Two days ago I received an email that started with ”I’m contacting you today for a rather unusual reason.”
Well, that didn’t sound like a regular business inquiry. But since the email had not been banished to my spam folder, I gave the author the benefit of the doubt.
He introduced himself as a technical writer, who also received a rather unusual request. A potential customer approached him to write copy for nutritional supplements. As he had zero experience in writing for the health market, the writer was surprised by the inquiry.
He turned to me because I write for the health industry and asked if I was open to helping the client in exchange for a finder’s fee.
My Answer: “Yes.”
I’m happy to pay a 15 percent referral fee of the total project cost for the first assignment.
However, there are a few caveats:
(1) The potential client and I must reach agreement on terms, such as price and deadlines. In addition, the client must sign my quote and pay a deposit.
(2) I reserve the right to decline a project for any reason. But here are some examples on why I’ll say “No.”
- A few years ago, a prospect asked me to write copy for an energy drink named after an illicit drug. I declined. I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea. So I may pass on writing for a product that’s makes me uneasy.
- I’ll decline a project if the prospect wants to include copy that violates FTC, FDA or similar regulations or laws.
- The prospect has a bucket full of unresolved complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Sorry, but if he treats customers poorly, he’s not going to treat vendors any better.
“What about writing beyond your specialties?”
Occasionally, I’m asked if I will write for markets outside my niches of B2B and health. It depends on the product or service. I don’t write for the fashion market because it just doesn’t interest me — much to the chagrin of my wife.
But I have written for a number of other sectors, including real estate, hospitality, publishing and non-profit. If in doubt, drop me a line. I may be interested.
To sum up, if you’re a fellow writer or other marketing colleague who has received an inquiry for a project you don’t want to take on, then please contact me. You could make yourself some easy money.
infographic by brightinfo.com
With a video camera now as close as your cell phone, the quality and professionalism of video during previous decades seems relegated to the back seat of our YouTube age.
Just about everybody can now shoot, post and share video; you no longer need a bulky, expensive camera like the pros. And after all, how much quality do you really need to post a video of a puppy chasing its tail?
But when it comes to using video for marketing, quality does count with viewers.
Your Video’s Impact on Buyer Confidence
The other day I came across video marketing stats that revealed 43 percent of people who watch video online said they would switch to a competitor if the video quality was poor.
And 52 percent of consumers agree watching product videos makes them more confident in their purchase decisions. So upping your game and putting a bit of polish in your videos can serve you well.
I believe some prep work before you shoot can go a long way in developing appealing videos. Generally, marketing videos are much shorter today than when I started writing and producing them in the 1980s. But preplanning is an excellent practice, even for a two-minute video.
Write an outline of what needs to be covered in your video– this is a minimum requirement. If your video is longer or more complex, then a script can actually save you time and money by avoiding production mistakes and omissions.
In my Video Content Planning Guide for B2B, I explain situations where you should always opt for a script.
Should YOU Write the Script?
There’s no single answer to this. It depends. But some of the factors you should consider before making a decision include…
1. Are you confident you can write effectively for the audio-visual medium?
2. How complex is the video? (Many locations? Requires graphics?)
3. Do you know how to properly format and structure a video script?
4. Can you write natural dialogue and narration effectively?
5. Do you understand video terminology?
6. Do you have the time to write the script?
If you can’t answer yes to these questions, then you should seriously consider hiring a professional scriptwriter.
As author Alan Wurtzel states in his book Television Production:
“Understanding the best way to combine words and pictures and when to let one or the other carry the program’s message is the essence of the scriptwriter’s art.”
(*Television Production. Copyright 1983, 1979 by McGraw-Hill, Inc.)
It’s that time when we marketers ponder about our objectives and strategies for the New Year. After two decades of experience in the industry, I haven’t seen marketing communications splinter into so many different channels, especially in the social media space.
But having more channels doesn’t necessarily make things easier for marketers.
The Business Marketing Association and Forrester Inc noted anxiety among marketers in research presented at the BMA’s annual conference this year. Their study found that, “97% of b2b marketers are doing things they have never done before as part of marketing, and 34% of senior marketers feel ‘overwhelmed’ by change.”
If you feel snowed under and unsure about your marketing direction, have a look at some of the trends and predictions for the New Year. It might deliver the right guidance on where to aim your marketing arrows in 2014 – or at least give you a little time to prepare.
Social Media Trends for 2014
Top 7 Content Marketing Trends that Will Dominate 2014
Digital Marketing Techniques That Will Be in Vogue in 2014
Search Engine Marketing & Pay Per Click:
Will It Be an SEO or PPC Year for Marketers?
Winterberry Group’s 2014 Predictions
For my own forecasting, I predict a cooling of social media’s cool factor. Its popularity won’t sink, but companies will achieve a better understanding of where social media excels and where it doesn’t. It’s inevitable that this marketing channel would start to mature, like all others before it.
I expect to see the fast emergence of new players within social media, giving pioneers like Facebook and Twitter a run for their money. Mobile marketing will become more integrated into ecommerce and content marketing.
What about you? Where do you think marketing is headed in 2014? Please share your thoughts.
Ezines, or e-newsletters, are ranked number 3 in popularity for content channels as published in the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends. In the realm of email content, the ezine is still the main player.
Ideally, you should associate your ezine with the face of your brand. This could be the CEO, other C-level executive, or, for smaller organizations, the company owner. Whomever you choose, he or she should be the consistent voice of your ezine.
Why Does It Matter?
Socialmedia Today published results of a survey that revealed…
“68.7% of respondents believe that C-suite social media engagement enhances the perception that a brand is honest and trustworthy, and 83.9% believe that CEO social media engagement is an effective tool to increase brand loyalty.”
While ezines don’t fall under the social media umbrella, the research shows that content with a face likely delivers improved customer engagement and response. The ezine is a more personal marketing channel than social media, so it provides a great opportunity to apply this persona branding technique.
Real World Examples
I helped a client develop a successful monthly ezine that followed this approach — combining useful content, a low key sales approach, and a personal point of view. His product was aimed at health-conscious consumers, but you could adopt this format for a variety of products in the B2B or B2C sector.
The first item to appear in my client’s ezine was an article about a specific health topic, usually a vitamin, mineral or herb. There was no direct selling of a product in the article, just interesting and valuable information, such as this excerpt on the importance of probiotics:
EXAMPLE – 1A
After the article my client would comment about its content and often included another piece of interesting information or little-known benefit. He would then casually introduce his health product…
EXAMPLE – 1B
Here’s another article from a different edition of the ezine:
EXAMPLE – 2A
And here’s his follow-up text:
Why did he have success with this style of ezine? His readers appreciated the fact that he was providing useful information up front rather than an immediate sales pitch. The tone is personal, from one health-conscious person to another, and the product benefits are delivered in a matter-of-fact way.
I used to think brainstorming was an annoyance. I felt like it was a way to seem busy but without really making any headway on a task. But when it comes to creativity, inspiration is an unreliable visitor. So I have to suck it up and try other ways to coax ideas into the spotlight.
It would be a folly to try and list all the possible ways to brainstorm ideas. But I can share at least some of the methods of developing content both for my own company and clients.
1) Write a Letter to a Customer (But Not a Sales Letter). You’re not trying to sell with this technique. You simply write as if you are responding to a problem a customer has shared with you. By focusing on articulating the benefits in a more relaxed format of a letter, you open the possible solutions that can be a source for content.
2) Review Your Social Media Channels. See if the headlines in your news feed spark ideas. I prefer Twitter for this, perhaps because it’s concise, and I can view a lot of content topics in a single glance.
3) Read Your Competitor’s Content Marketing. Your goal is not to plagiarize, but to see if you can find related ideas or approach the same topic from a different angle.
4) Write Non Stop for 25 Minutes. No pausing to reread or edit any of the text. At the end of the time period, print it out and review. (I came up with today’s blog post by using this technique.)
5) Ask Your Brain for Content Ideas. This may seem too simple and obvious, but you’re not asking your conscious mind. You want assistance from the deep well of your unconscious. I usually post the question before I go to sleep. I never get an immediate reply when I put this method into action. But almost always within 48 hours, some good ideas jump to the front of my brain.
6) Create a Mind Map. Although I haven’t found it as effective as other techniques, mind mapping is extremely popular for storming ideas. You start with a keyword or phrase in the center of a page and then jot down ideas around the topic. My mind prefers a more linear approach, such as typing out ideas on a blank page. But everybody’s mind is different. No harm in testing it out.
If you’d rather skip the pen and paper, there are plenty of online tools. Here are some of the most recommended brainstorming software programs:
Storm Board (for team collaboration)
Need some brainstorming help for video marketing? Get my free Video Content Planning guide.
I recently came across an article on the site Social Media B2B about making content marketing more manageable. In the research report B2B Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends, 64% of marketers stated that their biggest challenge is creating enough content. It got me to thinking what techniques and resources I use for managing both my content production and client projects over the last several years.
I’ve found I employ a combination of cognitive techniques, software and templates to keep the wheels of production turning and the workload under control. Test these yourself:
1) Implement a Time Management System. I never used any specific system until I found Pomodoro. It breaks your activities into 25-minute segments, and it emphasizes focusing on a single chore rather than the more common approach of multitasking. Recommended!
2) Use Boiler Plate Templates. Speed up the structuring of your content with preformatted shortcuts. Although not the only copywriting format I use, the motivating sequence is one of my favourites. Download The Motivating Sequence – Cheat Sheet. Also give these templates from the Content Marketing Institute a look.
3) Determine Your Optimum Times for Productivity. I do most of my challenging creative tasks, such as writing, in the morning when I feel my brain is fresh. I reserve my slow period for less taxing activities, such as answering emails, filing client info and returning phone calls.
4) Write It Down. Developing an outline of major projects keeps things running smoothly. I break down tasks into more manageable chunks. It may sound like extra work, but this technique has really helped me keep on top of projects.
5) Use a Social Media Dashboard. To manage your content posting and distribution, use a program such as HootSuite or Sprout Social. This saves time jumping from one account to another.
I’ve been involved in content creation for two decades, and it does take some time to discover what process works best for your personality and habits. Be open to experimenting.
A big mistake I made when I started using Twitter was that I mistook content distribution as social engagement. For months I dutifully tweeted links to content (my own and those of others) to my followers. The result of my efforts amounted to a hill of beans. No response. No leads. Nothin.’
When I dug deeper into Twitter and researched how people were using it for business purposes, I began to see where I was going wrong. Distributing content is only half the story. You need two-way engagement—and some good manners.
If you find Twitter hasn’t lived up to your expectations, you might want to learn from the mistakes I made in the early days …
1) No Acknowledgement–
When you receive notification of a new follower, you do nothing to contact her and thank her for following.
Send a personalized message to each new follower. Avoid using programs that send an automated “Thank you for following” message. It’s the Twitter equivalent of getting a form letter with Dear Sir or Madam at the top. By all means, send her a thank you message, but include her first name so she feels like another human being is talking to her.
2) No Gifts–
Did your thank you message also include a link to your website and an offer to help? Let them know of resources on your website or blog, such as special reports, case studies or white papers. Gifts like these build rapport and trust.
3) No Reciprocation–
You never retweet followers who have retweeted you. This is really important for pumping up engagement on Twitter and warming up the conversation with followers. Return the favor.
4) No Fresh Content–
I signed up for a writing newsletter I saw mentioned on a website, but when I looked at the publisher’s Twitter feed it consistently repeated the same tweet, “Sign up for our ezine.” But I had already “been there, done that.” I wanted links to new content, not the same newsletter pitch. Vary both your message and content. Keep direct self promotion to 10 percent of your daily tweets.
5) No Action–
Does your Twitter account look inactive? Do you post daily? Do you follow others? If not, you may be driving away potential followers. While the right number of daily tweets you should send varies, most of the research I’ve reviewed suggests a minimum of five tweets each day. And be sure to follow others. Having a steep, lopsided follower-following ratio can actually work against you.
When you practice some basic business etiquette and ramp up engagement with your followers, you’ll discover the true power of Twitter. Let me know if you see better results.
According to the recent report 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends, marketers were asked to rate the effectiveness of their content marketing on a scale of 1 to 5 (not effective – very effective). Only 9 percent of marketers rated themselves a 5; most (41%) rated themselves a 3.
The middling rating by the majority of marketers could be linked to another revelation in the study: only 44 percent of them actually have a written content strategy. But those organizations that produced a plan were more effective and less challenged by the content marketing process.
I had a related discussion a couple of days ago in a LinkedIn group. We chatted about trying to get executives and other stakeholders to reach consensus on the importance of developing content, and it came back to producing a strategy before discussing which media — articles, blogs, white papers — you’re going to use.
Without a plan, many companies spread themselves too thin. They dabble back and forth on the distribution channels with no consistency. And they soon discover the whole process becomes unwieldy without first laying the foundation.
There’s lots of other interesting finding in the report. Have a look at this Slideshare overview:
As I mentioned in my previous posting on unique selling propositions, B2B content marketing generally has a low tolerance for hype. Expanding a bit further on this theme, I have a writing technique I use sometimes to flush out text that might be too sales oriented. It may seem a bit unorthodox, but I do find it works…
Write your ideal customer a letter, as if you were writing to a friend.
This doesn’t mean that your completed marketing piece has to be a letter. But writing content in the personal letter form reduces hyperbole in your text that you might find in more sales oriented marketing material.
Assign your imaginary customer a first name, and start with the standard salutation “Dear [FIRST NAME].” (Spending time first developing a buyer persona can focus your picture of your ideal customer even more strongly. Here’s an example from Hubspot.)
Try the letter technique for the early drafts of your marketing content to see if it keeps your tone genuine.