Tuesday, May 31, 2016

3 Steps Toward More Memorable Marketing Content

As of this writing, another Memorial Day weekend has come and gone. Before we know it, we'll be celebrating Independence Day, followed not too long after that by Labor Day. Then of course there's Earth Day, Arbor Day, Martin Luther King Day, Presidents' Day, and a whole calendar's worth of other days we deem important enough to mark their arrival. While Memorial Day is specifically a day of remembrance, each of these days is memorable in its own way and for its own reasons. With that in mind, it's as good a time as any to examine whether your organization's marketing is engraving itself on the minds and in the memory banks of your target audience -- and if not, why not. If you're struggling to make your message as memorable as possible, here are three tips that can help.

1. Express Your Uniqueness

Everybody is unique; so is every business owner, and by extension every business. The particular set of qualities you bring to the table make up your unique value proposition. You have something that sets you apart from your competitors, whether you recognize it or not, and that something needs to be identified and emphasized in your marketing content. I once did an intake interview with a maker of commercial air conditioning products in which the owner insisted that nothing they had or did differentiated them from others in the industry -- until he let it slip that 30 years ago his company actually invented the product that everyone else in his industry was now selling. Was that something worth mentioning in their marketing materials? You bet it was. And you bet we did.

2. Tell a Story

How did your organization get where it is today? What obstacles did you overcome, and what handful of fateful moments changed your destiny in critical ways? What awards and other recognitions have you attained? Whose lives have you changed for the better, and how did you do it? All of these questions have one thing in common: they're stories waiting to be told. People love a good story well told -- so tell your stories as well as you can. Give them a beginning, middle and, peppering them with suspense, drama, emotion and energy. While you're at it, don't forget to let your clientele tell their stories as well, in the form of authentic, compelling testimonials.

3. Drive It Home

Even after you've established your unique "hook" and captured your audience's imagination with a strong, interesting narrative, there's still one more step you need to take to ensure the memorability of your message -- demonstrating its relevance to the reader. "Okay, you've proved to me that you have something special over your competitors and that you've done some amazing things, but how does that impact me?" Remind your audience members that this message applies directly to their own needs, fears, hopes and desires. Explain your uniqueness in the context of your superior ability to help them. Tell the story of your achievements in terms of what you can achieve for them as well. Drive that message home, and your target market will remember your words.

A memorable brand starts with memorable marketing content. So let's talk about these and other techniques for carving out your on special place on your clients' calendars!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

On With the Show: Content Marketing for Events

If your organization is hosting or co-hosting a big event such as a conference, trade show, networking event or fundraising gala, you may be biting your nails over whether you're going to get the hoped-for turnout. Even if you do enjoy a full house, how can you capitalize on that healthy attendance by keeping those attendees focused on what's going on -- and then keeping them interested in your ongoing endeavors long after the show's over? That's where appropriate, targeted, varied marketing content can come to your rescue. Let's look at some of the different strategies you can employ during the entire "life cycle" of your event.

Before the Event

Online invitation and notification platforms such as EventBrite and Constant Contact make it easier than ever to blast your event invitations to your target crowd, ascertain the responses and get a semi-reliable head count for the event. But as visually attractive and easy to use as these platforms are, you still have to sell the event itself. Take the time to craft a compelling message that you know will grab the attention and boost the pulse of your invitee. You may even want to create a small website or blog entirely devoted to event information and updates.

Don't forget the power of print while you're getting the word out online. Print marketing may be less cost effective than email marketing, but some people who never check their email will always take delight in receiving a colorful invitation letter or postcard -- just as others who routinely toss all junk mail will never neglect an email from a trusted organization that relates to their interests. A two-fisted digital-plus-analog approach will ensure that you get everybody's attention.

During the Event

Some events are relatively streamlined, uncomplicated affairs, while others are massive undertakings that break out across multiple sessions, rooms or even buildings. The sheer glut of possibilities in these larger events can seriously overwhelm or confuse guests to the point that they don't where they're supposed to be, when they're supposed to be there or what they're supposed to be paying focused on. Here's where a combination of strategically-placed marketing content, helpful banners and handheld materials such as programs or catalogs can come in handy.

Most people these days are inseparable from their mobile devices, and your attendees will likely be no exception. That's why you want to keep blogging, tweeting and using whatever other social media your organization uses throughout the event, encouraging guests to join in the online conversation. You can even make use of real-time polling programs as an interactive feature of your panels and presentations as one more means of promoting audience engagement.

After the Event

Your event may be over, but your marketing journey with the attendees has (hopefully) just begun. As guests leave, present them with goodie bags containing your organization's promotional trinkets, discount offers, brochures and other marketing materials -- including an invitation to your next big event.

After your attendees have returned to their respective homes and/or offices, it's time to follow up. Checking in on them can be as innocent as sending a thoughtful thank-you note, postcard or email. You're also perfectly justified in sending out comment cards asking for the attendees' opinions on how you can make your next event even better. From there, you can start emailing them special offers, new updates and helpful little articles from time to time -- just make sure you include an opt-out link.

From initial invitations to post-event communications, the right marketing content can lead to a better experience for your attendees and more worthwhile results for your organization. Mix your methods, provide the right content for the each phase of the event and stay in touch with your target market -- and you'll have something to show for the big show you're putting on!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Copywriting 1-2-3: Which Person Best Sells Your Marketing Content?

"Which person should I be? Am I 'I' or 'we?' Or should we be 'they?' And are my clients 'you' or 'them?'"

No, this isn't a transcript from a nuthouse. I have this kind of conversation with clients all the time. It's actually a very sensible and important conversation, too, because we're discussing what kind of "person" works best for which situations.

By "person," I mean grammatical person, in the sense of first-person, second-person, or third-person pronouns. We use these pronouns a zillion times a day in everyday writing and speech, usually without giving them a second thought, and yet these simple little words contain tremendous power. 

Pronouns shift perception. You can make me, your reader, see you as an individual, as a team, or as a large, impersonal corporation by merely swapping out a word. You can address me directly or have me see things through your eyes. Powerful gadgets, pronouns. But with great power comes great responsibility, and all pronouns are not created equal depending on the task you want them to perform in your marketing content. That's when I get into mind-bending conversations with my clients about "we," "I," and "they." So which person makes the strongest impact? It depends:

First person singular: First person allows you to present yourself as an individual. If you're a sole proprietor serving as a trusted advisor for your clients, talking them directly as "I" can build trust and open an imaginary (and later, hopefully, real) dialogue between you and your reader. Many small businesses live or die by their owner's image and personality, using "I" as a powerful tool for getting that image across.

First person plural: A.k.a. the "Royal We." If you're speaking for a team, "we" presents a collective image of that team. Companies of any size can use "we" to give the impression of a unified group effort dedicated to fulfilling the customer's needs. Even sole proprietors sometimes describe themselves as "we" or "us" to puff themselves up a bit, because in some professions being the only guy at the helm makes you look non-competitive or unsuccessful. Small businesses may shift between "I" and "we" to speak as the boss occasionally while still giving the impression of teamwork.

Second person: "You." Talking from the reader's perspective shows that you understand their feelings and needs -- and remember, from their point of view it's all about them anyway. "You" enables the reader to  imagine about how the product or service impacts their quality of life. "You can have it all! Change your life today!" Et cetera.

Third person: In some cases a larger company, or a small company that wants to appear large, can opt for more formality by referring to the company employees as "they," with formal bio blurbs describing individuals in terms of "he" or "she." This works well for items such as a bio or mission statement in a fancy-pants panel program or formal business plan. It can also make for a person in a relatively sober-minded profession such as medicine or law. But I've warned clients against it on occasion, because it also puts up a kind of wall between writer and reader instead of creating the comforting bond some businesses need to establish.

So, which person does the job for you? They all can, depending on the emotional impression you want to make on your reader. Once you've know what impression you want to make, you can attach the right person to the right job.