Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Why Business Owners Don't Write

In countless smaller businesses, the buck stops squarely at the desk of the guy who 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 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. 

Writing doesn't necessarily get easier over time, either. 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, oh, running the business. Which leads me to the next objection....

It takes too much time.


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, but in any case my own bizarre self-created technique is too ingrained to unlearn now.) 

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 to hear from you?

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. This strategy 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!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Practicing Social Distancing? Focus on Social Media Marketing

If you'd never heard the phrase "social distancing" until a few days ago, you're probably familiar with it now. Social distancing is all about adopting specific strategies that prevent large groups of people from coming together -- typically to limit the spread of germs during an epidemic or pandemic. If you own a business, you may have asked your employees to telecommute. If you have customers, those customers may be looking at different ways to get their products and services. It's a confusing time -- but you can respond by making sure your customers can find you via social media and related digital marketing efforts.

There's no denying that social media can be a good thing or a bad thing, especially in its ability to spread panic or misinformation all over the world at the speed of light. But it's also a tremendous boon, not only for distributing genuinely valuable information, but also for keeping everyday communication lines open. People who are practicing social distancing can still share Facebook posts, blog articles, Instagram photos, and any other media that tickles their fancy.

These people also shop, even if they can't do much shopping in brick-and-mortar environments for the time being. Customers may not frequent stores for their discretionary shopping, but you can bet that they'll be burning up the Internet looking for online alternatives. They'll also forego in-store browsing for online browsing by searching for specific solutions through social media and Google. So ask yourself: When they search for a particular product, service, or answer to a burning question, how likely are they to land on a helpful video, blog article or webpage created by your brand?

Social distancing also changes the way businesspeople interact. Expect to see networking organizations using online conferencing platforms such as Zoom instead of shaking hands and exchanging business cards in person. If you rely on conversations with your fellow business owners to discover new opportunities and trends, you (and they) will be spending a lot more time sharing that information from your computers or smartphones. LinkedIn is about to become hotter than ever. Are you currently uploading content and contributing to conversations there?

In short, now's the time to work on your social media presence. Pick out the social media channels most likely to appeal to your target market, and start inundating those channels with relevant, helpful, compelling content. Make sure your website content is updated and effective so that when your blog articles, videos, and other social media posts lead prospects to the site, those prospects will continue the journey through your sales funnel until they become customers.

Social distancing doesn't have to be a contradiction in terms. Take the necessary steps to join the massive online conversation and get your brand's voice heard. You'll continue to reap the benefits long after the world has returned to "business as usual."


Monday, March 2, 2020

Training Your Target Market: The Art of Creative Reinforcement

I was watching a video about dog training the other day. Don't ask me why; I don't have a dog, and I'm not planning on getting one. Anyway, I was fascinated by how different one breed can be from another when it comes to training. Some dogs, it seems, cannot wait to learn new tricks and display their knowledge at every opportunity, while others tend to do whatever they want at any given moment.

What causes some dogs to lag behind in their training? Well, some of them may see training as a struggle for dominance in the human-dog relationship, while others are just stubborn by nature. Then there's the possibility that some animals just aren't quite as smart or attentive as others. In fact, the video noted that one particular breed or other can require 50 or more repetitions before the command sinks in.

Anyone in sales can sympathize with this situation -- and let's face it, if you're in business at all, you're in sales to some extent. The Online Marketing Institute notes that humans typically require 7 to 13 "touches" before they actually buy a product or service. The number of touches required depends in part on the quality of the marketing content used in those touches. This content may include your website or landing pages, a targeted email campaign, ongoing blog articles that continue to answer questions and inspire interest, and/or print marketing pieces that compel action. 

These sales tools can drive business in different ways. But just as Rover probably won't sit the first time you ask him to, you can't expect your marketing content or sales tools to create loyal customers overnight. You have to keep reinforcing the information, coming at your potential customer from several different directions, until your message sinks in.

That's why businesses maintain regular social media presences on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. It's also why they blog regularly. These actions offer simple, trackable methods for building followings, enhancing (or repairing) reputations, and making multiple impacts until readers either become buyers or share your message with other prospective buyers.

Of course, you can't just keep regurgitating the same material over and over; rote repetition may work on pets, but humans tend to see through it and will eventually tune you out. Yes, you do need to repeat and reinforce your message, but you need to go about it creatively. A varied mix of closely-related messages will support your brand, keep readers reading (and thinking), and maintain interest in what you've got to sell.

So go forth and train your target market, enlisting any creative assistance you may need to help you achieve your goals. Just remember to swap out the doggie treats for more meaningful rewards -- unless, of course, you're marketing directly to dogs.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Is Your Marketing Campaign Stuck on "Groundhog Day?"

Did you hear the exciting news a couple of weeks back? The world's most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, did not see his shadow when he emerged from his den this past February 2nd. According to legend, this means that we can expect an early spring instead of six more weeks of winter. The question is: Are you ready to move forward with your own marketing initiatives, or are you still hiding in your den?

Apart from old Phil himself, Groundhog Day is perhaps most fondly associated with the movie of the same name starring Bill Murray. Ever feel like you're repeating the same situation over and over again? If so, then you'll sympathize with Bill Murray's character in the movie Groundhog Day, even if you don't like him much.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow...

That's TV weatherman Phil Connor's problem -- he's just not a likable guy. He's an arrogant grump who resents his assignment to cover celebrity groundhog Punxsutawney Phil's prediction for the season. The only way his February 2nd could get any worse would be if it happened again. And then it happens again, and again, and again. He keeps having the same conversations with the same people until he's ready to kill himself. 

But then he realizes that this bizarre Groundhog Day has its upside, because he has an opportunity to become a better person -- the kind of man his beautiful news producer Rita would find ideal. He spends February 2nd after February 2nd learning to speak French, create ice sculptures, play the piano and get to know the people around him. By the time the calendar finally does start moving forward again, he's a new and better person.

One Bite at a Time

If you feel paralyzed in your attempts to grow and market your business, maybe it's because you're trying to master everything at once. A full-scale marketing campaign, for instance, can be an intimidating thing to envision, build, launch and manage. And I don't now about you, but when I see an insurmountable hurdle dead ahead, I stop in my tracks and think twice before surmounting it.

At times like these it may help to take a page from Phil Connor's playbook. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, goes the old joke. Director Harold Ramis stated that Collins relives at least 30 or 40 years of Groundhog Days to master all the new skills he displays. You can become effective at marketing your business in far less time than that, and you can do it incrementally.

Get the website done. Get your print marketing looking sharp. Learn how to use social media and sharpen your networking skills. If you screw something up, you can always fix it. But unless you do something every day to build your marketing knowledge and skills, your business will remain frozen in place, experiencing the same results over and over again. Phil Connor broke out of that loop -- and so can you.

Take full advantage of the early spring. Contact me, and let's get to work on a fresh new approach to your marketing content!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

How to Win Your Business's Marketing Super Bowl

If you keep even the teeniest part of one eye on the national marketing and advertising scene, then you know where all eyes will be turned on February 2nd. Yes, it's Super Bowl time again. The Super Bowl serves not only as a showdown between the NFL's two winningest teams, but also as a showcase for the splashiest, craziest, most arresting commercials you'll see anywhere. At the same time, you'll be looking at some the biggest one-day investments you'll ever see a brand make, with the average 30-second TV spot commanding $5 million.

If you've seen your share of Super Bowl ads, you know that some of them make clear powerful selling points, while others don't seem to have anything to do with a brand's products or services at all. How and why does this approach work, when does it not work, and how can you win your own marketing "Super Bowl" against your competitors?

Big-Time Branding


One of the main reasons that major brands advertise during the Super Bowl is, well, simply to remind us all that they're major brands. The sheer glitz, glamor and importance of a major sporting event like the Super Bowl can convey a kind of "halo effect" to advertisers. If your ad is running alongside ads for Coke or Apple, you give the impression of being on the same playing field as these commercial giants. If you are Coke or Apple and you don't run an eye-popping ad during the Super Bowl, then you're potentially sending the message that you no longer belong in that elite crowd.

When you're planning your marketing campaign, think about where your target audience is, and where your competitors advertise in their efforts to pick that audience up. Then make a point of producing a steady stream of videos, articles, online ads and direct mail -- and position those pieces in areas that keep your brand as visible and healthy-looking as possible.

Conversation Starters


When you see a puzzling, abstract, aimlessly funny or downright bizarre Super Bowl ad, your first response may be to think, "What did that have to do with anything?" Your second response may be to ask your water-cooler buddies what they thought it was all about -- or to post such questions on your favorite social media platforms. This ad hasn't generated any direct sales, but it has achieved something almost as valuable: buzz.

Such conversation starters can prove especially useful when you're trying to make a big initial splash, grow your audience to include new demographics, or reclaim a part of your audience that's dropped away due to loss of interest in your brand. True, you may not have millions of dollars to schedule an amazing Super Bowl ad (not to mention the millions more you might spend actually producing the thing). But you can certainly look for unusual opportunities to make an impression on a smaller scale. From promotional stunts and online/mail-in contests to a brilliantly innovative new website design or radio spot, you can get your target market talking about you.

But What About Selling?


Creating buzz is great, but the Super Bowl ads most likely to generate actual sales are the ones that make their points as directly and clearly as possible -- while still offering cleverness and entertainment value. If you watch this year's game, pay attention to which ads confuse you and which ones make you want to go buy something. Then think about your own marketing strategy for 2020.

You probably want to build your brand while also increasing sales revenue. If that's the case, make sure to populate your social media accounts with genuinely relevant and helpful information, from before-and-after success stories to DIY advice. Create landing pages that draw your prospects toward specific products or services. Send out regular coupons, advertise specific sales days, and spotlight particular needs and challenges that your company addresses.

You may not have a team -- or an ad -- in the Super Bowl, but if you're like most businesses, you face some pretty brutal competition every day of the year. Take the examples of Super Bowl ad campaigns to heart, apply them to your own marketing strategies, and watch yourself soar to the top of the rankings. If you need to raise your content marketing game to championship level, don't hesitate to put my freelance copywriting services to work. This is one game you definitely want to win!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

3 Tips for Writing 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, obviously)? Business owners or representatives need to introduce themselves, not just to the public, but to their public -- the specific target audience that they aim to cultivate. Think hard about exactly who constitutes the ideal reader of this bio. What do you want that person 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 as a means of triggering 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. in many cases, 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, just enough to make you 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, December 31, 2019

4 New Year's Marketing Resolutions You Should Make

Have you made your New Year's resolutions yet? Maybe you're resolving to lose some weight, change your look, or get more exercise. But what resolutions have you made concerning your business -- and which of those resolutions involve your marketing efforts? A new year should offer  fresh opportunities for boosting revenues and attracting new clients or customers. Here are some New Year's marketing resolutions that could help you achieve your 2020 goals.

1. "I Resolve to Update My Digital Marketing as Needed."


When you first created your company website, you probably heaved a sigh of relief that the work was done. Unfortunately, the work is never really done. Businesses change, brands and industries evolve, and target audiences seek their products and services in new ways.

One prime example is the explosion of mobile search as a key shopping tool. When people are looking for help with something in their area, they search for those things by location on their smartphones. This means two things for your digital marketing: (1) Your web content needs to be optimized for your location, and (2) you need a responsive or mobile website that will look good and function well on smartphones and tablets. Commit to making those changes now.

2. "I Resolve to Keep an Editorial Calendar for Marketing Content."


How many times did you miss a blogging or other social media posting deadline in 2019? When you're bogged down with tons of other worries and tasks, falling behind on marketing content creation may seem inevitable -- but it doesn't have to be.

Creating an editorial calendar, with specific type of posts scheduled at recurring intervals over the course of the year, can help you stay on top of that content creation so that you're never caught with your marketing pants down. Still stumped as to how you're going to get all that content made? Contact some freelance copywriters, graphic designers or videographers. Explain your goals, send them your calendar, and let them do the rest.

3. "I Resolve to Create (or Tweak) My Buyer Persona."


How accurate is the buyer persona you're using in your marketing strategy? Did you even have a buyer persona in 2019? This "imaginary customer" is central to your efforts to attract and persuade your target market. You build your buyer persona on all the data you can get your hands on about this target market -- from location, annual salary and other demographics to poll responses that reveal your customers' challenges, needs and preferences.

Even if you created a detailed buyer persona in years past, that buyer persona may not be paying off for you now as well as it once did. Maybe it's time to update your numbers, adjust your demographics, and feed some fresh customer input into your creation.

4. "I Resolve to Focus on Marketing Strategies Instead of Just Tactics."


Some business owners will look back at their lack of marketing success in 2019 and protest, "But we made so many [fill in the blank: brochures, blog posts, website updates, YouTube videos, brochures, direct mail pieces....]." The thing is, working hard isn't always the same thing as working smart. If you were throwing out marketing pieces and content updates here and there, without any attempt to pull them into the Big Picture, then you're guilty of relying on tactics instead of strategies. You need both, of course. A marketing strategy without tactics won't do anything for you; neither will individual marketing tactics that don't support an overall strategy. Resolve to fix this disconnect in 2020.

Whatever New Year's marketing resolutions you decide to make, don't just make them -- stick to them. Best wishes for a prosperous year!