Tuesday, December 22, 2020

How to Take a Holiday Break Without Breaking Your Marketing Machine

I feel confident saying that just about everyone is ready to put 2020 to bed. This holiday season offers a welcome chance to disconnect (as much as possible) from accumulated stresses as you rest, recharge, and get ready for a productive 2021. But even if you're on vacation, you don't have to let your marketing efforts go on hiatus as well. If you want to keep your target audience aware of you -- and perhaps even buying from you -- all the way through the end of the year, consider adopting the following smart strategies to keep the ball rolling, not only this holiday season but whenever you decide to get away from it all.

Stockpile That Social Media Content

Internet traffic stops for no one at any time of year. Your target market will continue to communicate, search, and shop online, especially in the face of ongoing pandemic precautions and restrictions. You'll want to keep up your regular schedule of social media posts, from blog articles and Tweets to YouTube videos and Facebook updates. 

If you have a vacation coming up, make sure you've created a stockpile of extra social media content that you can keep feeding into your marketing machine. If necessary, hire a freelance copywriter, video production company, or other marketing professional to generate this surplus of material. You can stick to evergreen topics that will work for any time of year, or you can pre-plan specific items to accommodate holidays or other calendar milestones.

Automate as Much as You Can

All that ready-made marketing content won't do you much good if you fail to put it out there on schedule -- another necessary task that can impose on your rest and relaxation. The good news is that technology makes it easy to automate your marketing content distribution. For instance, most online blogging platforms allow you to pre-schedule your posts for any future dates you prefer. Twitter automation tools can provide a wide range of scheduling, sharing, social listening, bookmarking, and other helpful options to take work out of your hands.

Automation can also mean placing your marketing content in the hands of providers for distribution on a pre-arranged schedule. As long as your Web developer, social media strategist, copywriters, graphic designers, and other marketing professionals are working from a detailed editorial calendar, you should be able to count on those digital and print marketing pieces going out according to plan. Just make sure that all your providers are on the same page, with any tweaks to the editorial calendar shared by all concerned.

Outsource, Outsource, Outsource

All this discussion of third-party marketing providers points toward one other huge vacation saver for business owners and small marketing departments: outsourcing. The more marketing content creation and execution you can delegate to outsourced professionals, the less of it you have to bother with yourself. This lightened marketing workload makes holidays and other breaks much easier to accommodate.

Do you feel odd handing over the keys to the car, so to speak, to outsiders? If you've chosen skilled, trustworthy marketing experts, you may find that the quality of marketing improves dramatically even while you're sitting back and enjoying a break from that activity. You always have the option of contributing as much (or as little) as you like to the proceedings if you just can't resist getting involved.

Try these strategies on for size. You may find that they enhance your holiday enjoyment as well as the quality and effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. Have fun!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Why "What Are We Going to Do Now?" Isn't a Marketing Strategy

I've always been a big fan of the late great Spike Milligan. In addition to his pioneering comedic lunacy on "The Goon Show," Milligan also stretched the boundaries of TV's sanity on his "Q" series. Many of his comedy sketches on that show didn't even bother with an ending -- an offstage director would simply announce that the sketch was over. The cast would then march toward the camera, chanting: "What are we going to do now? What are we going to do now? What are we going to do now?..."

We're used to reacting to situations as they come up, which is all well and good as an important survival trait. But many businesses are less skilled at manipulating the circumstances that create (or prevent) those situations. In other words, they fail to plan. I've written my share of articles for the facility management industry, and the big push there is always for proactive management instead of reactive management. You can fix it every time it breaks down, or you can maintain it so it breaks down less frequently. Which sounds like a smarter way of working -- or marketing, for that matter?

Marketing without a plan is like saving money without a budget or driving a car to an unknown destination. You feel like you're doing something, and maybe you even see progress to support that feeling. But you don't really know what you're doing, how long you should keep doing it, or when you should stop doing it. In the marketing world, this results in lots of time, effort and money going down the chute with little or no idea of what the return will be or even should be. You may as well burn a goat on an altar or consult bird entrails.

I can usually tell when a business lacks a firm marketing plan, because that's when the owner starts asking me basic strategy questions: "Who do you think we should be aiming this web content at?" or "What tone do you think this content should adopt?" or "What kinds of print marketing should we try?" This tells me that the company hasn't done sufficient research into who they want to sell to, where those people are, and what those people like. This requires analyzing all the big data you can get your hands on to see how customers have discovered your business in the past, whether or not they bought something, and why they bought that thing. Until you have that data, you can't create a long-term marketing plan with any hope of delivering a predictable ROI.

Another thing I hear all the time is, "Well, we figured it was time to talk to a copywriter because we're thinking about maybe giving [blogging, a new website, an email campaign, a sales letter] a try." Well, these folks thought wrong. Why are you thinking about giving it a try? What solid indicators do you have that your target audience will respond to it? What other tactics have you tried in the past, and what results did you get? And how do those results factor into this latest notion?You would never think of just giving a new financial plan a whirl, just to see what happens. Since your marketing plan is a big part of your business plan, you shouldn't just spin the big wheel with it either.

My advice? Before you even talk to a professional copywriter, work out a detailed marketing plan with your core team. If you don't have a marketing team in place, then align yourself with an experienced turnkey marketing firm that can provide you with the data analysis, strategic planning, and reliable implementation you need for optimal success. Since I write for these kinds of companies all the time, who knows -- we might end up chatting after all!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Want to Optimize Your Marketing Copy? Keep It Short and Sweet

I once had a client for whom I'd written a 300-word mini-article ask me, "On second thought, a 600-word article would fit my template better. Can we just pad this piece out to 600 words?"
I also recall my response: "Can we? Yes. Should we? Not necessarily."

If brevity is indeed the soul of wit, then you want your marketing content to be the life of the party -- not the guy reeling off some rambling epic tale with apparent beginning or ending as he blocks your way to the bathroom. Effective, powerful, entertaining writing makes its point and then gets out of the way, instead of monopolizing the reader's time and patience.

Brevity doesn't necessarily entail squishing everything you write down into soundbites, though the runaway success of Twitter has proven that 140 characters can go a long way. But it does mean adopting a "less is more" approach and viewing your writing with a surgeon's eye. Here are some advantages to concise writing:

It's easier on the eye. The eye gets fatigued as it pores over massive blocks of text, and the more text the page contains, the less of it actually seems to matter. Clear, concise writing is easier for the eye and brain to handle, giving you better odds that your reader will actually want to keep reading.

It packs more of a punch. I find that my writing always turns out better when I've overwritten and have to reduce the word count. This kind of forced edit requires me to condense and purify my work, cutting out digressions and extra phrases until the writing becomes airtight. What's left is all muscle -- a lean, mean content machine.

It's more versatile. A 500-word article will prove easier than a thousand-worder to integrate into a variety of situations, formats and templates. A few short paragraphs of website content leave you more room for other page elements than an elephantine chunk of writing that has to hog center stage.

Is there still room for longer-form copy? Absolutely. In fact, your web developer or SEO specialist may advise you to go a thousand words or longer on certain anchor posts, web pages, or other mainstays of your marketing content. But if you're going to write those thousand words, make sure the piece you're writing needs every one of those words to convey its ideas and emotions with maximum impact. In other words, let the length fit the depth and vice-versa.

If your written content feels flabby, fails to hold the attention or just makes your eyes hurt, take out your red editing pen (or hire mine) and start cutting away the fat. You may love what you find underneath!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

4 Benefits of Partnership Marketing

Do you sometimes feel as if it's your brand against the world? Marketing your products and services can seem forbidding when you're trying to shine in a galaxy of businesses, whether they compete with you directly or not. If you're tired of going it alone, why not hitch your star to a partner organization?

Partnership marketing is nothing new; you see it all around you in the form of affiliations, co-sponsorships, charitable efforts, and cross-marketed promotions. but have you ever really thought about how this approach might benefit your business? Here are four advantages that may merit your consideration.

1. Visibility Benefits

Two brands working together will naturally make a bigger footprint on the public consciousness than either of those brands working separately. When your visibility increases, so does your perceived success and importance as a brand. There's also the benefit of success by association. If another notable brand clearly thinks highly enough of you to want to cross-market themselves with you, then a bit of their own prestige rubs off on you (and presumably vice-versa).

2. Cross-Audience Benefits

Do see other companies out there whose target market overlaps with yours to some degree? If so, both of you can benefit from partnering up on certain marketing efforts. Sometimes these partnerships make obvious sense. For example, if you've ever noticed the sea of MacBooks at your nearest coffeehouse, you can easily see why Apple and Starbucks had every reason to hook up. But even when the association is relatively subtle, you can still use this strategy to trigger prospective buyers to think of you more frequently.

3. Reputation Benefits

Reputation doesn't just mean size or success -- it can also apply to values and virtues. By partnering with a good cause that naturally aligns with your company's established values or priorities, you can genuinely help individuals or groups in need while also helping your own brand image. Unless you feel strongly about doing all your good deeds anonymously, this form of partnership marketing just makes good sense.

4. Product/Service Collaboration Benefits

You don't have to stop at simply cross-promoting your products or services with those of another business. Why not collaborate with that business to create a cross-branded product or service? This collaboration could range from licensing one part of the product or service to creating a white-label offering or even a full-blown project merger. Now you have something that you can sell with the power of two marketing departments working together.

Of course, you'll have to create new marketing content to support these efforts -- but heck, you can always hire a professional copywriter or other talent to help you with that. It's well worth it if it enables you to explore the full potential of partnership marketing!

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

This Halloween, Avoid These 4 Scary Marketing Gremlins

Halloween is coming, although 2020 has already given it a tough act to follow. In the spirit of this holiday, let's look at four ghoulish gremlins you want to exorcise from your marketing content and strategies.

The Cobwebbed Website

Countless horror stories and films place a spooky old abandoned house at the center of the proceedings. You've seen the characters shuffling up creaking stairs, pushing cobwebs out of the way with every step. (Who knew spiders could be so industrious?) The house presents a cold, dead, unwelcoming environment. Does your ancient website do the same? Many of the old-school sites built in the days before mobile shopping took over the world can seem as ugly, antiquated, and hard to navigate as any haunted house.

If you have an old static website, you need to get that relic brought up to code, so to speak. Invest in a new responsive design or dedicated mobile site that looks just as good (and works just as well) on small devices as it does on large monitors. At the same, pull up all that creaky old web content and refresh it with new, better-optimized verbiage.

The Ghosts of Content Past

Your website may not be the only part of your marketing array that suffers from a case of the cobwebs. If you haven't updated your LinkedIn bio, company brochure, sales letters, direct mail offers, or other marketing pieces in a while, those pieces could be haunted by the ghosts of long-dead, long-irrelevant features, benefits, and brand messaging. No matter how frequently you issue and reissue this marketing content, it will miss the mark because it represents the past, not the present.

Set a new goal to keep all your marketing tools consistently up to date. Make sure that they all complement each other with relevant, congruent information that supports what you are now, not what you were once upon a time. 

The Invisible Call to Action

Congratulations -- your marketing content has lured your prey into your parlor. As your prospective buyers absorb that print or digital marketing piece, their eyes inevitably reach the point where they're supposed to receive a command to do something: the call to action. But where is it? you've somehow managed to exclude it or make it unclear, leaving your audience adrift and releasing them from the spell you created.

Don't suffer the effects of an invisible call to action. Clothe it in clarity by placing it at the end of your spiel and issuing clear, simple, easily-obeyed instructions to your readers. 

The Blog of the Undead

Legends tell of an ancient blog -- a blog page that once thrived, only to hover lifelessly in an uncertain state today. Is it alive, or is it dead? It still exists on your website, but it hasn't seen any fresh blood (in the form of updates) for months or years. Does this lack of interest and information mean that its owner is equally moribund? Has your brand joined the ranks of the undead?

You know full well how to breathe life back into your blog and other forms of inbound content marketing. Create content. Write articles. Create videos. Post news updates. Do these things on a regular basis so that your clientele can see that your business still has a pulse. If you need help, hire a freelance copywriter or other qualified marketing professional.

Have a happy -- and profitable -- Halloween!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Who Is Your Website?

Whose chocolate-chip cookies would you rather try -- a knight in shining armor's, a brilliant scientist's, a chic supermodel's, a super-handy master carpenter's, or a kindly grandma's? 

All of these archetypes send out positive vibes, but setting aside the question of which person we'd rather have offering us chocolate-chip cookies, most of us would probably assume that among this cast of characters, granny makes the best baked goods. Granny's the one who makes the goodies. We trust Granny with that task. It's a stereotype, but we buy into it, for better or for worse. If we were shopping for the most seductive perfume, on the other hand, it's probably fair to say that even the kindliest grandma will lose ground to the chic supermodel.

What? But you just said we trust Grandma!

Yes, but that was for cookies. This is for sophistication and romance. It's a matter of applying the right persona to the right subject.

If you own a bakery, you might have the fabulous good fortune of a real-life smiling mother or grandmother type handing out lots of sweets to your customers (in exchange for lots of money). If you're a cosmetics store, you may have elegant salespeople gliding from section to section, at least, celebrity models' pictures gazing longingly over the perfume stand or lipstick aisle. But what if your "salesperson" is your website?

Just as your commercial spokesperson, sales rep, or brand icon represents a persona, so must your 24-hour, 365-day virtual storefront. So the question is, who is your website? What persona should it embody?

Think about it from the customer end. If you needed, say, a repair service, who would you choose? A happy-go-lucky guy with a bag of tools? A local pro with a 30-year track record and plenty of advice on how to maintain the stuff once he fixes it? A national corporation with a slick warranty and guaranteed delivery times?

Actually, any one of these three images might work, depending on the nature of the problem (Simple? Complex? Urgent?) and your own personal priorities (Speedy turnaround? Sheer skill? Friendliest folks?). So the ideal persona for your online brand reflects your target audience, which means it's always worthwhile to ask yourself -- if your website were a person selling your stuff to your ideal customer, what type of person would truly dazzle that customer? How would that character look? What would that character say, and in what tone of voice? WHO is your website?

Answer that question for yourself. Express it to your audience. And get ready to sell some cookies.

Monday, September 28, 2020

You, Only Better: Capturing the Right Voice in Your Written Marketing Content

"I want this marketing content to really communicate who I am and how I feel -- only in better words."

I get that all the time, and it's a very smart request. Many a crestfallen business owner has to come to grief trying to reconcile colloquial-sounding speech with written text. That's because written English simply doesn't work the same way spoken English does, which is also why some of the wittiest, most entertaining speakers I know couldn't write their way out the proverbial paper bag. Me, I'm the opposite. I'd much rather write than talk. I'm not the worst speaker in the world, but every time I stand in front of an audience and give a presentation I keep wishing I could just email it in. Writing is my comfort zone. I'm weird that way. Fortunately for my career as a copywriter, I'm not in the majority.

If we were to write the way we express ourselves in everyday speech, the resulting content would stink up the joint. Go ahead, give it a try and see what happens. Expect uncoordinated, stream-of-consciousness banter peppered with pauses, unfinished sentences, "Ums," "Uhs," and other literary gems. Trust me, you probably don't really want to sound like yourself in your writing. You just want to read like yourself.

What does that mean? It means that you have to use words and phrases that read as if you were speaking to us, when in fact the text is much more tightly organized, effectively worded, and compellingly presented than something that just flew out of your mouth on the spur of the moment. You have to conjure the illusion of your voice without actually replicating it. The result? The voice that resounds through the page or monitor evokes your personality, humor, concern, humanity et cetera, but through language that works on the page instead of the stage.

Consider, too, that your brand may have a distinct voice of its own, one that may or may not sound much like yours. Even if your own values, vision, and personality make up a large part of your branding, the brand itself may need to project a somewhat different image than the one you might present when speaking to an in-person audience. You may need to pull off a bit of a ventriloquist act by couching your message in the words and tone of that "character."

Not sure what form this aural illusion would take? Try reverse-engineering it by putting yourself in the place of your ideal buyer. Now picture that finished web page, article, sales letter, or brochure in your mind as clearly as you can. Imagine how you would like your words to read. Is the tone professional or homespun? Is the message concise? Does every word contribute to the cumulative impact of the whole? Ask yourself, "How would I say this if I were the world's greatest marketing writer?" That's you -- only better.

Of course, it's equally possible to err in the other direction. Many business owners focus on making their marketing content sound as slick, sophisticated, or technically savvy as possible because they think their audience expects it. Unfortunately, the final result may convey a great deal of information at the cost of a naturally persuasive tone. You have marketing content that's all content and no marketing.

What's the easiest way to manage this delicate tonal balancing act? Engage a professional marketing content writer who can understand both what you want to say and what your audience wants to hear. Then let that professional bridge the gap with writing that really gets your message across!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Running Low on Blogging Ideas? Turn to These 3 Tried-and-True Categories

It happens to every marketer sooner or later. You sit down to create your latest piece of social media content, only to realize that the well has run completely dry. One of the (many) issues that make small business owners dread blogging is the need to continuously feed the bottomless pit known as the Internet. Better not to start something you can't maintain, right? The thing is, you have to maintain that ongoing marketing push if you want your target audience (and Google) to notice you instead of your competitors.

Fortunately, ideas aren't as hard to find as you might think once you know where to look for them. Sometimes it's just a matter of focusing on a particular type of article. Working within the constraints of a particular form or category can focus your thoughts and allow relevant, compelling topics to jump out at you. Let's look at three examples.

1. Evergreen Anchor Posts

Anchor posts, also known as pillar posts, cover those critical major topics that your target audience is always looking for. These pieces feature overviews of, or introductions to, essential basic areas of what you do and how it relates to what your readers are searching for online. If you repair cars, for instance, you'll want to write several anchor posts about specific automotive components and symptoms, from troubleshooting danger signs to preventative maintenance tips. 

These articles are evergreen, meaning that they'll never lose their relevance to your audience. (You can always update certain details as needed in the future.) Pay attention to the hottest search queries related to your industry or profession, and write anchor posts that seem to answer those pressing questions and concerns.

2. New Developments

The one constant in life -- and in the business world -- is change. Your target market, brand image, products, services, or economic environment may all shift beneath your feet due to all kinds of circumstances. Some of these surprises may prove cause for celebration, while others may require reassurances and explanations. Either way, you can turn that breaking news into relevant blog content.

Has some headline news made an enormous impact on your industry? Have technological breakthroughs or hot new trends left your customers both excited and confused? Do you have some particular expertise to offer on the subject? This is your chance to create a topical blog article that showcases your knowledge, insights, and individual spin on the situation. You have the answers -- and that's exactly what your target market wants.

3. Case Studies

Nothing sells success quite like a "before and after" story. You've probably seen pictures or read reports of a broken-down home, mud-caked pet, chaotic business department, or wrecked car that appeared utterly hopeless until an expert stepped in -- producing amazing improvements that you never would have dreamed possible. If your business can tell similar success stories, why not tell them on your blog?

Think about a time when your products or services rescued a grateful client from a disastrous situation. If you can tell that story within several hundreds words, you've got yourself a case study. Present the problem, describe how you handled it, and trumpet the positive results. Who wouldn't want to align themselves with a company with a real-life track record of success? 

Need more ways to jog your creative mind -- or need another creative mind to take up the slack? Contact me for writing services that can keep yourself stocked up on blog articles indefinitely!

Monday, August 31, 2020

Want a Strong 4th Quarter? Push These 4 September Marketing Themes

For obvious and understandable reasons, many companies have experienced shaky, unpredictable, or downright rotten business during the first three quarters of 2020. Maybe you've found your own enterprise bumping along on a rickety roller coaster this year. But even in the face of change, certain key elements of life remain, including seasonal milestones. September has always played host to some key themes for sales and marketing campaigns, and there's no reason you can't or shouldn't work these themes as hard as you can to boost your fourth-quarter success. Let's look at four flags worth rallying around.

1. Autumn

Autumn is always, well, autumn. The leaves change color and fall, the temperatures start to drop (even here in Texas), the shadows lengthen, and the world generally takes on a particular flavor and color that puts people into fall-weather mode. In other worlds, everything changes, however slightly. If change is indeed in the air, why not emphasize that point in your September marketing content? Your clients or customers will definitely welcome any shift that gives them reason to feel reassured, energized, and positive. Now is the time to roll out that exciting new product, helpful new service, or stunning new brand.

2. Labor Day

Despite the layoffs and furloughs that have jeopardized so many incomes, people are still working. Sure, many of them are working from home now, and individuals who lost their jobs are either seeking new employment or starting their own businesses. It follows, then, that Labor Day might hold an especially valuable place in your 2020 marketing calendar. People want to work, appreciate the ability to work, and generally think about work with a special intensity right now. Can you create marketing content that addresses their concerns, supports their feelings, and gives them fresh optimism? If so, you've got a message the world wants to hear.

3. Football

What's up with football this September? College conferences have cancelled their entire seasons, while the NFL is prepared to alter its season calendar in the event of coronavirus-based delays. Even so, you'll see football fans raring to talk about their teams, participate in fantasy football, and grab opportunity to enjoy their favorite sport. And when they can't have football, they actively miss football. Give them what they want -- or a whiff of it, anyway -- by creating football-themed content for your fall marketing efforts. You just might win big.

4. The Holiday Season

Yes, the holidays are still coming. Your target audience may have gotten sidetracked from their normal razor-focus on early holiday planning and shopping, but that doesn't mean that they aren't ready to hear about your special offers. It's up to you to turn their attention back toward the approaching end of the year. Holiday-themed marketing offers a comforting sense of familiarity and order that can restore your customers' sanity and prime their enthusiasm to have some fun for a change.

As you can see, September offers loads of marketing opportunities for clever, on-the-ball businesses. If you want to make that list of fourth-quarter success stories, contact your marketing professionals and put them to work right now!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Take a "Back to School" Approach to Your Marketing Strategies

Normally, this time of year is dominated by the mad rush to get back to school, from parents buying up cartfuls of school supplies to kids reacquainting themselves with an early-morning wakeup time. This August obviously feels a little different, but education will resume in one form or another. Maybe it's time you also took yourself back to school, in the sense of re-examining your marketing strategies and techniques -- or maybe you need to educate your target market on certain aspects of your business. Here are some suggestions to help you get your third quarter off to its usual bustling start.

Adjust Your Content for Changing Attitudes

Your current and prospective buyers have gone through a lot in the past year. What shifts in your target market's spending habits, needs, fears, concerns, and goals might require you to alter the tone or direction of your marketing content? You can't necessarily keep charging forward with your usual message as if nothing has changed. Give serious thought to creating fresh blog posts that directly address your target market's current mindset. Add content to your website that answers specific questions about your ongoing availability and services.

Update Yourself on the Latest Technologies

Have you allowed your marketing technologies to fall behind the times? Especially over the past several months, individuals are embracing social media and other interactive platforms more deeply than ever -- and you can reach them through these avenues. For instance, have you thought about incorporating Zoom into your marketing arsenal? You can use this video conferencing platform for marketing pitches, webinars, and other presentations that promote your products, services, and brand. You can even record those presentations and then figure out ways to repurpose the content for blog posts and other marketing pieces.

Take Another Look at Networking

Speaking of online platforms, business networking has taken to the Web in a big way lately. Weekly or monthly networking meetings that once met in person have shifted to a safer online-only environment -- and these networkers are still passing referrals and generating income for each other. Better yet, these (frequently Zoom-based) meetings don't have to limit themselves to one physical location, meaning that business owners and representatives can hob-nob with each other from anywhere. If you've avoided networking activities because you simply couldn't tear yourself away from your desk, guess what? You can now promote your business and learn about other business to your heart's content without leaving your computer.

Mark the return of the school year (more or less) by turning your business focus toward some timely marketing self-education. After all, you can always profit from learning!

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.