just as thankful for you as you are for them. Why not launch some marketing initiatives to draw them out of their shells and get them singing your praises? Examples might include:

  • A fun social media contest that rewards customers who submit the most creative, moving, or entertaining video testimonials
  • An opportunity for customers to contribute guest-blog articles to your site, sharing anecdotes, recollections, and other positive statements about their experiences with your brand
  • A contest in which purchasers enter a drawing to name a new product or appear in your commercial

November and December are powerhouse months for many businesses. Stay visible during all of this activity by expressing your thanks and letting your customers express theirs -- with the aid of some seasonal marketing savvy!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Nobody's Perfect: Putting Your Limitations to Good Use in Your Marketing

I'm in a networking group that requires its members to schedule one-to-one meetings with each other. These meetings allow us to learn more about each other's business so that we can refer decent-quality clients to each other. One of my favorite questions to ask during these meetings is, "Who is a bad referral for you?" Newer members usually react as if I'd smacked them upside the face with a dead trout. Surely there are no bad referrals! We want to promote ourselves as all things to all people, right? 

Wrong. All of us, individuals and companies alike, have our limitations. And believe it or not, acknowledging what you can't or don't do can actually help drive more (and better) business in your direction. How is this possible? Let me count the ways.

1. Targeted Marketing

Face it, you can't help everybody, so you might as well focus your marketing efforts on those you can help the most. It would crazy of me to promote myself as a writer of every kind of content, because I'm just not that guy. I don't feel comfortable or even competent writing technical manuals, for instance, so I might as well focus on my niche as a writer of marketing content. This allows me to put my whole effort into attracting the clients who can best benefit from my services -- and who are most likely to want them. You can emphasize this in your marketing as a big plus for your customers who want focused skills and expertise on a particular type of product or service, not a jack-of-all-trades who can sorta-sorta do everything.

2. Honesty (the Best Policy)

How many times have you heard some company trumpeting its products or services as the greatest thing since the proverbial sliced bread? Did they mention any provisions or limiting factors at all, apart from an unreadable mass of asterisked fine print way down at the bottom of the page? How do you feel when you see that mass of fine print? Why don't they want you to read and know their limitations? What kind of shenanigans are going on here? Anyway, after sifting through lots of "We're the solutions to all your problems, yours is not to question why, just call us" messaging, it can come as breath of fresh air to read a message that says, "Hey, we may or may not be right for your needs. Why not contact us so we can discuss it?" That approach sounds more honest to me, so I'm more likely to believe whatever else that business has to say.

3. Imperfection as Uniqueness

Japanese art and philosophy embrace a concept called wabi-sabi, which holds that transient, limited, imperfect things have a unique attractiveness -- the patina of age on a statue, perhaps, or the slight unevenness in a handcrafted bowl. This kind of "flawed beauty" has also made many a "primitive" artist rich and famous. We appreciate the unique, the fingerprints of the maker on the object. Depending on your line of work, it might even enhance your attractiveness to prospects. Remember cabbage Patch Dolls? their phenomenal success was entirely based on the fact that they weren't perfect. Each doll had its own unique "personality" which holds a special appeal for someone. So does every brand that offers a well-defined, well-communicated UVP (unique value proposition). Build that into your marketing content, and you've got a lock on a truly tight niche -- Yourself, Inc.

If you really are perfect, of course, disregard all of the above. Otherwise, contact me for assist

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

When Do You Need a Copywriting Coach?

When you think about hiring a freelance copywriter, it's probably with a sense of relief. After all, you get to hand over that pesky writing project to a skilled professional who can get it done quickly efficiently, and with the high standard of quality your marketing requires. But did you know that some businesses hire copywriters not for their writing skills, but purely for their expertise? It's true, and in some cases, it can make a lot of sense.

Many professional copywriters, including this one, offer coaching and consultation among their list of services. This service can take a variety of forms. In my case, it involves purchasing my time in 30-minute or 60-minute blocks for open-ended discussions, critiques and advice. For example, I might go over a writing job in progress with you, pointing out issues and recommending corrective measures. Or we might discuss general copywriting practices, complete with exercises to improve their writing skills. Clients can purchase individual sessions, or they spring for money-saving packages of time. (Thanks to modern technology, I can provide these sessions remotely to anyone in the country.) But why would you want to purchase copywriting coaching/consultation instead of simply ordering me to do the work? Let's look at some compelling reasons:

You've Already Created Most of the Content

That writing project has already sapped a lot of your time and creative energy -- and it's almost there. You can feel it in your bones. The major pieces appear to be in place, and they may even be in the right order. But is your writing ready for Prime Time? Can you really know that you've created the right content to blow past your competition and grab your target audience by the lapels? You can easily find out by sending the draft to me. We'll look it over together (on our respective computers), and I'll suggest any changes that might be needed, from minor tweaks to major revisions.

You Want to Boost Your Copywriting Skills

Do you wish that you could generate that high-quality marketing content all by yourself, without having to punt the whole thing to an outsourced copywriter? Maybe you like having that degree of independence, or maybe you genuinely enjoy writing and want to get better at it. A professional copywriter who provides coaching services can train you in the finer points of the craft, turning you into your own content-creation resource. It's like adding an in-house copywriter to your organization -- without shelling out for the extra salary and benefits package!

You Don't Trust Your Ability to Judge Marketing Content

Even if you don't want to write your own marketing content, you still need to know the difference between bad content and good content -- or between good content and great content -- before you start adding text to your website, blog, or brochure. Unless marketing was already your thing, you probably haven't received any special training in this area. Many business owners who possess a jaw-dropping knowledge of their own industry don't feel confident judging a piece of marketing content according to the standards of our industry. A copywriting consultant can change that. The more skilled you become at recognizing good (or not-so-good) writing when you see it, the more confidently you can engage specific writers, review their drafts, and request any necessary changes.

Now that you see the benefits of engaging an experienced freelance copywriter for coaching and consultation, why not give it a try?  I've been writing professionally for 22 years, and I have a lot of training, knowledge and experience to offer. Let's talk!

Monday, October 7, 2019

Fear Factor: Using Halloween in Your Marketing Content


Halloween will be here before you know it. Actually, that's not true. You'll know it well in advance; in fact, you're probably already seeing evidence of it everywhere, from storefront displays to all the costumes and masks peering out ominously from supermarket shelves. If you want to promote your products and services as immediately and arrestingly as possible, it wouldn't hurt to add a touch of Halloween chill to your marketing content. Let's look at a couple of ways you can do just that.

Make Your Pain Statement Extra Scary

Written marketing content typically includes three main elements: a pain statement, a relief statement, and a call to action. The pain statement presents an irritating, inconvenient, frightening or embarrassing problem, dropping the readers right into the situation they're desperately seeking to avoid. The relief statement then allows you to swoop in like the cavalry with your problem-solving product or service. Finally, a call to action directs the readers to stop, reverse or prevent that agonizing issue right now by contacting you or making a purchase.

Halloween represents a golden opportunity for you to spice up your pain statement with some tried-and-true imagery. For instance, are your customers suffering from power-wasting "energy vampires" in the form of inefficient old electronics that need replacing? Do your customers hear things that go bump in the night -- things that could be silenced by your expert plumbing or HVAC services? Are your pest-control customers constantly fight off multi-legged "zombies" that keep coming back from the dead? A bit of Halloween can make your pain statement not only more clever, but also much more vivid.

Goof on Famous Halloween-ish Moments

Do you remember Jack Nicholson battering down a door with an axe to murder his family, a possessed Linda Blair's head doing a 180, or Bela Lugosi hypnotizing his unwary prey before unleashing his fangs? Of course you do; we all do. These moments have taken root deep in our popular culture -- which makes them ideal fodder for your Halloween marketing campaigns. They're so well known, in fact, that they lend themselves to parody. Think about how some of your favorite moments, images, and quotes from various scary movies could be put to good use in humorous TV and radio spots, direct mail postcards, email ads or blog articles. It's an easy, powerful way to connect with your audience through a shared experience.

Not all memorable Halloween tropes are scary ones. We've all seen hordes of children stumbling along the streets in the dark, bags in their hands, dressed as everything from ballerinas to frogs in the hopes of terrifying the local townsfolk. We're all familiar with the haunted house that scares absolutely no one, or the comedy of errors that occurs when you mistake someone inside a mask for someone else entirely. We've encountered our share of egg-laden windows and toilet paper on shrubbery. These images can all make their way into your Halloween marketing, setting the stage for whatever story you wish to tell your target market.

Give some thought to how you can put the Halloween holiday to work for your marketing purposes -- or hire a freelance copywriter to help you brainstorm. But whatever you do, do it soon, before the 31st rolls around and the monsters come out!

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Monthly Retainer: A Smart Way to Hire a Freelance Copywriter

I've mentioned before that there's more than one way to hire a freelance copywriter in San Antonio, Austin, or anywhere else in the world. It's a simple matter to engage a freelancer whenever you need a particular piece of marketing content written. But is that "piecework" approach the smartest way to go? Not always, I would argue. Many organizations can enjoy some important benefits from signing their writers to monthly retainer agreements instead. Let's examine why you might want to pursue this method of outsourcing your content writing needs.

If you've ever engaged outside professionals by paying them a set amount of money in advance, then you already have some idea of how retainer agreements work. If you need a lawyer who bills $100 per hour, for example, you might pay that lawyer $1,000 to do 10 hours of work for you. If the project at hand takes exactly 10 hours to complete, you've gotten your money's worth to the penny. If your lawyer needs a couple more hours to finish the job, you might receive an additional bill for $200 before work can continue. If the work took less than 10 hours to perform, you might be given credit for 2 hours of future work. Or if you're hiring the lawyer on a monthly basis, the extra money you paid can be justified as the cost of guaranteeing the lawyer's availability for that month.

A monthly retainer for a copywriter works pretty much the same way. You agree to pay the writer X amount of dollars at the beginning of each month; that money then guarantees that your writer is available to you for X number of hours. If you need more hours of the writer's time before the end of the month, you can purchase them separately, either right then and there or on a supplemental invoice at the beginning of the following month.

This arrangement works just fine when your writer charges by the hour -- but what do you do if your writer charges flat per-project rates? I've always used the per-project pricing method myself, since it gives my clients a firm idea of exactly what they can expect to pay for any given job. (It's also great for marketing agencies, since they can easily plug my numbers into their bids on larger marketing projects.) You can still use a monthly retainer agreement with this kind of writer; it's just a matter of pre-purchasing a total dollar amount instead of a total number of hours. You've now secured that writer's services to produce as much work as that total dollar amount will cover. If you need more writing that month, you can purchase another job or two at whatever fixed rates the writer normally charges.

Why would you put a copywriter on a monthly retainer when you could simply purchase individual jobs at the same rates, without any risk of overpaying? There are actually a couple of good reasons:

Guaranteed availability: Remember, you've bought those jobs on the condition that they will also hit your inbox that month. Your writer has already taken the money, so your writer has to deliver per the terms of the agreement. You don't have to ask yourself that dreaded question, "Gee, I wonder if he's gonna be available for this one?" The retainer ensures that we're on the hook to give you what you need, when you need it.

Minimal invoicing: Imagine being a marketing agency who needs to produce a wide range of marketing content for multiple clients each month. Now imagine having to process a fresh invoice and make a fresh payment for each and every one of those jobs. Doesn't sound like a smart use of your time and effort, does it? With a monthly retainer, you pay one bill at the beginning of each month. If you ordered additional work the previous month, you may also receive one other, smaller invoice. Any organization that expects to run through a fair amount of content each month will find this arrangement much smoother sailing.

Limited Risk/Obligation: Of course, there's always the possibility than you might not need or want the same volume of marketing content 6 months or a year from now. Fortunately, you don't have to lock yourself into a long-term retainer agreement. Some writers (including me) offer the option of a month-to-month arrangement. This setup allows you to say, "Okay, this is the last month we're going to need a retainer," and then go back to ordering individual jobs as needed the following month.

Ready to learn more about the process of hiring a freelance copywriter on a monthly retainer agreement? Contact me and let's discuss the details!

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Blogger's Nightmare: "But I Have Nothing to Say!"

How many times have you heard those words escape your lips as you stared into the abyss of an blank notepad or computer screen? Whether you've just taken up the art (and business) of blogging or you're struggling with your thousandth post, this exclamation may ring all too familiar.

It's not unlike the common actor's nightmare: You're summoned to play a role you know like the back of your hand, only to realize at the last minute that they've switched you to a different role, or that you had the wrong play in mind altogether. All you can do is stand there and make something up -- or run away. That may be how you feel right now. You know you need to blog regularly as a means of refreshing your online content and maintaining your target market's attention. But where in the world do you start?

Ideation, or the generation of ideas, can be a major stumbling block to all kinds of creative activity. Many artistic types respond by shutting down entirely and waiting until some invisible hand turns on the idea spigot again. (Hopefully these folks have day jobs or trust funds to carry them through their draught.) The rest of us simply push forward as best we can, relying on every memory, anecdote, thought or stimulus that might hold some promise. It's tempting for many novice writers to imagine some wellspring of ideas that fuel the great practitioners. Harlan Ellison got so tired of having people ask him, "Where do you get your ideas?" that he began telling them that there was an idea factory in Schenectady that sent him a monthly package of them. (It says something about the desperation of these individuals that many of them believed him.)

Ideas almost never drop in out of nowhere; they have to be squeezed into existence, sometimes by brute force. Start by going through any resources that have saved your creative bacon in the past. Do you have a favorite book of quotes, for instance, or a particular art form or hobby that always seems to inspire you? Have current events made a notable impact on your industry or your readers? Do your business interactions produce interesting anecdotes or case histories for you to share your audience?

Another trick when you feel stuck in a rut is to change up the way you blog. If you tend to post serious pieces, for example, try a humorous one to break up the mood. If you've never involved a second person in your blog creation, try interviewing a colleague or peer. If you never create lists, create a list. If you always write in lists, write in paragraphs instead.

Last but not least, remember that two heads are better than one. Ask your readers what they would like to see in future posts, or ask your business team for a quick bull session. and if all else fails, bring in a total outsider such as a freelance copywriter to dream up some fresh ideas you might never have considered on your own. (Just a thought.)

The point is that there's always something to say. In fact, I just wrote an entire blog post about having nothing to say. So, no excuses -- put your idea hat on and get back to work!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Is This Why You're Not Writing That Marketing Content?

In countless smaller businesses, the buck stops squarely at the desk of whoever started it all. If you're the chief cook and bottle washer at your company, you may be tasked with a huge number of issues, including the business's ongoing marketing efforts. And in marketing, content is still king -- so why do so many business owners shy away from writing that critical content? Here are a few reasons:

It's Hard 

Producing compelling content, for any purpose, takes a certain amount of mental and emotional energy, and there's no denying that it gives the brain a workout. And let's face it, the last thing your average overworked entrepreneur needs or wants is yet another mental challenge. For those who are not naturally gifted or confident writers, the task can seem positively Herculean -- but even those of us who do it for a living can feel pretty drained after a few hours of bashing away at the keyboard. Nor does it necessarily get easier over time; as the lower-level concerns such as spelling, grammar and mechanics eventually get ironed out, the writer's attention turns instead to more advanced issues. There's always some new challenge awaiting you over the horizon, no matter how good you get. So the creation of written marketing content can tie up a good many brain cells that might have gone toward, say, running your business. Which leads me to the next objection:

It's Time-Consuming

Even the fastest, most brilliant writers have to spend X amount of time on any piece of writing if they want it to meet professional standards. Writing is rewriting, as they say, meaning that a first draft is rarely the last one. Before you post that article, print those postcards or allow that new website to go live, you must go over your work with the proverbial fine-toothed comb -- cutting the fat, smoothing out awkward phrases, and making sure the message "pops." The less confident or experienced you are as a writer, the more time you'll spend fussing over it. Some of us (myself included) even struggle with typing speed/accuracy. (I never took typing in school. I can galumph along at an acceptable rate, and my own bizarre self-created technique is too ingrained to unlearn now anyway.) 

It Might Come Out Wrong

Failure in the business world can be damaging enough on its own (unless of course we learn from it) when it occurs privately, inside the company. Falling on your face in public is a whole other level of "epic fail" entirely. We're all understandably terrified of looking like goofballs in the way we present ourselves, and marketing is all about public presentation. So many business owners will shy away from creating their own marketing content on the grounds that they might inadvertently embarrass themselves, now matter how strongly they write. What if the target audience doesn't get what you're saying? What if your industry lingo makes no sense to the average Joe? What does your public want you to tell them?

These are all sound concerns -- and I hear them all the time from business clients who engage me to write their marketing content. Fortunately, a skilled copywriter can squash most of them. By hiring me to take their writing off their plate, for instance, business owners and marketing managers can focus on the pressing needs of their company instead of wrapping all their free gray matter around a blog article or web page. It also prevents content creation from sapping all their valuable billable time. Outsourcing the writing to a third party can even help ensure that the final product speaks to a broad mainstream audience and not just other folks in the business.

Are you facing any other challenges to producing the marketing content your business so desperately needs? Contact me and let's work on overcoming them!