Tuesday, August 4, 2020

How to Make Your Marketing Quite Interesting

If you're any kind of Anglophile, you've probably seen or heard of a popular BBC quiz show called QI, which is short for "Quite Interesting." The moderator (formerly Stephen Fry, currently Sandi Toksvig) poses questions loosely related to a topic of the week, and a four-person panel tries to come up with answers that win points. The panelist with the highest score at the end of the show wins. All very simple and straightforward, right?

Well, not quite. One of the most, ahem, interesting things about this freewheeling quiz panel show is its eccentric, almost arbitrary scoring system. As you might expect, panelists win points for providing a correct answer to a given question -- but they get even more points for an interesting answer. (If your answer is both correct and interesting, you can really clean up.) They get points taken away for an answer that's not only wrong but actually dull and predictable in its wrongness. Why? Because amusing, captivating responses are generally more entertaining than mere facts. 

Many businesses fail to take this "sparkle factor" into account when promoting their products or services to their target audience. In my own experience as a marketing content writer, I've noticed that businesses in more the more technical industry verticals are especially vulnerable to falling into this trap. They feel an obligation to present the most accurate, precise, detailed data possible as a means of demonstrating exactly why they're better than their competitors. 

Unfortunately, clubbing your buyers over the head with facts doesn't necessarily have anything to do with sparking their interest. Fact sheets tend to make poor marketing documents because successful marketing touches its audience on an emotional level. Outrage, delight, confidence, anxiety, relief -- these and other feelings move people to take action in a way that sheer logic cannot. The targeting of emotion doesn't just spur action; it also enhances memory. Research indicates that people find it easier to remember things that trigger emotional responses.

Successful marketing also means find an unusual hook or arresting entry into the material it presents. I'm not suggesting that you attend sales meetings wearing a rubber nose or program your website to run circus music and cartoons every time someone goes to it. But whatever information you present in your marketing content needs to grab the reader or viewer on some emotional level or other, and presenting it from a clever or unusual angle is one way to accomplish that. 

Amuse, astonish or jolt your audience, and you've got your foot in the door. Once your audience is engaged, you can begin throwing those serious facts out there with some certainty that they'll get a friendly welcome. It's still important to be accurate -- but in the world of marketing, it's even more critical to be interesting.

Now go out there and score some points with your audience. If you need some help, you know who to call!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Launching a New Business? Start by Taking These Marketing Steps

Many entrepreneurial individuals are taking the current wave of layoffs and furloughs as their cue to finally pull the trigger on starting their own businesses. Having made the leap myself back in the day, I understand how intimidating and confusing it can seem. Fortunately, you'll find plenty of sound advice from your fellow entrepreneurs, your local Small Business Association branch, chambers of commerce, and of course the wealth of websites and available books that tackle the subject.

While you're filling your brain with all that information, you need to start putting your marketing game plan together as well. Here are some key steps you'll want to take sooner rather than later.

Examine the Marketplace


Who needs what you do, and what form does that need most commonly take? When you answer this question in detail, you gain a clear picture of your target market. If your business will serve a local marketplace, you need to find out everything you can about the particular quirks of consumers of business clients in this particular neck of the woods. If you're going for a national market, you need to narrow down your ideal purchasers as sharply as possible, from their individual demographics to their preferred social media platforms. This collected data gives you an imaginary buyer persona to whom you can sell.

Study the Competition


Who are your direct competitors, and what are they doing to market themselves to your target audience? Do your homework on these businesses by visiting their websites, viewing their social media activity, and digging up whatever press releases or ads they've been putting out to promote themselves. Of course you can't just copy them, since there's no point in looking and sounding just like everyone else. But ask yourself why your competitors made the choices that they made, how well those choices will likely work, and whether you see any key areas where their marketing falls down or their offerings don't completely meet specific needs -- needs that you can fulfill more completely.

Prepare Your Value, Vision, and Mission Statements


What does your company stand for, what does it value, and what is its mission in the marketplace? The answers to these questions will clarify your marketing vision for both you and your customers. For instance, your company values may include honesty, integrity, cultural diversity and/or customer service. Your mission might be to help your customers manage their money, protect their property, or enjoy a higher quality of life. Your vision might be to serve your local area as the premiere provider of your industry's products or services. Once you've crafted these statements to suit your business, you can then make sure the messages permeate your marketing content.

Invest in Talent


Start looking around right now for the key marketing talents your fledgling business will need to make itself known. If (like so many small startups) you have limited resources, you might cherry-pick individual freelance copywriters, graphic designers, branding consultants, SEO experts, and other professionals. If you want a ready-made team, check out small "boutique" marketing firms that serve cost-conscious entrepreneurs as well as larger companies. Make sure to head whatever team you select with a marketing coordinator who can bring all the pieces of the puzzle together effectively.

Develop Your Brand


Now that you're on top of your market, your competition, your vision, and your marketing team, you can build a cohesive, memorable brand. Think of your brand as your company's voice or personality, the "best version of you" that you present to the world. A comprehensive branding strategy will include a vivid, evocative logo, a color scheme that conveys the exact tone and mood you want to express, and other visual elements that provide a consistent picture of your company throughout all your marketing channels. It also includes strategic use of written content that melds tone, style, and information into a clear, distinctive voice.

Starting a new business, and then marketing that business, takes a lot of thought, work, and planning. If you could use some help putting your written marketing content together, contact me and let's talk about it!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Are You Using the Wrong Freelance Copywriter? Here's How You Can Tell

"Freelancers are flakes." How many times have you heard that warning from colleagues who got burned by a project that ended up costing twice the anticipated amount, took a year instead of a week to complete or just ground to a halt mid-job? 

People sometimes cut freelancers a weird amount of slack that they wouldn't give their own employees, especially the ones who perform creative work: "Oh, those right-brain eccentric artists, they march to a different drum and we're just lucky they come down to Earth once in a while to help us regular folks." But freelancers aren't flakes, or at least they don't have to be. The successful ones take their freelancing seriously and run it as a business instead of a lark. They tend to stand out, if only by outlasting the dilettantes. Unfortunately, the serious ones still suffer from the flakiness of the less-serious ones who give the profession an apparent case of terminal dandruff. 

Watch out for these red flags when dealing with a freelance copywriter:

The unknown price tag. Beware the freelancer who refuses to give you a firm quote for a job before starting work. For many of us who charge flat per-project rates for most of our jobs, this issue never comes up. But even if your freelancer bills by the hour, you should still insist on a realistic estimate of what you'll pay, even if that estimate falls into a range. a freelancer who has no clue what a job will cost probably has no clue how to go about it efficiently either.

Excuses, excuses. There's always a good reason not to get a project done on time, and some freelancers want to make sure you hear all of them. "Sorry this is a month late, but my dog came down with mange and my kid's having attitude problems and I had to get my tires rotated and the recent spell of bad weather has deprived me of Vitamin D and...." Some of these excuses may even be legitimate. But even if there's always a reason the work is always late or sub-par, the end result is still late or sub-par work.

"My way or the highway." Ideally, your freelance copywriter knows a great deal about how to achieve the results your business wants and needs -- possibly more than you do, in fact. It's great when you find an expert who can give you a fresh perspective on your marketing content. On the other hand, you don't want a know-it-all who insists on an approach that simply doesn't feel right to you. Ultimately the client is the boss, for better or for worse. If your freelancer doesn't understand that, go find another one who does.

So what should you look for in a freelancer? A portfolio of strong samples, a solid track record, recommendations from satisfied clients and clear ground rules. Always ask about the freelancer's billing and work processes, turnaround times and availability. If they're booked solid, they should tell you so. (Of course being booked solid counts as another a promising sign, and even if you may have to wait a bit, the freelancer should be able to tell you about the next available opening.) 

Get hard numbers and hard deadlines, and hold your writer to them. The good ones will make every possible effort to deliver as promised. As for the flakes -- well, you don't put up with dandruff, do you?

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

How to Keep Your Marketing Positive (Without Sounding Stupid)

If you're like many people who encounter a flood of marketing and advertising content on a daily basis these days, any phrase that begins with "In these uncertain times..." may prompt you to retire to a darkened room or throw a brick at your computer/TV/radio. Businesses are understandably struggling to capture the right tonal mix of sympathy, reassurance, realism, and optimism in their marketing messaging during the current pandemic. How do you keep your target market engaged, positive, and enthusiastic without sounding like Pollyanna or sounding totally ignorant about the current state of affairs?

This question doesn't just apply to the current scenario; it's something that comes up time and time again. From terrorist attacks and declarations of war to epidemics and financial collapses, businesses have to find a way to market their brand, products, or services successfully if they want to survive. So how might you present a clearly positive message that transcends the times without trivializing or denying them? Here are some tips that may help.

Adopt a Can-Do Attitude


People facing tough situations often experience a stressful lack of efficacy, the feeling that they can't fight back against whatever's threatening their well-being, especially during a global challenge such as a pandemic or a world war. But recall famous wartime images such as Rosie the Riveter. A strong, positive, can-do attitude can help your audience feel more empowered to seek answers, solutions, and workarounds instead of falling onto a state of confused helplessness.

Lead by Example


What steps can your organization take to send positive ripples out through your community? Can you sponsor food drives, health awareness webinars, job fairs, or other helpful activities? Can you produce blog articles, email blasts, videos, or other marketing content that offers clever, practical ideas and advice for combating various challenges? By taking action in this manner, you not only provide genuine assistance to those in need; you also show your brand taking strong, positive steps against negative circumstances. People respond to that kind of inspiration.

Pay Attention to Your Verbiage


Your choice of words, phrases, and writing mechanics can affect your marketing tone in subtle but meaningful ways. Want to grab people's attention with a no-nonsense attitude? Use short words and sentences. Want to sound more optimistic? Keep your sentence structures positive, avoiding words like "don't," "won't," can't" or "never." Avoiding opening with well-meaning but Debbie Downer phrases such as "In these uncertain times" or "Times are hard right now." Even if you quickly pivot from there to a more positive place, you've already cast a pall over your marketing content. Tip your hat to the times, yes, but couch the realism in a positive context. ("Do you want to have a fantastic, unforgettable evening without risking public contact?" etc.)

You can excite and inspire your audience in just about any situation as long as you find a clear-eyed but positive way to market what you do and what you're all about. Contact me if you'd like some professional help getting the (right) word out!






Tuesday, June 9, 2020

3 Reasons You Need More Than One Marketing Content Writer

You've always counted on your faithful go-to copywriter to provide your business with a steady supply of web content, blog articles, video scripts, press releases, sales letters, and print marketing content as needed. Whether that marketing content writer works as an independent contractor or occupies a place on your in-house payroll, you've got all your bases covered -- or have you?

In reality, most organizations can benefit greatly from reliable access to more than one copywriter. Let's look at three compelling reasons why.

1. Your Regular Copywriter Might Not Be the Best Fit


When a business owner tells me that he has a regular freelance or in-house copywriter, I always say, "You do? Great! How's that arrangement been working out for you so far?" You'd be surprised how many times the business owner confesses that not every writing assignment gets done on time or yields the desired results. I had a client who used me for various assignments but resisted asking me for blog articles on the grounds that "We get those for free from our web developer." After the client finally got tired of paying me to rewrite those woefully inadequate articles, he finally starting hiring me simply to draft good ones from scratch.

Even a copywriter who routinely produces high-quality work isn't always the best fit for every kind of job. Some writers naturally excel at short-form marketing content, for instance, while others really hit their stride with marketing plans or e-book manuscripts. When you know multiple copywriters, you can match them up with what they do best.

2. Your Regular Copywriter Might Get Swamped


Most copywriters know how to manage their time reasonably well and churn out decent content faster than the average bear. Even so, any worker (in any field) has a maximum workload, beyond which projects will inevitably get backed up. As your organization expands its client base, products/services list, and marketing reach, you'll work your current copywriter or copywriting team harder and harder. Sooner or later, something's got to give -- and when it does, your marketing suffers.

When you have some extra freelance copywriters in your Rolodex, you can always expand your writing bullpen whenever necessity requires it, such as the preparation of a major rebranding effort or new marketing initiative. You can then go back to your usual writing setup until the next big seasonal push or new campaign calls for a larger pool of creative talent.

3. Your Regular Copywriter Might Disappear


Like other employees, copywriters can come and go. Your staff copywriter might need to ask for maternity leave, take weeks or months off for a medical procedure or family emergency, or even quit altogether to pursue some other line of work. Freelance copywriters can also pull a powder from time to time for whatever reason. What do you do when you suddenly have nobody on hand to keep cranking the marketing content machine?

Even if you have a top-class writer who always comes through for you, it only makes good sense to know another writer, or several writers, who can bail you out when and if a sudden change shakes up your talent roster. A freelance copywriter can leap onto the scene and help you out until you find another in-house writer -- or indefinitely, for that matter.

Do you need to beef up your marketing resources and capabilities? Start up connecting with freelance copywriters like me!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

4 Ways a Freelance Copywriter Can Help You Land More Clients

When times are tough -- and even when they aren't -- every business wants and needs more clients/customers. Your client list might look satisfactory right now, but attrition can and does happen, so you've got to have a constant stream of new prospects that you can convert into buyers. If your client list doesn't look so satisfactory, you need to make some serious changes to turn that trend around, and sooner rather than later.

How do you get the word out more effectively? You beef up your marketing. How do you beef up your marketing without also beefing up your in-house payroll? You engage a freelance copywriter on an as-needed basis to provide you with all the content you need. Here are four ways a freelance copywriter can help you grow your client base.

1. More Persuasive Messaging


The most obvious benefit of hiring a professional freelance copywriter involves the persuasiveness of the marketing content you're putting out there. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Unfortunately, many businesses spin their wheels to produce lots of content with only a minimal return on that investment of time and energy. When you assign the work to a skilled, experienced freelance copywriter, you can rest assured that the writing you get back will make the points you want to make in the most compelling manner possible.

2. More Precise Audience Targeting


Some new business owners, when asked about their ideal clients and prospects, will reflexively answer, "I'll take anybody." In reality, however, you have one or more specific target markets, pockets of prospects with clearly identifiable personal demographics, locations, and industry segments. Marketing content that simply sprays a generalized message like water from an emergency sprinkler system may land a few drops on the right people while drenching plenty of the wrong ones. A freelance copywriter knows how to write content designed to appeal to specific buyer personas. This professional can employ the perfect combination of style, vocabulary, tone, and selling points to aim your message at the people who most want to hear it.

3. More Fuel for Your Marketing Channels


The never-ending demands of today's marketing world can make you feel like you're feeding a black hole. A seemingly endless array of social media channels beckons to you for attention and content. Even after you've narrowed down your social media strategy to focus on a few key channels, those channels need material on a regular basis. Your future clients live much of their digital lives here, constantly checking their favorite streams or coming to your channels because Google searches led them to you. The more actively you can populate these channels with relevant, interesting, persuasive content, the more new clients you can add to your list. A freelance copywriter can take on much of this burden for you.

4. More Room for an Expanded Client List


How much time and work would you say goes into marketing content creation? If you've ever sweated bullets to produce a blog article, you know that writing consumes both brainpower and billable hours. Yes, you can land clients from these efforts -- but once you have them, you've got to meet their needs if you actually want to hold onto them. When you delegate the heavy lifting of content creation to a freelance copywriter, you free up time that you and your team can use to cultivate more clients, close new deals, and search for new opportunities.

Don't let your client list lie stagnant or wither away. Find out for yourself how a professional freelance marketing copywriter can help you grow!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Need Creative Input? Brainstorm with a Copywriter


I received a call not long ago from one of my regular collaborative partners, a firm that specializes in marketing strategies and campaigns for small businesses. The owner of the company was trying to come up with some fresh branding for one of her clients, but the combination of COVID-related distractions and an overly-busy schedule had left her feeling the need for a boost in the creativity department. Could I please give her a call to brainstorm slogans and angles with her for an hour or so? Well, sure I could.

Marketing agencies recognize the critical value of teamwork, even when they don't maintain a full team on the payroll at all times. Today's trend toward more nimble business models has encouraged agencies to subcontract content writing, graphic design, SEO, and other important pieces of a marketing project. Perhaps even more critically, it gives them as-needed access to a variety of specialists, with all the accumulated experience, skill, wisdom, and insight that those professionals possess.

Think of brainstorming as just one more service that a skilled marketing specialist can bring to your creative table. As early in the process as it may be, the brainstorming stage can produce some extraordinary forward leaps. Whether you need help with a current marketing campaign or a long-term approach to client promotion, you may find that hiring a writer to provide this early-stage input removes a lot of obstacles between you and your goals.

If you're business owner and you don't have your own marketing firm or department with whom you can knock ideas around, then you might find a creative consultation immensely helpful for your own campaigns and projects. I'm not a full-blown marketing strategist -- but as you see from the example above, even marketing strategists can use a second set of frontal lobes on occasion. Brainstorming with someone who employs a high degree of creativity for a living can help you dislodge old ideas, free yourself from inertia, and help you confirm that you're on the right path.

I've posted before about how business owners can sometimes lose perspective on their own products and services. If you find yourself in that situation, it's time to call in a third party -- preferably one who can look at your marketing with both objectivity and a certain level of professional insight. You'd be amazed at how well a simple comment such as, "Oh, so this what you're really trying to say" can suddenly bring your branding and messaging into sharp focus. Clear concepts permit clear planning and effective implementation.

Maybe what you need from your copywriter doesn't fall neatly into a category. Maybe you could really use a set of tag lines, or ten different metaphors for the same idea, or a fabulous punch line. Maybe you don't know what you need -- you just know that you need something

Contact an experienced freelance copywriter and borrow his brain. He'll be happy to rent it to you for a reasonable rate. Just give it back to him when you're done.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

3 Strategy Questions to Ask Your Freelance Copywriter

As an experienced freelance copywriter, I've handled countless questions from clients and prospective clients regarding what their marketing content should do and how it should do it. Some of these questions were best referred to other kinds of marketing specialists, while others had a direct impact on what kind of writing I deliver.

My job is more about implementing strategies than concocting them, but the most successful marketing writing always employs smart strategies aimed at achieving specific results. Here are three important strategy questions you should consider asking your copywriter (me, hopefully) whenever you're requesting marketing content.

1. "Who Else Will I Need on This Project?"

Some copywriters claim to do a little bit of everything, while others focus on what they know they can do especially well. I fall into the latter category. That's why, when a client starts asking me high-level strategy questions such as "What's my brand?" or "What marketing channels should I make use of?", I always point them toward the necessary marketing strategists, web developers, graphic designers, and social media specialists who can help them put those pieces of the puzzle of the puzzle together. After years of networking and project collaboration, I can help you connect with a skilled team of marketing pros and then interact with them to create the most effective marketing machine possible.

2. "Which Web Pages Should Hold What Content?"

Here's another question I would want to address in collaboration with a professional web designer, but it's definitely right down my alley. Once I have some idea about the proposed sitemap, layout, and user experience, I can point out where we'll need me to compose specific pain statements, benefit statements, product/service statements, and background information. This content needs to work hand-in-hand with the website's overall SEO and sales funnel strategies, so a certain amount of adjustment and compromise between the writer and the website provider is part of the process. Some pages may not require much in the way of written content at all, while others may be completely driven by the written message.

3. "What Tone Should I Employ?"

Once your marketing strategist has helped you flesh out your buyer persona, you'll find it much easier to figure out exactly who you want to receive and respond to your marketing message. At that point, we need to think about how tone and style will affect the written content. Do you need to reassure worried seniors, motivate entrepreneurs in a particular industry, or create something fun and engaging for kids? Are you primarily addressing residential consumers or business clients? What level of language best sells your product/service, professional qualifications, or vision and values? An experienced copywriter knows how to use many different voices to address many different audiences.

Now that you know what to ask your copywriter, all that remains is the asking. Contact me so we can discuss your marketing project in detail!



Monday, April 13, 2020

Marketing Technologies May Change, but the Message Remains the Same

I feel betrayed. Here we are in 2020, and I still don't have my flying car.

Years of Jetsons reruns somehow gave me an overblown expectation of what "future" transportation might offer. But even as I write this, self-driving cars continue to undergo thousands of miles of controlled driving tests, with computer brains that can learn how to cope with countless real-life traffic predicaments. Driverless cars have been a staple of science fiction stories for decades, so there's one example of a prediction that may actually come true when/if all the bugs are worked out.

Even when the futurists get it right, they may have wait a long time for their dreams to come true. For instance, you might understandably assume that some genius recently dreamed up the whole remote home automation thing. But just the other day I saw a clip from a Bell Laboratories promotional film about technologies for operating your oven or air conditioner via telephone. The date of the film? 1962.

Think about how today's technology has altered the marketing landscape in ways few businesses might have predicted. 20 years ago, YouTube and Twitter didn't exist. When Facebook first launched, it was just a way for Harvard students to interact online. Go back to the late 1990s, and you'd be hard pressed to find any blogs online, or anyone who knew what the word meant. Dial it back a few more years, and you've arrived at a world without a Word Wide Web. How did companies market themselves without these channels? The same way they always have, and always will -- by creating and distributing compelling content.

I sometimes wonder what kinds of writing services I'll be offering a few years from now. Will I still be writing blog articles and web page content for businesses, or will new developments make these strategies obsolete? Will I be writing content that gets beamed directly into people's brains? Will I be creating billboards that appear magically in the sky to anyone wearing the appropriate technology? Will I be putting scripted words into the mouths of holographic spokespeople who approach potential customers in the street? I can't possibly say -- and frankly, it doesn't matter.

There will always be a great new marketing method on the horizon, but we can't plan our marketing approaches around something that doesn't exist yet. All we can do is make intelligent use of the tools we have right now. Many business owners say, "We need to be on Facebook," or "We need to be on Twitter," but being is not doing. What matters is the message you deliver, not the delivery method.

Yes, you need to get your message out there via the tools your target audience relies on every day. But even as those tools change and evolve, the objective remains the same -- to motivate your audience to buy. That's why I'll always have work as marketing content writer, no matter what the future of marketing holds.

Let's face it -- even the flying car dealers of the future will need to get the word out!

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!