Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Just One More Thing: The Columbo Approach to Content Marketing

 "Just one more thing...." If you can't read that phrase without hearing it in Peter Falk's voice, then you're probably one of the countless fans of the classic detective series Columbo. This show, which originated as a stage/TV play entitled "Prescription: Murder," was a huge hit throughout the 1970s and continues to attract a mix of old and new viewers. They hey to that attraction lay in the show's hero, a rumbled-looking cop who never seemed to have his act together -- lulling his too-smart-for-their-own good adversaries into a false sense of security before finally pulling all the clues together and arresting them for murder. In the midst of his feigned disorganization and confusion, Columbo would throw out little questions and insights here and there -- "just one more thing" at a time, with those bits and pieces snowballing their way toward an inevitable conclusion.

Successful content marketing often takes this same basic approach. Take your typical email drip campaign. You might start out with a series of cold email messages aimed at a specific target audience, each email offering a casual, brief, breezy combination of greetings and eye-catching details about your product or service. "Hey, I know you're busy, but I just wanted to share a fun fact with you." Share enough of these fun facts, spread out over enough email messages, and you've started to put together a pretty compelling case for your business.

If you've got prospects opting in to learn more about your company, that's another audience entirely. So you also create a series of warm emails that go into greater depth and detail, since you already know that these folks have shown an interest in learning more. Each email might tackle a different product, service, common customer objection, or success story illustrating how you helped another individual or organization with similar needs. This would be the equivalent of Columbo explaining his concerns or discoveries with that exasperated bad guy who desperately wants to know just how much this detective has on the ball, or who throws out various reasons why Columbo might be on the wrong track. The preponderance of supporting detail really matters here. This is the stage where you start including links to longer articles, cut sheets, technical specifications, case studies et cetera.

It's worth noting that this approach doesn't limit itself to email campaigns. The "one more thing" technique can also work well whether you're sending out a series of direct mail postcards, sales letters, or other marketing touches. In a somewhat different form, it also pays off when creating inbound marketing content. For instance, the top pages of your website may focus on sizzle, teasing visitors to dive into supporting pages that provide in-depth information. The deeper they dive, the more they learn -- and the more likely they are to buy.

You don't have to be a master detective to benefit from a master detective's methods. Columbo may be a fictional character, but his "one more thing" approach can yield very real benefits as a content marketing strategy. If you want to make sure you're dropping just the right details in just the right sequence, contact a professional copywriter to put that messaging together for you. Case solved!

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.