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.