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Archive for April, 2013

“Excuse Me; May I Buy Your Product?” – The Inbound Marketing Payoff

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Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to promote your company and customers just beat a patch to your door? You don’t need to invent a better mousetrap to get that kind of customer attention. You just need to find a better way to communicate with them to get them to want to do business with you. That requires better content to attract them and better channels to reach them.

Thanks to the web, customers have become self-selecting and proactive in their search for new goods and services. Rather than responding to outbound marketing – advertisements, billboards, TV spots, etc. – they are more inclined to respond to inbound marketing – a two-way dialogue often empowered by social media. If you think about it another way, you are earning the trust of your inbound marketing prospects instead of shouting at them to get their attention.

Inbound marketing is all the rage for some obvious reasons:

  • 44 percent of direct mail is never opened.
  • 86 percent of viewers skip through commercials.
  • 84 percent of younger buyers (25 to 34 years old) have clicked out of a website because of an intrusive popup ad or an irrelevant ad.
  • The cost per lead in inbound marketing is substantially less than traditional outbound programs.

What drives inbound marketing programs is content – blogs, social media posts, white papers, videos, podcasts. You have to use informative content that entertains and adds value to create a positive connection with the consumer. Once you engage with the consumer, he or she is more likely to take a closer look at your products, feel a connection to your brand, and ultimately make a purchasing decision.

While this is a better mousetrap, it requires patience and persistence. Conversion doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it often never happens. But permission-based inbound marketing campaigns, where you invite participation, are always less expensive and promote greater customer loyalty than outbound programs.

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Written by Tom Woolf

April 29th, 2013 at 2:16 am

The Three Essential Steps to Killer Content

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No matter what your marketing program initiative – a social media campaign, blogging, direct email, a new web site – you need the right message to appeal to your target audience. That means going back to basics if you want to create killer content. You need to talk to your clients in a language that resonates with them, sharing content that is interesting and appealing. Remember that content marketing is all about engaging in an online exchange, and good conversation is driven by good content.

As we have said in the past, good content is like good storytelling – your objective is to tell your story in a way that engages your audience; that resonates with them so they learn to trust you, trust what you have to say, and they follow you. Building online trust as a credible source is what keeps your audience coming back for more. And if they trust you they will do business with you.

So how do you create awesome content that speaks to your clients? There are three essential steps:

1. Listen. Too often, organizations launch into an online marketing program without testing the waters first. They start posting without thinking, flooding their online channels with messages that basically say, “He, we’re here! Isn’t it cool being online! Want to buy our stuff?” Boring and obnoxious! No one will engage with you to hear a sales pitch. When creating content, your goal is to provide information that is both valuable and promotes your brand. You want to be seen as an expert with something interesting to share. To do that, you have to understand what your audience wants to hear. Listen before you leap.

  • Who are the influences in your market? Those are the people to follow. See what they are saying on their blog, on Twitter, and on their Facebook page. They probably have interesting subjects that you can talk about.
  • What are you peers talking about? What topics are hot in the Web in your market? You can use keywords and key phrases to uncover similar conversations? Search the webs, the news feeds, the blog feeds, and elsewhere to see what others are saying about those topics.
  • Where does your target audience hang out? If you want to reach consumers, are they on Facebook or Twitter? If they are professionals do they have their own blog, their own online forum, or are they on LinkedIn? Find relevant conversations and follow the thread. And remember to use those same online locations to share your own content.

2. Empathize. Every good writer has to make an emotional connection with his or her audience. Your content has to show empathy for your reader. Think like a reader; project yourself into his or her shoes and see what fits. What information do they want from you? What makes their lives easier? What obstacles prevent them from engaging with you?

Your value proposition, or if you prefer your brand promise, needs to align with your target market. To do that effectively, you have to understand what your clients want and how you can fulfill their needs and desires. That kind of empathy needs to be reflected in your content.

A proven marketing tool to help you understand your audience is creating a profile or “persona.” Create a portrait of your ideal client and use that persona or character to test assumptions about your product or service – what would your customer do? And don’t’ be shy about asking your customers and online followers what they think and what they want to hear from you.

3. Engage. Once you understand what makes them tick you are ready to engage. Be an information resource. Offer advice and answer questions about topics of interest and that are relevant to your brand. Be sure to approach your topics with confidence, as an expert, so your followers understand why you should be a trusted resource.

Remember that content is the tool you need to build an online rapport. Once your followers become comfortable with you and look to you for advice on your areas of expertise, they will seek you out when they need your help. That’s how you use content to build your business.

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Written by Tom Woolf

April 19th, 2013 at 4:28 pm

What’s in a Name? Tips About Naming Strategies

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In addition to providing content to drive our clients’ marketing programs, from time to time we also are called on to assist with naming conventions and branding strategies. Usually a client is trying to come up with something clever and memorable for a new webinar series or to make their latest service or product stand out, and we put on our wordsmithing hats and see what brainstorm we can come up with. There a number of rules about branding and product naming strategies that you want to apply.

First, however, understand what we mean by a “brand.” In the context of this blog, we are thinking about product or service “branding” as an extension of an established brand. A brand is not a logo or a product name. Rather, a brand is an attitude (ideally positive) that has been built up over time about a company and its products. A solid brand conveys an image, an identity that is characterized by a feeling or quality. Think of Volvo and the brand is about safety, not just cars. Think about Coca Cola and the brand speaks about refreshment, not just Coke the product.

So when we are tasked with creating a new name we want to make sure it reinforces the core brand. We also want to make sure it is clear, catchy, memorable, and searchable.

For example, iPhone, Droid, and Galaxy are more memorable and more in line with corporate image than, say, a Motorola XT886. The name speaks to cool – it’s easy to recall and easier to tweet, post, blog, and tell your friends. It creates an association that reinforces the mother brand.

Then there’s the practical stuff about product naming…

1. Is it trademarked? It’s amazing how many naming ideas are not original but actually someone else’s intellectual property. Make sure you are on solid legal ground before choosing a name. (There are rules about whether commonly used terms can be trademarked, and when, whether products have to be in competition, etc., so when in doubt, consult an expert.)

2. Simple is better. If you can, find a phrase or term that is descriptive and evocative, but not too complex. Simple one and two-syllable words tend to stand out and are more memorable.

3. Repurpose real words. You can take something that already exists and give it new meaning (Apple, Adobe, Yelp, Yahoo!) or come up with spelling variations (Digg, flickr).

4. Use obscure words or phrases. Break out your high school Latin dictionary or look for descriptive terms from an obscure source. Names like Plaxo have their roots in foreign languages.

5. Think about acronyms. Acronyms can be powerful and memorable, such as IBM and AOL. Bebo, for example, is both an Armenian name and also stands for “Blog Early Blog Often.”

6. Try puns and word play. I like to use puns and memorable phrases in headlines and descriptors, and they can work for product names as well (e.g. Write On Content Professionals).

7. Think about search. You know that it’s going to take a while for the new product to become a household name, even with your target business audience. If you incorporate common search terms in the product name, or in a product tagline or descriptor, chances are it will appear more frequently in online search results.

Don’t go overboard but try to create a name that can grow with your brand. And no matter how you approach naming of your next company or product, it’s best to apply the KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Stupid.

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Written by Tom Woolf

April 10th, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Content Headlines: Write Headlines That Click With Your Readers

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Is the day of the great headline over? Here’s one of my favorites: “Crapper honored for flushing toilet.” It ran many years ago in a Chicago newspaper; and as the copy editors intended, cracked me up. The article was my introduction to Sir Thomas Crapper, the 19th Century plumber credited with inventing the flushing toilet. Turns out Sir Crapper’s claim to fame was a bit more myth than reality. He actually didn’t invent the modern convenience. He did, however, increase its popularity (sounds like a pretty easy marketing job) and improve upon the original model, according to Wikipedia.

Sir Thomas aside, the pursuit of web rankings has resulted in a lot of pretty forgettable headlines. There’s nothing memorable about “Ten Ways to Poach an Egg” but it just might show up in a Google Search on poached eggs. Localize it and your chances of it moving up the Google food chain are even better – “Ten Ways to Poach an Egg in Poughkeepsie.”

Still, the goal of a headline remains the same as it always has – to get someone to read your content. Today, you also want to be found by search engines.  The goals are not mutually exclusive.

Here are six tips for writing effective headlines:

  1. Figure out what works: Whether it’s your blog or other online content, track which headlines and posts get the most page views, time on site and bounce rate. Maybe it’s the topic, keywords or headlines. You should be able to get some idea what resonates with your audience.
  2. Be clear: Don’t expect the reader to look at your content if they don’t know what it’s about. Make sure you headline clearly indicates what the copy is about.
  3. Keywords count:  To make sure you optimize search, include the appropriate keyword or phrase.
  4. Size matters: Keep your headline short. Around 55 to 70 characters is optimum to ensure search engines don’t cut off your titles because they exceed the maximum length.
  5. Use powerful language: You don’t have a lot of characters, so use them wisely. Use the most powerful words you can and cut extras.
  6. Use catchy adjectives. Keywords and short headlines don’t preclude catchy.  Try to use bold adjectives to amp up your headlines.
  7. Tried and true: Headlines that drive readership often:
  • Ask or answer a question: What would you do with a million dollars?
  • Are controversial: Five reasons cold calls don’t work anymore
  • Convey a benefit: Tablets boost small business productivity
  • Use statistics:  50 percent of small business owners don’t take vacations
  • Include a number as in in ‘Ten ways to poach an egg with great results every time”

Great headlines take time. Don’t rush them. Do them right and you’ll be flush with readers. (You knew that was coming, right?)

 

 

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Written by Barbara Kohn

April 1st, 2013 at 12:15 am