Sunday, November 19, 2017

Excellent Example from Neiman Storyboard

I appreciate writing about writing that's really worth reading. Nieman Storyboard delivers, often. I found a recent article about how to get the attention of an editor at Smithsonian magazine especially instructive.

Hope you do too!

It's hard to ignore Smithsonian's great graphics.  Cover image from the article by Katia Savchuk

Here's to a holiday season filled with great reading and writing.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Your Website Doesn't Have to Be Fancy to Be Fantastic

Here's another #ExcellentExample - in this case, a good-looking website that does its job.

Take a look at the Halvorson Design website. It's not fancy, but fancy isn't the point.

The point is to get prospects to call the firm.

So Why Does This Website Work? 

  • It's clean, easy to navigate and understand. (Life is distracting enough.) Hint: white space helps!
  • It's up-to-date! Prospects can see right away that the firm is busy and on the ball. Sharing succinct messages about recently-completed projects tells the world: we get things done.
  • A site visitor's next step is obvious. In this case, the call to action is subtle, but clear. (For professional services, subtle is good. If you're selling consumer goods, you'll NEED TO BE A LITTLE LOUDER.)  On each page of the design firm's site, the contact is clearly listed on the right of the page. With a lot of white space...nothing to get in the way of your decision to call. Nice.
#ExcellentExample, Halvorson Design!

If You Don't Have a Website, Don't Panic

You don't need an expensive website. You do need a plan. Clean design and updated content gives prospective customers confidence; it makes them want to work with you. 

You can do this. We can do this. Not sure? Here's a shot of confidence for you.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Website Reality Check summer special

Do you need a little help with your website? Have you been managing your site in-house and find you're falling behind?

Want a different set of eyes and a fresh perspective on your site?

A Website Reality Check can make a BIG difference, and through the end of the month, it comes at a much lower rate. Find out more; book now to save.

What do you get from a Website Reality Check? 

  • Broken links, typos, missing tags identified
  • Initial review of UX/UI 
  • More...
What's the discount?
More than 50%! The initial consultation is reduced to $45; per-page rate just $35* for the month of July only

*Limited to the first 5 projects booked. 

Remember: in most cases your website is the first impression customers get of your business. Make sure it's a good one.

Video Marketing May or May Not Be What Your Business Needs

Video is everywhere, and there are dozens of tools to help you do it well and inexpensively. The cost to hire an expert video firm is dropping, too, thanks to competition.

But before you say, "hey, maybe it's time we invest in video," here's another idea:

Ask yourself if you really need it. Ask yourself if your prospects and customers want it. Ask yourself if you're committed to making it worthwhile.

Because if the answer to any of those questions is less than an enthusiastic yes, you need to go back to the Content Drawing Board, also known as Marketing Plan 101.

Yes, I'm a copywriter, content manager, marketing communications professional and all-around lover of words. But, I don't believe in content for content's sake. Want to talk about how content can help you attract the right kind of prospects and turn them into customers you'll love doing business with? 

<< This is a good example of smart video marketing. Why?
1. The right tool for the right audience - college students and interns are eating up video.
2. What's better than a testimonial? a testimonial on video!
3. The live event will live as relevant marketing collateral for at least the rest of the summer, probably well into the fall, or even spring semester.

New to video? Periscope is Twitter's video tool; Facebook Live threatened to eclipse it in 2016. Instagram has its own (stories). It's important to note that you don't need to use social media to use video (and vice-versa) - and the tools to create video are getting better, cheaper, and easier to use every day. 

So while it's easy to get overwhelmed (or excited) about the tools, the important thing to remember is that, unless you're in the movie-making business, video is about marketing. 

The tools change constantly; the principles remain pretty much the same. File under "Common Sense Marketing." If you like the sound of that, get in touch

Monday, June 26, 2017

So Maybe You Should Have a Blog

I've played devil's advocate and come up with some instances in which you may not want or need a blog for business. But for the most part, blogging is good for business - any kind of business.

Interestingly, GoDaddy has a lot of good stuff to say about blogging. I say interesting because GoDaddy isn't really big in supporting its users with blogging tools. Go figure.

Anyway, blogging is good for business. Seriously.  See what GoDaddy says about it here:

Here's another perspective on how blogging augments your PR efforts, too:

Need help starting or updating your blog?
I can do that.

7/7/17 UPDATE: Yet another article with some good advice on making your blog more productive, from Mark Shaefer's Businesses Grow.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Copyediting, Line editing, Proofreading - what's the difference and what do you need?

"How much do you charge for proofreading?" sounds like a very innocent question, and one that should be easy to answer.

Unfortunately, a short answer is probably going to be wrong. Or at least make somebody unhappy (me or my client).

It seems like everyone - including the "experts" - have different ideas about what constitutes proofreading, light editing, get the idea.

This is why, when asked to quote a job, I usually say, "Well, it depends. What do you want?"

I"m not hedging. I'm trying to get it right - for all involved.

Below are links to some "definitive" descriptions about "general" proofreading and editing work. Keep in mind, these are general guidelines for "regular" copy. Typically, costs to edit industry-specific or very technical writing are double or even higher.

Would you like some help proofreading or editing your marketing copy, website, or other business communications? Let's talk. Let's get it right.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Introducing the Facepalm Marketing Series

What NOT to do in marketing communicationsWhen I wrote Don't Have a Webinar if You Have Nothing to Say, I didn't realize there would be so much more where that came from. Unfortunately, I seem to have found a rich source of ideas for a new stream of content, which I am calling The Facepalm Marketing Series.

Welcome. You may wish to take a moment to sigh before we begin.

This week, I was eager to attend another webinar on email content. When it comes to email marketing, it's difficult to get a good grip on the "rules" beyond the basics. (The basics being start with good lists, include nice images but mind your load time, offer safe unsubscribe options, run A/B tests and use smart - but not TOO clever - subject lines. Whew. And those are just the basics.) 

Imagine my excitement when I signed up for a webinar offering a few insights into current trends in email and sample campaigns. (Maybe I need to get out more.) Now imagine my dismay when the presentation focused on content marketing in general and most of the examples cited were from blogs and landing pages.

Insert facepalm here.

In case you're wondering, the company hosting the webinar was not the same as the one that hosted the 17-minute wonder a few weeks ago. I'm not sure how long this annoying series will last, but I'm pretty sure we can look forward to a few more installments, at least.

Better Email Marketing Examples Are Out There

Also, in case you're interested in email marketing trends from a more worthy source, consider following the Moz Email Marketing blog. I sincerely doubt it will provide me with any new Facepalm material.

Stay alert, my marketing friends.
Before I accept an assignment to create content for a client, I like to be sure we both understand the point of the project. If that sounds like a waste of time to you, please don't contact me

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Numbers Say, Take Social Media Seriously

What's social media worth to your business? Do you need a blog?

Consider this scenario:
A business has an overall bounce rate of 44% - but the bounce rate for visitors coming (to the same website) from social media channels is 18%.

Stats from the same business, same month:
(Overall) average page views from organic traffic: 1.7
Average page views from traffic referred by Facebook: 2.8
Average page views from visitors referred by blog: 4.4

Old-school sales people like to talk about priming the pump and filling the funnel...and there's a reason social media and content managers use the same phrases.

Sales and marketing have always been about relationship building. Only the tools have changed.

Prospects are referred, customers are educated, leads are nurtured, relationships are developed and sales are made...when people connect with your content.

Get Writing that Works, and grow your business with excellent content. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

3 Business Tips that don't involve Marketing Content

As content marketing professionals go, I've been told I'm...different. (OK; the word "weird" has come up a time or two.) I'm perfectly happy to play to that crowd.

While I'm a BIG fan of (good) content, there are many other pieces of the puzzle to making your organization a whole and happy one. Here are three to consider:

Find out how working with other organizations can help yours (and theirs). In other words, talk to other people. It's painfully obvious and simple, and there's absolutely no guarantee of immediate payback. Try it anyway. A meeting about your business and someone else's can lead to wonderful opportunities for both of you. Be straightforward about wanting share ideas and learn from each other. Start by asking: "Any chance you're free to discuss areas of potential collaboration?"

Require your employees to use good manners with each other and with everyone who interacts with your business or organization. I wrote about HR and employment law for 12 years. Trust me, there are a lot of things you can't require of employees. Making it mandatory to say "thank you" and generally be helpful and courteous while they're representing your company is still TOTALLY legal. If you'd like, I'd be happy to help you write it into your employee manual.

When you buy promotional items, buy good ones. Cheap pens! Thin t-shirts! Ugly mugs! In a word, NO. If you're putting your logo on it, it should work - and look good.

Looking for a writer who "gets" business? I'm that kind of different. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Better Headlines + Better Content = Better Reader Action

Headlines matter. Unless the point of your content is JUST to get clicks, the article that follows the headline needs to be good, too.

Here are 3 good articles on headlines from some content leaders: 

Dam good headline.
A recent post from reminds us why the big picture (whole content enchilada) matters.

Sort of on the flip side, however, is the classic approach - the essentials, in a nutshell, I learned in my Advertising 101 class. Important note - this addresses advertising headlines.

Betteridges' Law (and Columbia Journalism Review) reminds us that headlines - especially headlines in the form of questions - can be too clever. Especially when you need readers to get past the headline. Because it's CJR, the article also offers some exceptional advice, as applicable to writers as it is to readers: “You’ve always got to question what you read.” 

The bottom line: Good copywriting attracts and keeps readers.
Need a writer who thinks about your readers? Get in touch.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What Ghostwriters Write (Hint: Everything)

A lot of titles in the business world are misunderstood. Most of them, I would argue. That said, if you ever meet a copywriter with a big chip on his or her shoulder, I hope you'll cut her (OK, me) some slack. 

Most copywriters could also be called "ghostwriters," and although neither is a particularly lofty title, in our information-laden world, writers of all ilks* deserve some more…consideration, for starters. (More compensation, too - but I'll leave that topic for another day.)

What Do Ghostwriters and Copywriters Write? Everything

In the past year or so, I've written about employment placement services, OSHA regulations, e-parking apps, replacement windows, agricultural dust control products, hand-crafted jewelry, landscaping services and bulk mulch products, mobile pet grooming services, PeopleSoft implementations, escape room games, marketing automation, keratin hair straightening processes, online accounting services, floral arrangements, appointment-setting software, lead paint remediation products, snow plowing and ice management techniques and a variety of medical conditions, surgeries and treatments, and reimbursement systems affecting both patients and providers. 

Over approximately the same time period, my work has also appeared in three Forbes blogs, The Huffington Post, and a couple of other places I can't mention.

Do Ghostwriters Create Policies and Procedures? Some Do

I've written policies and procedural manuals for employees of companies where I've never been employed. And by written, I don’t mean wrangled someone else's words, but written meaning created and developed the policy (after discussions with several company principles or department head) and then re-written, for stakeholder approval. I have not written public policy but many a hired-gun copywriter has. Sorry if that ruins your romantic notion about politicians and other public servants but hey, they're busy people. (Do you have any idea how much time it takes to raise enough money to run for office?)

My point? Information is a tricky thing. Regardless of the expert's name on an article or the name of the publication, it's quite possible the piece you're reading was written by a copywriter with a basic journalism degree in his (or her) back pocket, an unimpressive balance in his (or her) bank account, and a whole lot of secrets. 

Professional Ghostwriters are Not in the Fake News Business

This rant about ghostwriting/copywriting is absolutely not intended to be a jab at journalism, public relations, corporate information, business blogs or any other form of writing. Quite the contrary. Journalists are trained to research, investigate, interview and quickly disseminate information - real, helpful information. Not "just the facts," but the facts plus context

When you need to provide accurate, clear, helpful information to a particular audience, you need a professional communicator. Now, maybe you won’t be afraid to say “ghostwriter.”
*Like copywriters, ilk is a word that doesn't get a lot of respect. (While many modern spell-check programs don't recognize it, Merriam-Webster does.) I love how internet retailer Woot uses "ilk" in an ad for a bag that's definitely not elk. 

As long as I'm using Woot's image, I should point out that the company appears to "get" copywriting and all forms of marketing/communications. Kudos to Woot, Ghostwriters, and Elks everywhere.  

Monday, April 17, 2017

Marketing, Customer Service, Operations, and Why United Airlines Might Want to Call Me

I'll spare you a review of last week's United Airlines debacle. I'll even go out on a limb and say that I understand and agree with the policy that required (yes, required) the passenger to lose his seat on that plane. But I haven't written about regulatory policy in a couple of years, so I'm not going to focus on that.

Here's the most important take-away from the whole fiasco: MARKETING, OPERATIONS, AND CUSTOMER SERVICE MUST WORK TOGETHER - OR THEY WON'T WORK.

Here's a link to follow in case you live under a rock and missed the United Airlines customer bump brouhaha.

Here's another, in case you'd like to work with a marketing content manager who understands business, operations, and customer service.

Let's all try to straighten up and fly right this week, eh?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Employee Communication 101 - Think Like a Customer Service Manager

An article recently posted on LinkedIn by David Ward, a risk management advisor, struck a chord with me. 

In the post, Ward pointed out that safety procedures - and therefore safety communications - are too important to be left open to interpretation. 

Ward used some specific examples related to roofing professionals, many of whom spoke English as a second language. (For what it's worth, some of Ward's post was related to a specific OSHA regulation.)

Certainly, there's no room for error in a roofing operation or myriad other occupations that are physically demanding and potentially very dangerous. Proper instruction and clear communication, of course, is vital. 

In one example he shared, Ward put it like this: "In practical terms, this means that an employer must instruct its employees using both a language and vocabulary that the employees can understand."

But I argue, why do we need regulations to specify that employee instruction must be clear and understandable? 

Improved Safety Communications = Better Results

Why don't  we view employee training (which necessarily includes employee manuals and other communications) as critical to the customer service function? 

Because, of course, it is. 

The better your safety communications, the safer your workers, the more productive the team, the better results for customers ... 

Oh, don't get me started. 

Great Examples of Internal Communications

Instead of citing dozens of examples of how not to handle employee communications and training, l'll just say this: Offering clear and understandable communications to employees (AND CUSTOMERS) will position a company heads-and-shoulders above most of the competition. Any company, any industry. I believe communication is THAT important. 

I'm sorry it still needs to be said. 

Rather than offering a lot of bad examples of communication, I'll ask you - do you have any examples of great communication that has helped your company stand apart from the crowd (in a good way)? 

I'm all ears! 
Feel free to leave a comment here, or Tweet it out. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Don't Have A Webinar if You Have Nothing to Say

I sat through a 17-minute webinar last week. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of presentations that are brief-and-to-the-point. 

This was more like a fluffmercial. Please, don't be that guy. 

I'm going out on a limb here to say that webinars are gonna be huge (HUGE) in 2017. There are oodles of video tools to make webinars fast, cheap, and fairly good-looking. We're accustomed to watching videos to learn how to do almost anything. 

If you're reading about marketing trends (especially while drinking KoolAid) then you know hosting a webinar is on the top of the list of cool, must-do marketing tasks for 2017. They're also practical, and not complicated. You create helpful content - or reuse what you already have - wrap it up in a nice audio/visual package, and smile as you collect information on all the prospects who sign up to see your presentation. 

It's practically perfect - assuming your presentation is worth the audience's time. 

Make Your Webinar Better Than That

The mercifully brief webinar I watched last week wasn't worth my time, and I suspect most of the audience could say the same.

Here are the top 3 things that were wrong with it: 

1. The headline promised a whole lot more than the webinar delivered. In fact, the headline was almost as informative as the rest of the webinar! Grrrr. (This is how people get jaded, btw.) 
2. The last minute of the webinar focused on signing up listeners for the next webinar. I did the math: that's nearly 6% of the content worthwhile only to the company that produced it. And, I'm betting, it wasn't effective. #LoseLose
3. The way-too-general, way-too-brief presentation gave me the impression the company is absolutely NOT an expert in its industry, ergo, I am much less likely to do business with the company now than I was before I attended the webinar. I think we can safely call that an "unintended consequence." #oops

So the Point Is: Say Something Useful

Content Marketing is a great idea if you actually have content, that is, something to say that is useful to your audience (prospects). Whether it's a white paper, webinar, email campaign, brochure (remember those?) or website, your content needs a purpose. 

'Nuff said. 
Looking for a jaded marketing consultant to help you hone your message, look like an expert, and get your useful content to the right audience? Here I am