Monday, April 23, 2018

Consistent Marketing Keeps Them Coming Back for More

One February day I went out to the mailbox as usual. I didn't see any mail, but I figured that I might've hit it too early, so a couple hours later I went out and check it again. Still nothing. That's not unheard of, naturally, but I couldn't help thinking, "Maybe he's just running slow today. I'll try once more time later on." So about 5pm I checked one more time. Well, I guess I just wasn't fated to receive any mail today....

Then it hit me: nobody got any mail that day. It was Presidents' Day.

The funny thing, I'd known it was Presidents' Day, and I'd known that mail didn't go out on federal holidays. What's more, I'll bet the other dozen or so people who were out there checking their mail along with me also knew it was a no-mail day. 

So what were we doing out there? Obeying habit. We robotically went to the mailbox because we had been programmed to do that. Most of us have even learned to count on the postman showing up around the same time of day every day. We've been trained to respond through the sheer consistency of the post office, and it trips us up completely when something breaks that routine.

That's why you want the same kind of consistency in your marketing schedule. Whether you're blogging, publishing a newsletter, pumping out podcasts, mailing out print pieces, or working any other channels in your overall marketing strategies -- you must repeat that process regularly and consistently if you want to (1) get noticed, (2) develop interest, and (3) train your target market to look forward to more. Nobody sends out a single flyer or direct mail postcard and expects the phone to start ringing; it takes multiple touches, often with the exact same piece, to get any kind of response. Your client may throw the first few postcards in the trash, but as long as you get that eventual "Okay, let's see what these people are so wound up about" response, then you've succeeded.

These schedules aren't so hard to work out. (How often does a monthly newsletter or weekly blog post appear?) It's simply a matter of scheduling the content preparation and distribution. However often you decide to blog, keep up that routine, rain or shine, and before long you'll see that spike of anticipation in your web traffic -- loyal readers trained to come back for the next round of insight, special offer, or whatever other goodie you've got for them. 

Yes, consistency requires commitment and responsibility. But if you're pressed for time or you don't have the necessary personnel on staff, you can always outsource the content creation or other necessary grunt work. Don't let your audience start wandering away in disinterest -- keep them coming back for more!

Monday, April 9, 2018

4 Key Questions When Choosing a Freelance Copywriter

So you've finally decided that it's time to engage a freelance copywriter for your business's marketing efforts. Maybe you're tired of going it alone, trying to hack out your own content word by exhausting word, instead of spending your valuable time actually running your enterprise. Maybe your marketing team feels overwhelmed and needs assistance. Maybe you're just looking for a fresh perspective. In any case, you may find yourself wondering where to start, what to look for, and how to tell you're getting the right writer for your needs. Here are four key questions you'll want to ask every candidate on your list before you actually schedule that first assignment.

1. "What are your rates and terms?"

You might as well get this question out of the way ASAP, for both of your sakes. You need to know how you're going to plug this professional into your budget, and the writer needs to know whether this job will be worth the bother. It's helpful if the writer offers fixed per-project rates; if not, find out how you can secure a reliable estimate based on hourly rates. You also need to know whether the entire amount if due up front, whether you need to put up a deposit, or whether you're simply billed after the fact. Don't immediately reject a writer who insists on full payment in advance, though -- you may be allowed to break a large job into multiple pre-paid batches or phases.

2. "What kind of writing do you specialize in?"

Different writers typically specialize in different things, especially in larger metropolitan areas where there are lots of writers staking out their respective slices of the market. It's not unusual for a writer to focus on one type of writing project, one narrow range of industries, or one particular form of writing. For instance, I'm a generalist in terms of industry -- I can write for pretty much anybody -- but I focus on "short-form" marketing content such as website pages, blog articles, brochure content and so on. Don't feel limited if your writer says, "I only do such-and-so type for writing." The beauty of hiring freelancers is that you can keep several of them on hand, attaching the appropriate writer to the appropriate project as needed, without any impact on your full-time payroll.

3. "How well established are you?"

This is an important question because it can help predict the experience you're going to have with your writer. While rookies can and do create brilliant work, they haven't reached the point where they can point to a performance track record. It's not a matter of having written for every big name in the business world; it's an assurance that your writer has coped with a wide range of situations, worked with a variety of clients, and has developed a certain amount of professional wisdom that could prove invaluable to you for years to come. In other words, buy writing expertise, not just writing. Don't forget to ask about professional references, associations and/or certifications that can help reinforce your writer's credibility.

4. "What are your turnaround times?"

The best freelance copywriters aren't just the most skilled writers -- they're also the most professional ones. Make sure your copywriter can guarantee a specific turnaround window for each job, and don't put up with a freelancer who is all "free" and no "lance." At the same time, however, make sure your expectations are realistic ones. The busiest writers may not be able to squeeze in that rush job; some of us don't have time to accept rush jobs at all. Understand in advance what your writer can and can't realistically do for you, and you'll know you should realistically ask of your writer. The result will be high-quality work, turned in on time, every time.

Try these four questions on for size the next time you're interviewing freelance copywriters. You'll find that most of us will be happy to answer them!