Monday, September 13, 2021

Writing Marketing Content for Regional or International Audiences

As usual, it's a hot, sunny day here in Texas, which of course means that it's time for a Coke. But if it were a hot, sunny day in Minnesota (yeah, I know, just humor me), it wouldn't be time for a Coke; it would be time for a pop. If you found yourself battling a mighty thirst in California or New York, you would find yourself asking for a soda. No, these aren't different beverages -- just different ways people in scattered parts of the U.S. tend to refer to the same beverage.

Confusing? It can be, especially when you're trying to aim your marketing content at a specific regional audience. As you might have noticed from the examples above, the terms and phrases used in different regions of the country can vary significantly. While you might still get your point across, the use of a term or phrase alien to your target market may either blunt the effectiveness of your message or call attention to you as being "not from around here," and therefore not truly attuned to the needs of a specific population.

Differences in style and tone can prove even more challenging when you seek to market your products or services to audiences in the UK, Canada, Australia, and other English-speaking countries. Simple differences, such as the addition of a "u" to words like "color" and "labor" represent just the tip of the linguistic iceberg. Other subtle differences include the use of "shall" instead of "will," "have got" versus "have gotten," and so on. Tone-wise, American marketing content almost always tends to take a more aggressive, in-your-face edge to it than, say, British marketing content, which employs a less direct, more polite approach to appeal to local audiences.

How do you manage to navigate through these potential pitfalls? Well, depending on your audience, you may not have to. If you're selling to the entire English-speaking world, your best bet is to create the most global, universal content possible. This strategy may produce uneven results, but it has the best chance of producing good results right out of the chute. You can then look at the areas where your approach isn't working and make tweaks, localizing the content to suit those individual markets.

What about those regional differences here in the U.S.? First and foremost, you or someone at your company needs to be in touch with a specific regions' colloquialisms. If you're selling to your own corner of the country, then you can focus on the particular vocabulary employed by your target demographic, whether it's down-home rural talk, slick cosmopolitan banter, or Middle American plain speech.

When in doubt, consult a professional copywriter who has experience and training writing for multiple regions and audiences. (My own early training as a playwright and screenwriter helped me learn how to listen to different dialects and regional turns of phrase, incorporating them into the speech of a variety of characters.) That way, you can focus on the core points of your marketing content while your skilled copywriter crafts those ideas into text your target market will love -- and respond to.



Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Opinionated Blogger: Blog Content That Expresses Your Point of View

Once upon a time, blogs were all about referring readers elsewhere. This was back in the days when they were known by their full name of "weblogs." A typical weblog would serve as a link-enabled guide to all the cool, helpful and otherwise interesting sites or news stories the blogger discovered -- a sort of mini-directory of sites related to the blogger's (and presumably the reader's) primary interests.
Over time, bloggers began commenting on the sites, and those comments eventually took the center stage as technology made it easier for a wide range of people and companies to make their voices heard. Suddenly your blog could serve as an editorial column, a how-to archive, a promotional page, or the instigator of an ongoing interactive conversation. Business owners realized that their blogs could help them establish an online reputation as the reigning expert on a particular subject, while also encouraging readers to explore the rest of the company's site for related products and services.
Why, then, do so many company blogs read like throwbacks to the late 1990s? You know what I mean: You click on, say, a financial website to read about the latest big economic news story, and the blog article there simply refers you over to a generic story from CNN or Money or whoever. Or if that website has posted on the subject, it's simply a retread of the same information, or a general overview that you could find anywhere else. I imagine this occurs because the person tasked with creating the blog content simply doesn't have time to compose original literary gems on a regular basis, so the company either outsources the work to "writer mills" or links to articles hosted on another business's site.
And the reader is left thinking, "Yeah, but how did you feel about the story?" And you've blown an opportunity to demonstrate your industry wisdom and insight.
When you compose an article for your business's blog, stop and think about how the subject matter relates to the business's mission, vision, products/services and viewpoint. Then weave that voice into the text alongside all the generic who-did-what-to-whom-and-what-do-the pundits-say-about-it stuff. What do you say about it -- and how does that opinion color your recommendations and solutions for concerned readers?
If you can't get your opinions out there with the necessary skill in a timely manner, then you can still outsource the actual writing. But instead of simply throwing that job out to the lowest bidder on a big, impersonal content board, forge a genuine relationship with a professional writer who can actually get to know your business. When I ghost-blog for clients, I take the time to learn about their unique value proposition, experience and perspective on what they do. This allows me to spin your article so that it doesn't just relay the facts, but it also presents your opinion, your personality, your conclusions, and of course your brand. That's the difference between simply referring readers to other people's expertise and dazzling those readers with your own.
In my opinion.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

4 Kinds of Content Marketing That Can Boost Your Business

The world of marketing seems to grow more complex every day. Like some many-headed mythical beast, a modern-day marketing campaign often makes use of multiple media channels and platforms, not to mention multiple kinds of content, to draw their target audience into their sales funnel. With so many kinds of content marketing to choose from, which ones are most likely to make a difference in your success? Let's look at four powerful traffic drivers worth considering.

1. Blog Posts

As I've pointed out in the past, your company blog can give you an online voice that constantly reinforces your online authority and relevance as a major player in your industry. Certain types of blog posts can prove especially effective in this regard. For instance, list posts have grown immensely popular for their ability to pack several compelling points into a shareable, easy-to-digest format. (Look no further than this very post for an example.) These points don't have to well up from the depths of your own imagination; you can collect compelling bits of data from all over the Internet, if need be. I've seen entire posts that consisted simply of inspiring quotes related to a particular topic. You can also interview celebrity guests or invite them to blog on your site.

2. Infographics

Infographics combine written content and visual design into a uniquely user-friendly package. How many times have you found yourself zeroing in on a helpful infographic embedded in a larger article or web page? Just as you don't necessarily have to write all your own blog content, you don't have to have graphic design skills to create infographics for your content marketing campaign. Your copywriter can work with the graphic designer of your choice to produce infographics that make a big splash with your potential buyers.

3. Long-Form Guides

Nothing demonstrates a business's expertise more thoroughly than a detailed, practical guide that helps people understand a concept or solve a problem. These guides often take the forms of eBooks, industry reports, white papers, quarterly newsletters, or plus-sized articles. You can make these pieces available in return for the interested party's contact information or subscription. This approach builds your prospect lists and helps pre-qualify leads, especially if you end up sending your subscribers a steady stream of helpful information.

4. Videos

Did you know that people spend one-third of their online time watching videos? This form of content marketing can entertain, enlighten, and compel sales just as effectively as others that rely on writing and graphic design. Just about anything you can convey through a blog post, infographic, or guide can prove equally effective in video format. Just don't make the mistake of assuming that you can simply take some video footage, slap a voice-over narration on it, and call it a day. Videos require careful organization and structure, with narration that really sells and graphic images that support the moving pictures and reinforce your brand identity.

There are plenty of other kinds of content marketing that I could (and very well may) write about in future posts. For now, however, these four key types of content marketing should keep you busy and boost your revenue. Contact me if you need help bringing your content to life!

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Working With a Copywriter? Remember These 3 Tips

Congratulations on hiring a freelance copywriter! This skilled, experienced professional should greatly enhance the effectiveness of your marketing content while also freeing you from the burden of writing that content yourself. Just keep in mind that your experience, and your final result, can only go as smoothly as your interactions with this expert will permit. If you want to get the most out of working with a copywriter, take heed of the following four helpful tips.

Tip 1: Discuss the Process

Different copywriters have different ways of working, so don't assume that your experience with your current copywriter will necessarily follow the same process as any previous experiences you may have had with others. Always ask plenty of key questions in your initial conversation. How much does the writer charge, and on what basis? What's the schedule for making those payments? How long will it take the writer to deliver a first draft and any revisions? What materials do you need to give the copywriter before the work can start? What other professionals (web design team, SEO specialist, etc.) do you need to copy on all communications with your copywriter? Make sure you're clear on all these points right from the beginning.

Do you want to engage your copywriter to address recurring content needs, such as weekly blog posts or content for a quarterly newsletter? If so, you need to work out a long-range editorial calendar that clarifies exactly what content you want and when you want it. Ideally, you and your writer can hash out a whole schedule of article topics and delivery dates to prevent any last-minute scrambles or crossed signals. You can always adjust the details as you go -- but only if you set those details down first.

Tip 2: Consolidate Your Feedback

In an ideal world, your copywriter will deliver such a brilliant first draft that you see no need for any changes. But even if you and your writer communicated like a dream throughout the initial phase of the project, you may still see little bits and pieces in the text that require tweaking. You may also need to include some additional point that you forgot to tell the writer about or only just discovered during the composition of the draft. Most revisions can easily accommodate these changes. However, if your changes actually change the scope of the project, don't be too surprised if your writer has to charge an additional fee to reflect the new work.

Try to avoid the "committee rewrite" if you can. You might have no choice but to send the draft past multiple respondents, each of whom may make contradictory rewrite requests. This approach can cause two major problems. First, you may have to sit on those comments forever until everyone has chimed in. Second, you may end up sending your writer little constant dribbles of comment after comment, creating a state of perpetual revision. Make sure all the necessary comments go through one person, who can then coordinate them into one cohesive set of requests. Require all parties to submit their comments within a set timeline.

Tip 3: Keep the Ball Rolling

That set timeline I mentioned above will help you follow this third tip. Don't let a copywriter's first draft or revised version go unnoticed once you have it. I've had clients who sat on a project for weeks or months before finally replying with revision requests -- by which point, I'd moved on to the next project without even remembering much about the previous one. Sitting on content forever (as opposed to requesting changes promptly or indicating your acceptance of the content as is) may also hold up the work of your web designer, blog manager, graphic designer, or other professionals who need that final approved content before they can finish their work.

Make these three tips part of your overall plan for working with a professional copywriter, and you'll always get exactly the content you need, on time and on budget. Contact me to learn more!

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

4 Tips for Writing Stronger Marketing Content

Marketing content creation can prove immensely frustrating. No matter how well you know your business and industry, no matter how brilliant your products or services, no matter how desperately your target audience needs what you've got, you just can't seem to score with your website, social media, or print marketing content. What gives?

Sometimes tiny details can make all the difference between a solid but unremarkable piece of marketing content and a powerfully effective one. One of my writing teachers used to say that there's no such thing as good or bad writing: "There are only stronger and weaker choices." Do you make weaker choices here and there without even realizing it? We all do from time to time. If you want to make your written marketing content hit harder and turn more readers into buyers, take the following four tips  to heart.

Tip 1: Trim the Fat

Flabby writing can't compete with firm, lean statements. Watch out for empty, unnecessary phrases such as "Adding insult to injury..." or "Another point to consider is...." If you can get to the point without this baggage, do it. If you can't, then re-examine that point until you can make it as economically as possible.

You can also trim the fat from your marketing content by choosing slimmer words. Don't reach for a four-syllable word when a one-syllable or two-syllable word will get the job done. If you need to get flowery for purposes of style or tone, fine, but don't make "purple prose" your default setting as a content writer.

Tip 2: Get Specific

Good, great, beautiful, nice, bigger, better -- these words don't really convey much useful information, do they? As a potential customer, I don't get anything from the description of your product or service as "great;" I want to know what's great about it. Is it cost-effective, convenient, time-saving, sleek, powerful, long-lasting? Does it improve my gas mileage, kill bugs on contact, or clean my windows effortlessly? Ditch the vague, meaningless adjectives and give me clear, vivid descriptions that tell me what I need to know.

Tip 3: Guide Readers' Thoughts

Even the sharpest images and most efficient language will fall flat if your content lacks an effective structure and flow. Think about the journey you take every time you read a blog article, web page, or other marketing piece for the first time. You begin with no knowledge of what lies ahead, only a nagging problem that you seek to solve. So you naturally want to see that problem acknowledged right from the beginning, yes? Since this company clearly understands your needs, you keep reading -- and you discover the solution to your challenge in the text below. Now that you know you've found your answer, of course you'll click that link to the Contact page to place an order or schedule a conversation. If your current content doesn't guide your readers' thoughts from A to Z in a smooth, organic manner, consider reassembling it from the ground up.

Tip 4: Use Imperatives

"If you have my answers, then tell me what to do." This subconscious plea drives the path from interested bystander to new customer. Too soft a sell can leave your potential buyers undecided about committing your product or service, while overly vague directions can make it harder for the committed ones to go forward. Don't go all coy about your call to action with phrases such as "Doesn't it make sense to talk to our team about your needs?" Instead, say: "Contact our team today so we can discuss your needs." Feel  that extra push toward the finish line? So will your audience.

Try these tips and see for yourself what kind of extra oomph they add to your marketing content's effectiveness. Or if you'd rather hand the task over to someone who works with words for a living, just hire a freelance marketing copywriter!

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Words as Symbols in Your Marketing Content

Another Fourth of July has come and gone. It's hard to imagine a more cut-and-dried holiday, right? Independence Day commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. What could be more straightforward than that?

Ah, but wait a minute. The national holiday we recognize as the Fourth of July stirs up a wide range of responses, depending on who you ask. Some people take the literal approach by envisioning the Founding Fathers famously adding their signatures to the document in question. Many folks mark it as the birthday of the United States of America, with all the patriotic thoughts that accompany that idea. But what else might the Fourth of July mean to people in this day and age? If you're a fireworks fan, it may be a glorious opportunity to blow stuff up. If you're an animal lover, you may bite your nails over images of your beloved pets cowering under the bed as those fireworks go off. If you work like a dog the rest of the year, you may see the Fourth of July holiday as a lifesaving day of rest.

See what I mean? The same simple phrase -- "Fourth of July" -- can trigger different (and equally legitimate) images or feelings for different segments of the population. I'm picking on the Fourth for reasons of topicality, but I could just as easily point to any other concept, word, or phrase known to humankind. What about a loaf of freshly-baked bread? If you're a foodie, the very idea could fill you with gleeful anticipation or send you running to the store to purchase a bread maker. On the other hand, if you suffer from a severe gluten sensitivity, you may associate that "lovely" image with recollections of digestive agony.

Words are tools, and tools often have multiple uses, with no inherently right or wrong applications. However, when you're creating marketing content for your business, you must think about how your specific tool choices will impact your target audience. A word that might have powerful, energizing, or soothing effects on you might have a totally different effect on the people to whom you're directing your marketing content.

How do you tiptoe your way through this tricky landscape? It all starts with a detailed knowledge of your ideal buyer, which means building a buyer persona -- a fictional profile based on all the demographics, survey responses, and other customer data you can gather. The next step most likely involves engaging a professional copywriter who understands how to string together just the right symbols to produce the intended emotional responses for that ideal buyer. If you don't have such a professional on staff, contact a freelance copywriter and have a discussion about how to put the symbolic power of words to the strongest possible use in your marketing. After all, if words are tools, you might as well hire a true wordsmith! 


Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Want to Maximize Your Time? Leave the Writing to the Writer

Even with the extensions granted due to the pandemic and the Texas winter storm, the tax man cometh. I knew that sooner or later I'd have to get to work on my return. And by “working on,” I mean collating information, itemizing business expenses, printing out 1099s and so forth. Since I’d been keeping all the information more or less in one place all year (a hard-earned lesson in itself, believe me), the process took maybe an hour, tops. I then sent it off to the person who really does the hard work -- my CPA.

It’s a good thing, too. Apart from my general mathematical ineptitude, I hardly understand what I’m looking at when I study all the various forms the IRS seems to have for every possible situation. The instructions alone would be enough to keep me busy long past the due date, never mind tabulating every figure in its corresponding little box. Even if I could figure out the basic mechanics involved, I couldn’t possibly keep up with all the changes in the tax code that seem to pop up year after year like some bureaucratic Whack-a-Mole game. The result of my fumbling and stumbling would be a mountain of errors (which I’m told the IRS doesn’t appreciate), along with countless hours of lost writing time. Instead, I will pay a chunk of money to my CPA and let her sail through the paperwork like the experienced and knowledgable professional she is. Not only will she get the numbers right, but she will also make sure I’m taking all the right deductions (and none of the wrong ones) for my own good. What a deal!

But that’s the beauty of outsourcing to experts. You keep chugging along doing what you do best, the experts do what they do best, and everybody wins. My CPA’s billable time probably carries a higher price tag than my own, but she can do in an hour what would take me ten hours away from my everyday work. Better yet, she’ll do it right. That’s why outsourcing to a CPA makes sense -- just as outsourcing to a freelance copywriter makes sense for business owners who want to maximize their precious time.

Some of my clients are perfectly capable of writing their own marketing content -- but why should they? Whenever I hear resistance over the concept of paying for writing services, I ask, “How many hours would it take you to (a) do this work and (b) make sure it attained the right level of quality and effectiveness?” The invariable answer is that it’ll take them a lot more time, sweat, and frustration than it’ll take me. So the client actually spends considerably less money than he’d lose in the form of wasted time and stalled business productivity. 

My advice? Take those saved hours and put them into fulfilling orders, submitting bids, landing new accounts, and other immediately profitable activities -- and leave the writing to the writer!

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Key Points to Understand About Blogging

Different people have different levels of awareness regarding blogs and blogging. Some of my clients have come to me with clear, detailed notions of what sort of blog content they'd like me to write for them, while others have asked, "What is this blogging thing you mentioned in passing, and why would I do it?" Let's examine some key points on the subject.

Blogging Has Been Around Longer Than You Might Think

Blogging actually predates some of you out there. The title of earliest blog probably goes to Links.net, one person's personal web chronicle of his life and work experiences. By the late 1990s, this type of online page had become known as a weblog, or blog for short. Journalists, politicians, and businesses began tapping the power of blogging around this time. The number of blogs on the Internet shot up from just 23 in 1999 to a staggering 50 million by the mid-2000s. Some of those blog pages have remained up and running for decades. So blogging as a major form of online self-promotion is the real deal, and it should remain so for as long as there are people and brands that need to get the word out about themselves.

Blogging Is Good for Business

There's a good reason for blogging's popularity and longevity in the world of digital marketing: in short, it's good for business, especially if your blog page lives within your website's domain. For one thing, every new chunk of relevant content your brand uploads to the Internet lends your website that much more online authority. Don't forget that Google accounts for about 40 percent of all online traffic. The more you can do to get Google's attention, the better you'll rank on those search requests -- and the blog articles that the searchers pull up will have a chance to score their own marketing points and lead viewers to other features on your website. As other people and businesses discover your blog content, they may actually link back to it as a reference, boosting your audience further. Blogging is probably the easiest, most effective way to earn those valuable inline links.

Blogging and lead generation go hand in hand. If your business were to post just two blog articles per month, you'd stand to gain 70 percent more leads than your non-blogging competitors. Of course, the quality of the blog content makes a difference, too, because people really do read these things. Almost one-quarter of all Internet time is spent absorbing social media content such as blogs. The majority of these readers say that such content makes them feel more confident about the entity posting the content.

Blog Content Can Take Many Forms

"What would I blog about?" has to be one of the most frequently asked questions among business bloggers. Thankfully, a blog can have extraordinary flexibility as long it adheres to the brand image you wish to present. You can post humorous editorials, your reactions to important industry news, spotlights introducing new key players on your team, explanations of individual products or services, and articles that address seasonal concerns or sales.

You may find that your most popular blog articles focus on helping your target audience solve common problems. How-to articles, for instance, can help readers understand how your products or services can make their lives easier, while their searches for such solutions may naturally cause the relevant article to pop up on their screens. Are you especially proud of how you solved one of your client's problems? Write up a brief case study and post it as a blog article to give others with the same concerns a powerful real-life illustration of your potential value to them.

You Don't Have to Create the Blog Content Yourself

Back in the early weblog days, a blog was very much an extension of an individual's likes, dislikes, insights, and recommendations. As blogging evolved into a digital marketing strategy for businesses and organizations, the creation of blog content became a team effort. Even then, an organization might not have the requisite talent tool, spare billable time, or sheer patience to pump out the endless stream of blog content that the Internet always seems to demand. 

That's where third parties like me come in. A skilled copywriter knows how to absorb a company's brand image and produce messaging that fits that mold, creating customized content that genuinely reflects your spin on what you do and how you do it. So if you want to enjoy the considerable benefits of blogging without the headaches involved in actually coming up with that content, contact me today!



Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Staring at a Blank Screen? Remember These Content Creation Tips

Few sights can strike terror into the hearts of marketing content creators more quickly and brutally than a blank screen. You've probably been there; I certainly have. You sit there, mentally sweating bullets, wondering how you're supposed to turn all that nothing into something that sells. I've written about ideation before, and I doubtless will again, because it presents an ongoing challenge even for experienced writers. Then once you have the idea -- where do you allow that idea to take your content? When you're struggling to get your creative gears turning, keep the following helpful tips in mind.

Your Potential Buyer Has a Real-World Problem to Solve

Sometimes the sheer number of a business's available products and services can muddy the waters when it comes to marketing content creation. Where do you start? Well, you take a lot of the confusion out of the ideation stage by focusing on specific, individual challenges of pain points that you know your prospective buyers have. Let's say you're a roofer, for example. What worries keep your target audience members awake at night? Do they know that their roof is nearing the end of its projected lifespan? Do they see spots that might indicate damaging leaks? Do they have loose shingles littering the lawn after a storm?Do they need to spruce up their home's asking price by refurbishing the roof? These pain points give you a handle on which to hang your creative hat.

The Buyer's Problem Prompts Your Solution

Once you've described your prospective customer's needs in vivid detail, you've got that person saying, "Yes, you understand exactly what I'm dealing with! So, how can you help me?" This is your cue to segue directly into the solutions you offer. Describe in clear, simple, powerful terms exactly how you can relieve that person's pain through your products and services. Don't drown the reader in details; you can always provide details on individual web pages or (better yet) in a conversation that closes the sale. For now, focus on conveying a sense of emotional reassurance and excitement about the solution to a nagging problem.

The Bottom-Line Benefit Sells the Product or Service

When in doubt, rally your creative message around the bottom-line benefit of your product or service. Remember, your customers don't care how they get to the goal line -- they just want to make that big score. What bottom-line benefit do you provide? Well, at the end of the road, you make your customers happy. Maybe you achieve that goal by making them more physically comfortable or emotionally secure. Maybe you help them enjoy greater business efficiency or productivity, with an even deeper bottom line of helping them earn more money, which raises their quality of life and (guess what?) increases their happiness.

As you might imagine, hurdling these creative obstacles takes a certain amount of time, effort, and patience no matter how many mental triggers you employ. The more urgently you need to come up with that marketing content, and the more time your many other business activities demand, the more stress and pressure you may feel when you sit down to confront that blank screen (which, of course, doesn't exactly help you set your imagination free). If that's the problem you face, here's another helpful tip -- ask a professional marketing content writer to do the creative work for you!



Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Writing and Organizing Your Website Content: What Goes Where?

You see some funny things when you're enlisted to write or rewrite content for various companies' websites. I've encountered Home pages that launched right into a lengthy account of the company's services or a bio of the company owner, without so much as an introduction to the company itself. I've also seen About pages that weren't about the company or its team players, Services pages that would more properly serve as Contact pages, and the list goes on and on. 

It's important to remember that even the most highly-polished and compelling website content may make zero impact if it doesn't belong on the site, or if it sits on the wrong page. So whether you need to put a new website together from scratch or redo an old, ineffective website, you may create the right kind of content for each of your most critical web pages. Let's take a look at some standard examples.

Home - Many organizations don't seem to know exactly what to do with this page. Some of them simply use it to welcome the visitor, others drop the wrong content into it in an effort to fill it out, and still others don't put any written content in it at all (which gives Google's bots a lot less content to evaluate when ranking your site among its competitors). Ideally, this page starts with a really compelling question, pain point, or other marketing hook. It then shifts smoothly into a brief introduction of your company as the answer to the visitor's needs, directing the visitor to other pages to send them through the conversion journey.

Solutions - Okay, so you've stated that you can solve your visitor's particular problem. But what solutions do you offer that can make that happen? Many sites skip this page altogether, but you may feel it important to describe the processes and strategies that go into your solutions to customer's concerns and challenges. This isn't usually the place to break down your services or products; instead, you'll want to give those services or products their due on a separate page.

Services or Products - Your services or products are the actual tools that solve your visitors' problems and restore happiness to their home or business lives. If you provide professional services, write a clear, simple blurb for each service. If you can group multiple services into categories, give it a whirl and see whether it improves the reading experience for site visitors. If you sell products, make sure that each product gets its own tightly-written blurb. Preface your Services or Products page with an exciting, keyword-rich introduction that whets the visitor's appetite for the goodies to come.

About - An effective About page will always include a bio of the organization itself, from its origins to its present status after X number of years serving its clientele. Think of your organization as an individual in its own right, worthy of the same "ink" you'd devote to your senior team members. You should also include a paragraph about each of your senior players, from the owner and CEO to your various department heads. That's "paragraph," not "book." If you solicit biographies from your various employees, cut them down to a more-or-less equal length so that they'll look good together on the page. (It's also your opportunity to chop out a lot of deadwood that might matter to the employee, but not to your target audience.)

FAQ - A Frequently Asked Questions page often makes good sense as a means of tackling potential objections, possibly even before they pop into the visitor's head. Just remember the proper format for this page: a series of questions, each addressed with a short, clear answer. I've seen FAQ pages that just sort of rambled in an effort to shove multiple rebuttals into a single answer (or too few answers). Keep each point short and sweet. If you don't have an easy answer to a question, explain why and invite visitors to contact you for clarification.

If you're still uncertain about what web content goes where on your site, or if you just don't feel like wading through all this mess yourself, it's time to contact a professional marketing copywriter. We love making bad content good and good content better!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Don't Have a Marketing Team? Build One Out of Freelancers

In my experience, organizations address their marketing needs in a few basic ways. On the enterprise level, big companies with deep pockets simply dedicate a chunk of their full-time payroll budget to the creation and maintenance of a complete, permanent marketing team. Way over on the other end of the spectrum, "solopreneurs" and cashed-strapped startups take a DIY approach despite a crippling lack of marketing knowledge or experience. In the vast middle of the pack, you'll find companies of all sizes entrusting their marketing strategies and campaigns to turnkey marketing agencies -- a choice that certainly solves the problem in one fell swoop, but at the potential cost of your company's creative and financial flexibility.

If none of those options works for you, then what's left? You can assemble your own marketing team, not as permanent employees, but from a pool of freelancers who can collaborate on promoting your brand. Here are a few key players you'll need, bearing in mind that some of them may offer more than one of the services noted below. (Even better, right?)

Marketing Coordinator - An intelligent, organized marketing coordinator should be the first professional you add to your stable of freelancers. This person understands how to devise and implement marketing strategies at the highest levels, issuing marching orders to all the other creative professionals on the team. Your marketing coordinator maintains your editorial calendar, selects specific freelancers for specific projects, and makes sure that all your marketing content conforms to your overall brand vision and image.

Web Developer/Designer - Web developers build the core structure and functionality of websites, while web designers provide the look, feel, and user experience necessary to convert visitors into customers. You can find creative talent capable of both jobs, or you can bring together specialists in one or the other. This expertise not only saves you the time and expense of trying to create your own site from a template; it also ensures that your site will continue to receive timely updates in response to the ever-changing demands of the Internet marketplace.

Social Media Specialist - You've got to take advantage of a strong social media presence if you want to keep your brand in front of the right eyeballs at all times. Unfortunately, the sheer variety of social media platforms, channels, and possible strategies can leave your head spinning. A social media specialist can examine the available options, create a social media strategy for your business (modifying it over time as needed) and then keep those channels as busy and attractive as possible.

Graphic Designer - What does your brand look like? Make friends with the right freelance graphic designer, and the answer to this question will never be mysterious, confusing, or self-contradictory. Ideally, you want a seasoned professional who can provide you with customized logo design services while also creating a unified, overarching visual identity for your organization, from the color scheme on your letterhead to the banners and fonts on your website.

Copywriter - You knew I'd make the list sooner or later, didn't you? A skilled freelance copywriter can generate the marketing content you need so you don't have to labor over this time-consuming task yourself. Avoid the part-timers and dilettantes in favor of full-time professionals with several years of experience under their belts. You can work with more than one copywriter as long as you've got that marketing coordinator in place, making assignments and enforcing an overall consistency of tone and style.

So there's your starter list for building a bullpen of creative marketing freelancers. All you need to do now is find them -- and I can help with that, while also providing you with the written content your marketing needs. Let's talk about it!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

3 Tips for Creating Holiday Marketing Content

When the word "holiday" comes to mind, does your mind automatically fast-forward to the end of the calendar year? The holiday season may have good reason to hold this grip on the public consciousness due to the mad rush of buying and selling clustered around November and December. However, smart business owners and marketers recognize their opportunities for building marketing campaigns around the many specific holidays, large and small, that pop up throughout the year. Here are three quick tips to get you thinking about your holiday marketing strategies and help you make the most of those special occasions.

1. Think About Your Target Market

Some holidays seem to affect practically everyone, while others might have special significance for specific populations. For example, Independence Day is a big deal across the U.S., but your customers in the UK or Japan probably couldn't care less about it. Cinco de Mayo holds a special place in the hearts of the Mexican-American population, especially here in Texas. Mardi Gras is an important holiday, not just for New Orleans alcoholics, but for observant Catholics in general. 

The calendar is stuffed with days that commemorate major achievements or promote awareness for specific pockets of individuals. Ask yourself which of these holidays might have a special meaning for the buyers of your products and services. Then latch onto those days for dear life, dream up special promotions for them, and market them with appropriately compelling content.

2. Put Your Brand's Unique Spin on the Holiday

Don't fall into the trap of creating generic, forgettable marketing campaigns for your chosen holidays. This danger can prove especially tricky for those holidays that always seem to spur the same consumer responses. Say you sell flowers and Valentine's Day is approaching. How many of your competitors will produce essentially identical offers, marketed with the same bland sentiments? This might be your cue to go in a different direction by employing a different tone, going for a different emotional response, or promoting a somewhat different gift package than the norm.

Whether you're running a marketing push for Mother's Day, Father's Day, Labor Day, or whatever other day matters to your audience, make sure that your brand's inimitable style shines through. Never stop reminding those individuals or businesses of the qualities that make your brand what it is. The holiday may take the center ring, but you're still the ringmaster.

3. Start Early!

We often complain about seeing images of Santa Claus and reindeer the day after Halloween, and not without reason. Even so, don't those images get you thinking about Christmas -- and mightn't those thoughts get you to start filling out your holiday shopping list? If that marketing waited until the before Christmas to make its appearance, would it make any difference to your buying behavior?

Proper holiday marketing requires advance planning and early implementation. Early marketing touches might drop little hints about the upcoming holiday, with later ones revealing more and more details about your special offers and events. You have to build the excitement and awareness over time -- so there's no time like the present to lay out your strategy. Don't forget that high-quality marketing content also takes a certain amount of time and effort to complete. Contact your professional marketing copywriter to discuss ideas and get that content going!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

3 Ways to Make Your Marketing Content More Digestible

Does your written marketing content go down smoothly and easily, or does it give your target audience a case of literary heartburn? Even the most graceful language and helpful wealth of detail can prove too much for today's time-pressed consumers and business clients to handle. We're all in a hurry, and at the same time we're all overwhelmed with the sheer amount of marketing content we encounter every day. So how can you get your audience's attention without trying their patience? For a start, try these three strategies.

1. Break Up That Wall of Text

The infamous wall of text has turned countless web pages, blog articles, and other marketing pieces into an impossible obstacle for the very people that they're meant to affect. How many times have you pulled up a website or social media post only to balk at the massive amount of information on display? Did you keep reading, or did you click over to some other, less demanding offering from someone else?

Create digestible chunks, not mountains of words. Look for logical opportunities to break up your content into short paragraphs. Use bulleted or numbered lists if it makes sense to do so. Think twice before adding tons of supporting data and details. Add some breathing room in the form of surrounding white space. These changes will help your readers scan the content more quickly and easily -- instead of scaring them away from the outset.

2. Make Smart Use of Microcontent

Potential customers who have only a few seconds to scan websites or social media sites need more than just easy-to-read content. They also benefit from tiny chunks of content that make their point even when viewed out of context. Welcome to the world of microcontent. These pieces of information serve as essential guideposts and teasers that compel further attention.

Typical examples of microcontent include titles, headers, and summaries. A gripping title that clearly lays out the subject matter to follow will hook your readers from the beginning, while sensible headers help them fast-forward to the sections that interest them the most. A juicy summary sentence describing what's to come helps readers decide whether to read further.

If you really want to make your microcontent work across your entire marketing campaign, stack those chunks of digestible data. Create a chunk on one platform that links or points to another, related chunk on another platform. Now you're telling your story one easily-managed piece at a time while leading your readers on a guided tour of your various marketing channels.

3. Simplify Your Vocabulary and Structure 

A huge vocabulary and elaborate way with sentence structure might impress people, but don't expect it to sell your products or services. When in doubt, cut it out. Express yourself in simple terms that make for fast, easy reading. Craft sentences with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Don't send your readers into the weeds searching for the point of what you were trying to say -- unless you want to lose them for good.

Make sure that your marketing content also provides clear directions and instructions for your readers. If you want them to click a particular link, email you, subscribe to your channel, or perform some other key action -- then say so. A clearer path keeps readers from getting lost halfway through the journey.

Do you have trouble creating those potent little bite-sized morsels of marketing content? Contact me, and let's rework your marketing feast into a lean-and-mean appetizer platter!


Tuesday, March 2, 2021

More Than One Target Market? Create Marketing Content for Each of Them

A typical conversation about marketing strategies and implementation usually includes some discussion about a business's target market. We all spend tons of time thinking about this preferred customer base -- narrowing it down to this or that ideal buyer persona, fine-tuning our products and services for that buyer persona's projected needs, and creating marketing content aimed at tickling that buyer persona's fancy. All pretty straightforward so far -- but what if you have more than one target market to appease?

I've had plenty of writing clients who faced that question. For instance, one of my regular clients provides IT services for markets in several major cities across the U.S., each of which has its own set of technology and industrial challenges to be met. Recently I began writing articles for a promotional products franchise that has two distinct audiences: business owners who might need the products themselves, and franchisees who need to market their own promotional businesses in a more unified and effective way. The article topics that might appeal to one group aren't so likely to appeal to the other.

Can you see where this is going?

If you need to make a marketing impact on more than one target market, you need to think about how to aim the right kind of content at each of those markets. For many businesses, the answer lies in a multi-track approach. One of my real estate clients offers a prime example. Her website's home page directs her two different target audiences (career real estate investors versus ordinary folks who just need to manage a rented property) down two separate tracks. Depending on their needs, her potential customers click on one option or the other, and from that point on they go down a separate online sales funnel that addresses their concerns and offers the specific solutions they need.

My IT client serves as another case in point. Since Google slaps companies down for duplicating content across multiple websites, I ended up writing a whole new website for each major city that the company serves. The homepage for the parent location gives visitors the chance to click on their respective city, an action that sends them directly to that local city's website. Of course it takes extra time and effort to create and maintain these multiple site paths. But it also allows my client to configure each location's marketing content for that particular audience, resulting in more effective local marketing and bigger sales overall.

How about the promo products franchise? Well, we're devising a year's worth of email articles for each of the two target audiences. The company can then send the emails crafted for each audience on a rotating schedule, influencing both audiences by addressing their specific preferences, needs, questions, and concerns.

Do you want to attract more than one target market to your products or services without diluting your overall brand? Contact me and let's talk about marketing content creation for each of your ideal audiences!


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Blog Stockpiles: We All Need Them!

Have you ever missed a scheduled blog post? Confession time: I have, and more than once. A variety of problems can interfere with your usual blog posting routine, from simple user error to major personal or professional setbacks that make "business as usual" anything but.

What do you do when you suddenly realize that you're facing a blog article deadline without a blog article? Well, you could whip up something resembling an article on the spur of the moment, if you're really great at that sort of thing. Or you might just wait and post the following week as if nothing had happened (which is technically true; something didn't happen), whistling to yourself and avoiding eye contact with studied nonchalance. "Blog? What blog? By the way, here's this week's article."

Unfortunately, neither of those responses are likely to make you look very good to your target audience. What's the big deal? First of all, each new blog post represents fresh, relevant content. Google loves fresh, relevant content. Second, every post you publish allows you to include links to your various networks, forums, previous posts, or specific parts of your website. Those links often boost incoming online traffic, especially if they lead to well-traveled, highly-visible sites. So every blog post you skip represents a wasted opportunity to connect with new followers.

Here's another thing to remember: An irregular blog won't sustain a regular audience. I know business owners who blog maybe once a quarter, twice a year, or on other infrequent schedules, if they follow any schedule at all. You can't maintain a readership when you offer nothing new to read. Even if you do post occasionally, how can your audience possibly guess when the next post will come out? They can't, so they don't try. Any new blogs that do get posted then play to the sound of crickets chirping. Regular readership comes from regular posts -- once a day, once a week, once a month, whatever. You have to train your audience to come back for more, which means that you must make it obvious when they should expect new content from you.

That's why you, and I, and everyone who blogs can benefit from keeping a blog stockpile. An extra article here and there, held back in case of emergency, can make all the difference in the consistency and professionalism of your blog management and your blog's effectiveness. I'm working on mine, and I hope you're working on yours. If you can't find the time or energy to build up your stockpile, contact me and I'll keep you in fresh content for a long time to come!




Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Why You Need an Editorial Calendar

You're too busy to create your marketing content yourself, so you contract that task out to a freelance copywriter. Problem solved right? Well, up to a point. Your copywriter can work wonders to keep your blog posts, newsletter articles and other content fresh and up to date -- but have you told that person what you want far enough ahead of time to ensure that it gets done? It's all too easy to bury yourself in other work and assume that your writer is fulfilling assignments you never assigned. Then one February 14th you sit bolt upright with the horrified realization that you forgot to request that special Valentine's Day article. 

If that chill down the spine is a familiar sensation to you, then you probably need to block those assignments out with an editorial calendar. It doesn't actually have to take the form of a calendar, of course. But you need to list your anticipated needs for content over the coming months or quarters and then distribute that list among your marketing professionals.

This calendar can prove incredibly beneficial for all concerned. Your creative folks will always know which assignments are coming up and when, and you'll have eliminated the "Oops, I forget to tell you" factor on your end. In fact, it's smart to have multi-stage editorial calendars for collaborative pieces such as direct mail postcards or newsletters, with separate schedules for idea submissions, graphic design, copywriting and revisions. The whole piece then comes together with Swiss-watch precision, and your team can roll right onto the next job. I once received a 12-month editorial calendar from a mortgage firm in January that showed me quite clearly what I'd be writing come December. As a result, we had a year's worth of direct mail ready to go before Spring had sprung.

Of course there will be times when you need to respond to or take advantage of a recent event. But that's okay. You don't have to give your content creators license to bull ahead with a year's worth of stuff. Just ask them to keep an eye on the upcoming month or quarter with the knowledge that things could always change. It's much easier to change something that exists than something that doesn't, and if you have no editorial calendar in place everyone's just operating on the fly. This can hurt you if your freelancers are non-exclusive, because they haven't pre-booked the necessary time in their work schedules and may not be available when you need them.

If you're a marketing firm that includes blogging among the services you provide for multiple clients, then you face another obvious challenge. How can you prepare articles months in advance if you can't always get your clients to send you the necessary background information in a timely manner? Here's where you hedge your bets by adding alternate titles to the mix -- pre-approved, evergreen topics that will work pretty much anytime. As publication time draws near, if you can't get the intake for a particular topic on time, go with a tried-and-true alternative. Your copywriter can go ahead and write, you can post on time, and everybody's happy.

Editorial calendars can make the difference between a last-minute scramble and a clam, smooth ride for your marketing campaign. Create yours today -- and then assign the writing to me!

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

How to Raise the Curtain on Your Marketing Content

The curtain rises on a murky, foggy night in Elsinore. A man stands a nervous guard atop a castle rampart, his lantern the only point of light in the gloom. He hears a sound, leaps to his feet and demands that the unseen figure identify himself. Fortunately, it's only his friends who have come to relieve his watch, though they appear as unsettled as he. Why the terror? Because of the ghost, of course -- the shadowy figure who has appeared on the ramparts as of late.

Obviously I'm describing a play -- Hamlet, to be precise -- and not a brochure, website or print ad. On the surface, in fact, this scene would appear to have nothing at all to do with marketing or sales copy of any kind. After all, Shakespeare's not selling anything here, is he?

Sure he is. He's selling Hamlet.

An arresting opening to a play, film or literary work sells interest in the rest of it. It must hook its audience quickly and strongly if the author wants that audience to show up for Act Two. A great opening to a gigantic epic novel can persuade a reader to wade several hundred pages deeper than he otherwise might. ("Call me Ishmael" has a lot to answer for.) Raising a brilliant opening curtain is like casting a magic spell -- it may not hold for very long, but it'll do its job long enough for you to strengthen and reinforce your command over those people for the period of time you need it.

The beginning of your marketing piece must command the "stage" -- in this case the inner stage of the mind -- just as firmly. This is especially, brutally true on the Internet, where we all have the attention span of a gnat with attention-deficit disorder. When someone lands on your homepage, you have a precious few seconds to cast your spell, so hit hard and aim true. Whether you open with an all-enveloping mood, a vivid depiction of a painful moment, a hearty laugh, an astonishing concept, or any of the other weapons in your mage's staff, make sure you point that initial moment straight at the heart, mind or funny bone of the specific people you want to enthrall. First ask yourself, "What will get my ideal customer's attention right now and hold it long enough to turn them into potential buyers?" Then fire away.

The same principle holds true for print marketing as well, though generally people will give you more time as they take in the pretty pictures or the nice slick paper. Even so, they want to hear what they want to hear, because they've got stuff to do. So tell them in a big way, right from the opening header, and then follow up on that initial promise with more goodies as you guide them through the piece.

You don't have to be Shakespeare to grab your audience's attention. You just have to know what will make their collective heart skip a beat, and then put it in front of them as the first thing they encounter.

Curtain up!


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Are You a Problem Solver? Then Market Yourself That Way

Does your business fill a need? Does it help people? Does it solve a problem? 

Of course it does. And that makes you a professional problem solver. We all need professional problem solvers -- people who know way more than we do about how to resolve a given issue causing us some kind of pain, and can do so relatively quickly and effectively. Some of these professionals even share their knowledge and insights with us just because they can. These folks are the ones we really trust, the ones we go to time after time. They are our experts.

You may already have established that relationship with your clients. Now, how would you like to build the same relationship with thousands of people you've never even met?

Take Bob Vila, for example. Everyone recognizes and acknowledges him as a master craftsman, an expert in the field of home building and remodeling, and I can assure that 99% of the people who hold that opinion have never met him, hired him or worked with him. So why does everyone agree on his expertise? Because he shares it with us through his website, books and TV appearances. He's always doling out useful information, in return for which we say, "There goes a guy who knows what he's talking about. I could do worse than take his advice."

You can make yourself known as a trusted advisor too, by establishing your expertise in your field to a wide audience. Write articles, blog posts, and direct-mail or email pieces that solve common problems or answer common questions pertaining to your field (or hire a copywriter to translate your diamonds in the rough into polished gems). Hand out information. Help people. Add value. When it's time for your prospective customer to pay for deeper assistance, who will they logically choose as the provider of that assistance?

Who will we trust first -- a salesman who sends us generic monthly offers, or one who provides us with valuable insights and helpful tips on a regular basis? Which one is more likely to become our go-to guy when the time is right to do business?

You are a problem solver. Something about what you do brings people relief and makes their lives better. So share your gifts with the world -- and receive a world of gifts.