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!

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Words as Symbols in Your Marketing Content

Another Fourth of July has come and gone. It's hard to imagine a more cut-and-dried holiday, right? Independence Day commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. What could be more straightforward than that?

Ah, but wait a minute. The national holiday we recognize as the Fourth of July stirs up a wide range of responses, depending on who you ask. Some people take the literal approach by envisioning the Founding Fathers famously adding their signatures to the document in question. Many folks mark it as the birthday of the United States of America, with all the patriotic thoughts that accompany that idea. But what else might the Fourth of July mean to people in this day and age? If you're a fireworks fan, it may be a glorious opportunity to blow stuff up. If you're an animal lover, you may bite your nails over images of your beloved pets cowering under the bed as those fireworks go off. If you work like a dog the rest of the year, you may see the Fourth of July holiday as a lifesaving day of rest.

See what I mean? The same simple phrase -- "Fourth of July" -- can trigger different (and equally legitimate) images or feelings for different segments of the population. I'm picking on the Fourth for reasons of topicality, but I could just as easily point to any other concept, word, or phrase known to humankind. What about a loaf of freshly-baked bread? If you're a foodie, the very idea could fill you with gleeful anticipation or send you running to the store to purchase a bread maker. On the other hand, if you suffer from a severe gluten sensitivity, you may associate that "lovely" image with recollections of digestive agony.

Words are tools, and tools often have multiple uses, with no inherently right or wrong applications. However, when you're creating marketing content for your business, you must think about how your specific tool choices will impact your target audience. A word that might have powerful, energizing, or soothing effects on you might have a totally different effect on the people to whom you're directing your marketing content.

How do you tiptoe your way through this tricky landscape? It all starts with a detailed knowledge of your ideal buyer, which means building a buyer persona -- a fictional profile based on all the demographics, survey responses, and other customer data you can gather. The next step most likely involves engaging a professional copywriter who understands how to string together just the right symbols to produce the intended emotional responses for that ideal buyer. If you don't have such a professional on staff, contact a freelance copywriter and have a discussion about how to put the symbolic power of words to the strongest possible use in your marketing. After all, if words are tools, you might as well hire a true wordsmith! 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Want to Maximize Your Time? Leave the Writing to the Writer

Even with the extensions granted due to the pandemic and the Texas winter storm, the tax man cometh. I knew that sooner or later I'd have to get to work on my return. And by “working on,” I mean collating information, itemizing business expenses, printing out 1099s and so forth. Since I’d been keeping all the information more or less in one place all year (a hard-earned lesson in itself, believe me), the process took maybe an hour, tops. I then sent it off to the person who really does the hard work -- my CPA.

It’s a good thing, too. Apart from my general mathematical ineptitude, I hardly understand what I’m looking at when I study all the various forms the IRS seems to have for every possible situation. The instructions alone would be enough to keep me busy long past the due date, never mind tabulating every figure in its corresponding little box. Even if I could figure out the basic mechanics involved, I couldn’t possibly keep up with all the changes in the tax code that seem to pop up year after year like some bureaucratic Whack-a-Mole game. The result of my fumbling and stumbling would be a mountain of errors (which I’m told the IRS doesn’t appreciate), along with countless hours of lost writing time. Instead, I will pay a chunk of money to my CPA and let her sail through the paperwork like the experienced and knowledgable professional she is. Not only will she get the numbers right, but she will also make sure I’m taking all the right deductions (and none of the wrong ones) for my own good. What a deal!

But that’s the beauty of outsourcing to experts. You keep chugging along doing what you do best, the experts do what they do best, and everybody wins. My CPA’s billable time probably carries a higher price tag than my own, but she can do in an hour what would take me ten hours away from my everyday work. Better yet, she’ll do it right. That’s why outsourcing to a CPA makes sense -- just as outsourcing to a freelance copywriter makes sense for business owners who want to maximize their precious time.

Some of my clients are perfectly capable of writing their own marketing content -- but why should they? Whenever I hear resistance over the concept of paying for writing services, I ask, “How many hours would it take you to (a) do this work and (b) make sure it attained the right level of quality and effectiveness?” The invariable answer is that it’ll take them a lot more time, sweat, and frustration than it’ll take me. So the client actually spends considerably less money than he’d lose in the form of wasted time and stalled business productivity. 

My advice? Take those saved hours and put them into fulfilling orders, submitting bids, landing new accounts, and other immediately profitable activities -- and leave the writing to the writer!

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Key Points to Understand About Blogging

Different people have different levels of awareness regarding blogs and blogging. Some of my clients have come to me with clear, detailed notions of what sort of blog content they'd like me to write for them, while others have asked, "What is this blogging thing you mentioned in passing, and why would I do it?" Let's examine some key points on the subject.

Blogging Has Been Around Longer Than You Might Think

Blogging actually predates some of you out there. The title of earliest blog probably goes to Links.net, one person's personal web chronicle of his life and work experiences. By the late 1990s, this type of online page had become known as a weblog, or blog for short. Journalists, politicians, and businesses began tapping the power of blogging around this time. The number of blogs on the Internet shot up from just 23 in 1999 to a staggering 50 million by the mid-2000s. Some of those blog pages have remained up and running for decades. So blogging as a major form of online self-promotion is the real deal, and it should remain so for as long as there are people and brands that need to get the word out about themselves.

Blogging Is Good for Business

There's a good reason for blogging's popularity and longevity in the world of digital marketing: in short, it's good for business, especially if your blog page lives within your website's domain. For one thing, every new chunk of relevant content your brand uploads to the Internet lends your website that much more online authority. Don't forget that Google accounts for about 40 percent of all online traffic. The more you can do to get Google's attention, the better you'll rank on those search requests -- and the blog articles that the searchers pull up will have a chance to score their own marketing points and lead viewers to other features on your website. As other people and businesses discover your blog content, they may actually link back to it as a reference, boosting your audience further. Blogging is probably the easiest, most effective way to earn those valuable inline links.

Blogging and lead generation go hand in hand. If your business were to post just two blog articles per month, you'd stand to gain 70 percent more leads than your non-blogging competitors. Of course, the quality of the blog content makes a difference, too, because people really do read these things. Almost one-quarter of all Internet time is spent absorbing social media content such as blogs. The majority of these readers say that such content makes them feel more confident about the entity posting the content.

Blog Content Can Take Many Forms

"What would I blog about?" has to be one of the most frequently asked questions among business bloggers. Thankfully, a blog can have extraordinary flexibility as long it adheres to the brand image you wish to present. You can post humorous editorials, your reactions to important industry news, spotlights introducing new key players on your team, explanations of individual products or services, and articles that address seasonal concerns or sales.

You may find that your most popular blog articles focus on helping your target audience solve common problems. How-to articles, for instance, can help readers understand how your products or services can make their lives easier, while their searches for such solutions may naturally cause the relevant article to pop up on their screens. Are you especially proud of how you solved one of your client's problems? Write up a brief case study and post it as a blog article to give others with the same concerns a powerful real-life illustration of your potential value to them.

You Don't Have to Create the Blog Content Yourself

Back in the early weblog days, a blog was very much an extension of an individual's likes, dislikes, insights, and recommendations. As blogging evolved into a digital marketing strategy for businesses and organizations, the creation of blog content became a team effort. Even then, an organization might not have the requisite talent tool, spare billable time, or sheer patience to pump out the endless stream of blog content that the Internet always seems to demand. 

That's where third parties like me come in. A skilled copywriter knows how to absorb a company's brand image and produce messaging that fits that mold, creating customized content that genuinely reflects your spin on what you do and how you do it. So if you want to enjoy the considerable benefits of blogging without the headaches involved in actually coming up with that content, contact me today!

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Staring at a Blank Screen? Remember These Content Creation Tips

Few sights can strike terror into the hearts of marketing content creators more quickly and brutally than a blank screen. You've probably been there; I certainly have. You sit there, mentally sweating bullets, wondering how you're supposed to turn all that nothing into something that sells. I've written about ideation before, and I doubtless will again, because it presents an ongoing challenge even for experienced writers. Then once you have the idea -- where do you allow that idea to take your content? When you're struggling to get your creative gears turning, keep the following helpful tips in mind.

Your Potential Buyer Has a Real-World Problem to Solve

Sometimes the sheer number of a business's available products and services can muddy the waters when it comes to marketing content creation. Where do you start? Well, you take a lot of the confusion out of the ideation stage by focusing on specific, individual challenges of pain points that you know your prospective buyers have. Let's say you're a roofer, for example. What worries keep your target audience members awake at night? Do they know that their roof is nearing the end of its projected lifespan? Do they see spots that might indicate damaging leaks? Do they have loose shingles littering the lawn after a storm?Do they need to spruce up their home's asking price by refurbishing the roof? These pain points give you a handle on which to hang your creative hat.

The Buyer's Problem Prompts Your Solution

Once you've described your prospective customer's needs in vivid detail, you've got that person saying, "Yes, you understand exactly what I'm dealing with! So, how can you help me?" This is your cue to segue directly into the solutions you offer. Describe in clear, simple, powerful terms exactly how you can relieve that person's pain through your products and services. Don't drown the reader in details; you can always provide details on individual web pages or (better yet) in a conversation that closes the sale. For now, focus on conveying a sense of emotional reassurance and excitement about the solution to a nagging problem.

The Bottom-Line Benefit Sells the Product or Service

When in doubt, rally your creative message around the bottom-line benefit of your product or service. Remember, your customers don't care how they get to the goal line -- they just want to make that big score. What bottom-line benefit do you provide? Well, at the end of the road, you make your customers happy. Maybe you achieve that goal by making them more physically comfortable or emotionally secure. Maybe you help them enjoy greater business efficiency or productivity, with an even deeper bottom line of helping them earn more money, which raises their quality of life and (guess what?) increases their happiness.

As you might imagine, hurdling these creative obstacles takes a certain amount of time, effort, and patience no matter how many mental triggers you employ. The more urgently you need to come up with that marketing content, and the more time your many other business activities demand, the more stress and pressure you may feel when you sit down to confront that blank screen (which, of course, doesn't exactly help you set your imagination free). If that's the problem you face, here's another helpful tip -- ask a professional marketing content writer to do the creative work for you!

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Writing and Organizing Your Website Content: What Goes Where?

You see some funny things when you're enlisted to write or rewrite content for various companies' websites. I've encountered Home pages that launched right into a lengthy account of the company's services or a bio of the company owner, without so much as an introduction to the company itself. I've also seen About pages that weren't about the company or its team players, Services pages that would more properly serve as Contact pages, and the list goes on and on. 

It's important to remember that even the most highly-polished and compelling website content may make zero impact if it doesn't belong on the site, or if it sits on the wrong page. So whether you need to put a new website together from scratch or redo an old, ineffective website, you may create the right kind of content for each of your most critical web pages. Let's take a look at some standard examples.

Home - Many organizations don't seem to know exactly what to do with this page. Some of them simply use it to welcome the visitor, others drop the wrong content into it in an effort to fill it out, and still others don't put any written content in it at all (which gives Google's bots a lot less content to evaluate when ranking your site among its competitors). Ideally, this page starts with a really compelling question, pain point, or other marketing hook. It then shifts smoothly into a brief introduction of your company as the answer to the visitor's needs, directing the visitor to other pages to send them through the conversion journey.

Solutions - Okay, so you've stated that you can solve your visitor's particular problem. But what solutions do you offer that can make that happen? Many sites skip this page altogether, but you may feel it important to describe the processes and strategies that go into your solutions to customer's concerns and challenges. This isn't usually the place to break down your services or products; instead, you'll want to give those services or products their due on a separate page.

Services or Products - Your services or products are the actual tools that solve your visitors' problems and restore happiness to their home or business lives. If you provide professional services, write a clear, simple blurb for each service. If you can group multiple services into categories, give it a whirl and see whether it improves the reading experience for site visitors. If you sell products, make sure that each product gets its own tightly-written blurb. Preface your Services or Products page with an exciting, keyword-rich introduction that whets the visitor's appetite for the goodies to come.

About - An effective About page will always include a bio of the organization itself, from its origins to its present status after X number of years serving its clientele. Think of your organization as an individual in its own right, worthy of the same "ink" you'd devote to your senior team members. You should also include a paragraph about each of your senior players, from the owner and CEO to your various department heads. That's "paragraph," not "book." If you solicit biographies from your various employees, cut them down to a more-or-less equal length so that they'll look good together on the page. (It's also your opportunity to chop out a lot of deadwood that might matter to the employee, but not to your target audience.)

FAQ - A Frequently Asked Questions page often makes good sense as a means of tackling potential objections, possibly even before they pop into the visitor's head. Just remember the proper format for this page: a series of questions, each addressed with a short, clear answer. I've seen FAQ pages that just sort of rambled in an effort to shove multiple rebuttals into a single answer (or too few answers). Keep each point short and sweet. If you don't have an easy answer to a question, explain why and invite visitors to contact you for clarification.

If you're still uncertain about what web content goes where on your site, or if you just don't feel like wading through all this mess yourself, it's time to contact a professional marketing copywriter. We love making bad content good and good content better!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Don't Have a Marketing Team? Build One Out of Freelancers

In my experience, organizations address their marketing needs in a few basic ways. On the enterprise level, big companies with deep pockets simply dedicate a chunk of their full-time payroll budget to the creation and maintenance of a complete, permanent marketing team. Way over on the other end of the spectrum, "solopreneurs" and cashed-strapped startups take a DIY approach despite a crippling lack of marketing knowledge or experience. In the vast middle of the pack, you'll find companies of all sizes entrusting their marketing strategies and campaigns to turnkey marketing agencies -- a choice that certainly solves the problem in one fell swoop, but at the potential cost of your company's creative and financial flexibility.

If none of those options works for you, then what's left? You can assemble your own marketing team, not as permanent employees, but from a pool of freelancers who can collaborate on promoting your brand. Here are a few key players you'll need, bearing in mind that some of them may offer more than one of the services noted below. (Even better, right?)

Marketing Coordinator - An intelligent, organized marketing coordinator should be the first professional you add to your stable of freelancers. This person understands how to devise and implement marketing strategies at the highest levels, issuing marching orders to all the other creative professionals on the team. Your marketing coordinator maintains your editorial calendar, selects specific freelancers for specific projects, and makes sure that all your marketing content conforms to your overall brand vision and image.

Web Developer/Designer - Web developers build the core structure and functionality of websites, while web designers provide the look, feel, and user experience necessary to convert visitors into customers. You can find creative talent capable of both jobs, or you can bring together specialists in one or the other. This expertise not only saves you the time and expense of trying to create your own site from a template; it also ensures that your site will continue to receive timely updates in response to the ever-changing demands of the Internet marketplace.

Social Media Specialist - You've got to take advantage of a strong social media presence if you want to keep your brand in front of the right eyeballs at all times. Unfortunately, the sheer variety of social media platforms, channels, and possible strategies can leave your head spinning. A social media specialist can examine the available options, create a social media strategy for your business (modifying it over time as needed) and then keep those channels as busy and attractive as possible.

Graphic Designer - What does your brand look like? Make friends with the right freelance graphic designer, and the answer to this question will never be mysterious, confusing, or self-contradictory. Ideally, you want a seasoned professional who can provide you with customized logo design services while also creating a unified, overarching visual identity for your organization, from the color scheme on your letterhead to the banners and fonts on your website.

Copywriter - You knew I'd make the list sooner or later, didn't you? A skilled freelance copywriter can generate the marketing content you need so you don't have to labor over this time-consuming task yourself. Avoid the part-timers and dilettantes in favor of full-time professionals with several years of experience under their belts. You can work with more than one copywriter as long as you've got that marketing coordinator in place, making assignments and enforcing an overall consistency of tone and style.

So there's your starter list for building a bullpen of creative marketing freelancers. All you need to do now is find them -- and I can help with that, while also providing you with the written content your marketing needs. Let's talk about it!