Viewing all posts by Amy C. Teeple.

Time to get some perspective

Shift your perspective to see the hidden image.

Shift your perspective to see the hidden image.

Do you remember those Magic Eye pictures? They were all the rage in the 1990s. (There was even an appearance in a Seinfeld episode … but, I digress.)

The point of these pictures was to stare at it until you saw the hidden 3-D image within the picture. Some people saw the image right away, others took some time, and some people never saw the picture (although they claimed they did).

Those pictures used to drive me crazy because I was never sure how – exactly – I had shifted my perspective to make the image show. All I know is it eventually shifted and the image was revealed.

Your content marketing may be filled with hidden images

You may not realize it, but you may have hidden gems in your content marketing. I’m not saying that if you stare at your website long enough a new website will pop up. No, I mean there may be opportunities there that you can’t see unless you shift your perspective.

You and your in-house marketing team may be too close to your content and online marketing to see obvious blind spots. If you don’t find a way to shift your perspective, you may be losing sales and other conversion opportunities.

Find ways to shift your perspective

Your product or service may be the best thing since sliced bread, but if you aren’t marketing it correctly, no one may ever know about it. The trick is to change your focus from what you think the top selling points of your products and services are, and shift it to what your client (and prospective clients) think is important.

Last week, Heather discussed shifting her focus from free content to monetized content. If you read the post, you will see that this wasn’t something Heather just came up with on a whim. She had been told many times that she was “giving away too many secrets” on her blog. At first, she didn’t listen because she liked educating people and her blog generated leads. However, the more she heard comments about hurting her business with all of the free content, the more she began to listen.

I’m not advocating jumping on the bandwagon for a passing fad. But, I do think you need to listen to third parties. A powerful way to shift your focus is to listen to third-party feedback. Your company may be stuck in a “this is how we’ve always done it” mindset. You need to pay attention to people who aren’t as married to your content and way of doing things as you are.

Easy ways to get third-party perspective are:

  • Asking your current client base what they like and don’t like about your products, services and marketing efforts.
  • Hiring a marketing consultant or editor to look at your content with fresh eyes.
  • Polling your social media followers for fresh ideas.

These are just a few ways you can get a new perspective. How does your company make sure your content marketing efforts are working at their peak performance? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Need a content consultation? Heather offers an SEO content review! Check it out!

Photo credit: Magic Eye 3D Picture #36

FREE is powerful, but dangerous

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-free-message-image22936345“Free” is a very effective power word. It grabs your reader’s attention and may even convince him to take that next conversion step.

However, if you use “free” incorrectly, it could cost you.

Does “free” remove value?

I recently witnessed the following scene.

A 15-year-old boy uses color ink to print the informational page for a PC that he wants to buy (Let’s not kid ourselves – that he wants his mother to buy). The printed description has a picture of the computer, so the printer definitely uses some color ink.

His mom sees the printout and says, “Next time, could you print something like that in grayscale so we can save the color ink?”

The son replies, “But it’s the free ink that came with the printer. It didn’t cost us anything.”

The discussion continued and it consisted mostly of his mom asking him to conserve ink and he kept stating that it was free. (It was quite fun to watch as a third party, but I digress.)

Although most of us are probably not trying to reach a 15-year-old demographic, the point is that he saw the ink as something that had no value because it was free.

Put a price tag on “free” products and services

It’s great to offer a free content marketing evaluation or to entice website visitors with a free product sample. However, be sure to include the value of the free product or service.

If you don’t include something as simple as “$200 value” or whatever the true cost of the product or service would be, why would your clients think it is valuable?

Including a waived price/value to the free item or service can:

  • Increase conversions because potential clients understand the deal they are getting
  • Keep clients from insisting you give them similar products or services for free
  • Give a glimpse into your prices and (hopefully) minimize the number of inquiries you receive from people who cannot afford your services or products – saving your time to focus on those who can.

Make sure it’s not always free

In addition to giving your service or product a value, be sure to limit your offer. If something is always free, it loses whatever value you assign to it.

Utilize the principle of scarcity to further entice your audience. By telling your website visitors that your free offer is only for a limited time, you are adding additional value to it – and encouraging an action sooner rather than later.

Keep “free” in your arsenal

Don’t remove “free” from your list of power words. By taking a few precautions and using it correctly, you can increase your conversions.

Speaking of deals, save nearly $200 on the SEO Copywriting Certification training if you sign up before April 30! Use coupon code UPDATE.

Photo credit: ID 22936345 ©  | Dreamstime.com

Another year older: Give your content a birthday

PenguincakeIt is official: I’m now two 21-year-olds! (That sounds so much better than 42.)

This past year has definitely brought many changes in my life. (Check out my Not another thankful post to see what I mean.) It is safe to say that I am not in the same place in my life that I was a year ago.

Although things may not have changed as radically for you as they have for me – I bet you have experienced some change during the last twelve months.

You may wonder, “So what?”

Well, if you have changed, don’t you think other things have changed? Has your content marketing kept up?

What’s new in your business?

Has anything changed in your business? This can be something big (new management and mission statement), something small (different store hours), or something in between (new product line). Depending on the year, it could be any number of things.

The question you need to ask is just “What has changed?” Don’t just take a minute to answer – really think about what has changed since you last updated your website. Create a list of all of the changes.

Anything that is important to your customers should be updated on your website.

What’s new with your customers?

Has your client base changed? Are you targeting a different market? Has the economy changed (for the worse or the better) and affected the habits or needs of your clients?

Check your copy. Does it include benefit statements that address your customers’ question, “What’s in it for me?”

Does your marketing copy have the appropriate tone and feel for your current target market?

If your website no longer matches your clients’ needs, you need to update it.

What’s new with the industry?

Hopefully, your website has been filled with useful, quality content from the beginning. But if it was based on various “content marketing tricks,” you may have been penalized by one of the many Google updates.

The industry is constantly changing and your content marketing best practices need to keep up.

Make your content’s birthday special

Mark each year – on whatever date you deem your content’s birthday – by updating your website and your messaging. If you keep up with this on a regular basis, it will not become an enormous project.

If it has been a while since you updated your copy – or if your content is sorely lacking – don’t become overwhelmed. Focus on the low-hanging fruit, including:

  • Fix typos and outdated information
  • Check your analytics to determine what is working and what isn’t
  • Ask for third-party feedback on your website to determine where the biggest issues are and start there

Your company is another year older and hopefully your content marketing plan is wiser.

How often do you update – or at least review – your website copy? If your answer is, “I don’t remember,” it is time to take a look.

Photo credit: w:es:Netito777 (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Who cares about Passover? Holiday marketing examined

holiday marketing examinedAt sundown tonight, Pesach, known in English as Passover, will begin. According to Judaism 101, Passover “is one of the most commonly observed Jewish holidays, even by otherwise non-observant Jews” with 67% of Jews routinely attending a Passover seder, while only 46% belong to a synagogue.

Easter is more than a week away (celebrated April 20th this year) and you have most likely noticed Easter advertisements everywhere.

Looking at the numbers

In San Diego County, there are around 3 million people, with a Jewish population of about 89,000 (2005 numbers). So really that’s just a little less than 3 percent of the county’s population, so maybe it is not worth targeting this group.

Hmm, let’s think about this a little more.

3 percent seems low, but that’s 89,000 people. If you’re a local business, do you want to ignore 89,000?

Think about it, if every business but yours ignored those 89,000 people, you would have found a goldmine of customers. You could build loyalty and increase your customer base.

Let’s talk about food

Yes, there is a secular, and very commercial, component of Easter that Passover does not have, but both holidays share a common bond: sharing of a meal.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, a shared seder meal is a large component of the celebration of Passover.

Many families have a special Easter dinner.

So who are the grocery stores marketing to?

I live in San Diego, and there are several grocery store chains. I decided to take a look at the ways the stores are marketing both Passover and Easter. I am writing this blog the week before Passover, so there is still a weekend to shop before Passover … and more than a week and another wave of advertising until Easter.

For most of the grocery stores, their websites either didn’t mention anything about either holiday or only mentioned Easter, so I am going to focus mainly on the flyers/circulars that are mailed and posted online.

What Passover?

There were two stores that completely ignored Passover in their flyers.

The first was a major chain in the area: Vons.

VonsEasterOnly
As you can see, Vons only focuses on Easter … and oddly ignores the components of the meal part of the holiday. Instead, the focus is solely on the commercialization of the holiday (and The Hobbit for some reason).

The other offender is technically not a grocery store, but is a place where more people are getting their groceries: Walmart.

Yes, it makes sense for Walmart to focus on the toys, candy and even kids’ Easter outfits, which they do.

WalmartEaster4 WalmartEaster3

However, Walmart also touts its offerings for your Easter dinner – on not one page, but two.

WalmartEaster1 WalmartEaster2

But there isn’t one mention of Passover in the flyer.

Will these stores close down by ignoring Passover? No. However, they aren’t accumulating any brownie points or building loyalty with the Jewish community.

We love selling Easter … and we respect Passover

Ralphs, another grocery chain in Southern California, dedicates three pages to Easter.

RalphsEaster3 RalphsEaster2 RalphsEaster1

But, they only have about a third of a page dedicated to Passover. (I almost missed it the first time I looked through the flyer.)

RalphsPass

They are focusing more on the majority (as noted above), but they still make sure to include Passover. And, although it is smaller, they seem more sincere (if that’s possible in advertising) in their Passover ads.

Look a bit closer. The Easter promos are just selling. I may have missed it, but I didn’t even see a “Happy Easter.” However, the Passover section – even though it’s small – states,

“Ralphs wishes you a Passover full of happiness, peace and prosperity!”

Ralphs is not only marketing to the 3 percent, it is showing respect for the celebration.

There’s no top billing here

Two of the local supermarket chains decided to give Passover equal billing with Easter – at least until after Passover (which makes sense).

Albertsons did not dedicate a lot of space in its flyer to the holidays, but it gave both holidays equal space. The chain gets extra points for listing Passover first, including Hebrew, and wishing patrons to “Have a joyous Passover.”

Albertsons

Whole Foods is too good for a flyer – at least not one I could find. :-) However, the upscale grocer has an active blog on its website. On April 10th, there was a post about creating lovable Easter baskets.

WholeFoodsEasterBlog

However, two days earlier, the chain posted about kosher Passover selections at the store. The post even entices the reader with a minor “What’s in it for me?” moment. The first line of the blog reads, “Looking to add a little variety to your Passover meals this year?” The blog also lets readers know in the post title that foods that will be discussed are kosher.

WholeFoodsPassoverBlog

These two stores recognize the importance of not overshadowing Passover with Easter promotions. A smart move, since they will still have another week of advertising before Easter.

Keep this in mind before winter sets in

Most of the country is still waiting to see signs of spring, but this marketing lesson will apply to your winter holiday marketing.

Don’t put all of your focus on Christmas this December. Just because you are looking at a smaller population, you should still include some marketing and acknowledgement of the other winter holidays, including Hanukkah?, Kwanzaa?, New Year’s Eve (and Day), and Winter Solstice. If you are feeling even more ambitious, there are many more holidays to acknowledge throughout the year.

 

Photo credit: Matza for passover celebration ID 23812197 © Grafnata | Dreamstime.com

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What’s in it for me?

CarlAs I have mentioned before, I am a fan of 1980s pop culture. One of my favorite teen angst movies from the 80s is The Breakfast Club. However, I don’t want to talk about any of the main characters or pivotal scenes.

No, I want to talk about a few lines muttered by Carl, the janitor.

In one scene, Carl catches Richard Vernon (the school administrator) snooping through the personal files of the other teachers. Vernon wants Carl to not mention it to anyone and Carl asks,

“What’s in it for me, man?”

Turns out, he’ll keep quiet for “50 bucks.”

Carl is your client

Sure your potential clients may not want $50.00 (or they might), but they do want to know “What’s in it for me?”

Tell them!

Who cares how wonderful you are?

You may be the best in the business, but if all you tell prospective clients is how wonderful you are – and NOT how your wonderfulness will help them, they will not care.

Don’t just write a list of all of your business’s attributes. Transform those features into customer benefits. You may be surprised by the increase in your conversion rates.

Wondering if you talk too much about yourself? Look at your copy. How often do you use your company’s name or the word “we” compared to the number of times you use the word “you”?

If you talk about yourself more, you may be hurting your business. Turn the focus around and tell your customers what you can give them – make sure it’s something that they want … even if it is $50.

B2B copywriting isn’t always directed towards “stuff suits.” Sometimes you write for Richard Vernons, sometimes it is for Carls. Master the art of B2B SEO copywriting with the B2B SEO Copywriting Certification training. There’s a special price  – so sign up now

Photo credit: DarkSarcasm on FanPop

Many writers, one voice – it IS possible

Group of people working with laptops in officeYour in-house marketing team may consist of several copywriters … or at least numerous team members who contribute content.

Your website may include:

  • Product pages written by your creative team
  • How-to pages written by your tech team
  • About pages written by upper management
  • Blog posts written by members of various departments

So how can you ensure your content marketing has a consistent voice?

Share who you are writing for

Your customers want you to tell them, “What’s in it for me?”

But how do you highlight what they need if you don’t know who they are?

You can’t … at least not very well.

Your writers – whoever they may be – need to know who they are speaking to. In order to do this, you need to create a customer persona. Once this persona is produced, clearly share it with your team.

The more detailed you can get, the better your writers can find a way to relate. Be sure to provide your team with a clear picture of whom they are writing for.

Set a guiding voice

Once your writers know who they are writing for, they still need more guidance. You need to create a content marketing guide.

Your guide should include:

  • Integral components of the company’s voice and branding
  • A clear explanation of your USP (unique selling proposition)
  • Style guide with preferred use of grammar rules and sentence structure

Don’t let them have the final word

You should have an editor or editorial team that reviews each web page, blog post, and online campaign before it posts. The editing process should not only include grammar and spelling, but also review of voice, tone and message.

What tips can you add for writing with multiple writers?

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3 tips for a high-converting in-house copywriting strategy

Record PlayerYour in-house copywriting best practices were probably well thought out when they were created, but are they still up to date?

Sometimes, in-house writing teams can fall into the trap of the “this is how we’ve always done it” mindset. But what happens when Google makes another algorithm update and your best practices are no longer as effective – or even worse, are now frowned upon by the search giant.

Standards are good, but don’t get stuck.

While you don’t want to jump on the bandwagon for every “next big thing in content marketing,” you do need to keep up with the SEO copywriting industry standards.

But how can you avoid being left behind by Google? Here are three tips to keep you ahead of the curve.

1. Regularly review your content marketing best practices. Don’t wait for a problem to develop. Plan meetings with your creative team once a quarter (or whichever time table works for you) to discuss needed changes. Don’t limit this to a management decision. Many writers who are “in the trenches” may have valuable insights to share.

2. Use your internal resources. Not only do your writers have real-world input, but your web developers, designers and IT team also may be valuable resources. While keeping up with SEO updates that affect their areas directly, these team members most likely have learned about changes (and potential changes) that affect content.

3. Follow top industry blogs. There are so many SEO-related resources on the web that you could have a full-time job combing through all of it and trying to determine what information is reliable and valuable, and which information is misleading. Thankfully, there are several amazing industry experts who not only share their knowledge on content marketing best practices and Google algorithm updates, but they also share what other experts are saying. Know what you have to pay attention to – be sure to follow these helpful resources:

Who knows what the next update will bring

Following the above tips doesn’t guarantee that you won’t be surprised by algorithm updates. However, you will definitely be better prepared. (Many of the leading industry experts have amazing insight into what’s going to happen next.)

What’s the most important tip? No matter what other things change, always stick with well-written, customer-focused copy. You will not only stay ahead of the Google curve, but you will also keep your customers happy – and that’s what really matters.

Photo credit: Ru.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

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Are your complimentary services free? Understanding word choice

ComplimentaryFREE2During some recent holiday travel, I saw this sign in the San Diego airport. I had to take a picture of it because I wondered how many people asked. “How much does it cost?” before they added the handwritten sign “free.”

Who are you trying to reach?

A 2012 report indicated that the average reading level of the books taught in U.S. high schools (grades 9 through 12) was just over a fifth-grade level.

Using the readability index calculator, I tested two very similar sentences. Here are the results.

“We offer a complimentary breakfast.” Flesch-Kincaid Grade level: 15. Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score: -1. (The higher number for the reading-ease score, the easier the text is to read. Comics usually score around 90. Legal documents usually score below a 10.)

“We offer a free breakfast.” Flesch-Kincaid Grade level: 5. Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score: 66.

One word makes a BIG difference!

Are you trying to reach the average U.S. adult, or are you hoping to reach adults with a higher level of education? If you aren’t sure, take a step back and create a profile of your ideal customer.

Refined or powerful?

Yes, “complimentary” sounds more refined than “free,” but “free” is more powerful!

“Free” is one of many power words – words that get your readers excited about your product or service. You can grab your readers’ attention by mentioning they can get something for free.

What are they searching for?

People don’t typically search for complimentary items; they search for free items.

Let’s take a look at the hotel industry. The term “hotels with free breakfast” is searched for 3.5 times more often than the term “hotels with complimentary breakfast” (although “complimentary breakfast” was a term that had been used for some time in the industry).

By focusing on what your audience is searching for, you can increase the traffic to your website.

What are the big boys doing?

Let’s take a look at the hotel industry again. In the world of complimentary breakfasts and free Wi-Fi access, what words are being used?

I did some perusing of hotel websites. In most cases, the hotel chains touted “free” breakfast and Wi-Fi, although some companies hedged their bets by still including “complimentary” on the page. Check out these examples.

Wyndham offers free breakfast and made sure you knew there was free Wi-Fi included in your free breakfast.

WyndhamFree

 

Comfort Inn also stuck with a free hot breakfast and free high-speed Internet access.

ComfortInnFree

 

Hampton Inn makes sure you know that a hot breakfast and Wi-Fi are both free with your stay.

HamptonFree

 

Residence Inn lets you know about several free offerings: breakfast, grocery delivery and Wi-Fi.

ResidenceInnFree

 

Embassy Suites touts free cooked-to-order breakfast, but offered complimentary drinks.

EmbassyBoth

 

Holiday Inn makes sure you see that breakfast is both free and complimentary.

HolidayInnBoth

Country Inns & Suites by Carlton bucked the system with a complimentary breakfast, but it still mentions free high-speed Internet access.

 CountryInnBoth

Whichever word you choose, be sure to highlight value

Be cautious when publicizing free services (no matter how you phrase it). When highlighting something that is free, be sure you let your audience know what the monetary value of the product or service is. Otherwise, it is very easy for them to diminish the worth and significance of this bonus.

What’s your take? Do you offer something for free or is it complimentary?

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Step away from the thesaurus!

LurkingAlthough it’s true that synonyms are an SEO copywriter’s friend, not every word in your thesaurus is created equal.

Don’t turn to a thesaurus unless you know how to use it.

Make sure the words you choose really convey the proper message.

It’s a lurking marketing nightmare

A few years ago, I walked past a sign for a youth camp which read, “Where Adventure Lurks.”

Lurks? Really?

Do you really want to send your kids to a camp with things lurking?

According to Dictionary.com, lurk means:

“To lie or wait in concealment, as a person in ambush; remain in or around a place secretly or furtively.”

Not quite the image I would want to have in my head – especially since this banner was up shortly after the tragic deaths of two young local girls (Amber Dubois and Chelsea King) had dominated the news. (The predator that killed these girls – in at least one of the two cases – had hidden in bushes and ambushed the girl.)

Walk away before choosing the wrong word

I get it. We’ve all gotten stuck when writing. You may have already used a word and need a synonym. Sometimes it is frustrating and you just want to find a word that works.

Don’t be too hasty. When you can’t find the right word, you can:

  • Make a note, move on, and return to the word later
  • Take a break and look at it with fresh eyes
  • Throw in a word, but make sure you get someone to proof it for you.

It can save you and your client from a marketing failure.

What questionable words have you found in marketing?

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Content marketing: Madonna or Cyndi Lauper?

Madonna_Live_8_-_1-2I will admit it. I love ’80s music. Born in the early ’70s, I was a pre-teen and teen in the 1980s and loved pop music (or whatever we were calling it back then). Wham!, Bananarama, Corey Hart, Joan Jett, Duran Duran, Pat Benatar, Eurythmics, The Police, Paula Abdul, Prince, Whitney Houston, The Hooters, Squeeze, Billy Joel, Flock of Seagulls, and the list goes on. But when it came to girl power (before the phrase “girl power” was even born), you couldn’t beat Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. But when you look back at their careers, Madonna’s kept strong over the years, while Cyndi’s started to fade away.

The Times They Are A-Changing

Cyndi_Lauper_SF_Gay_Pride_2008_(cropped)(Yes, I know I made a Dylan reference in the middle of a pop music reference. Many apologies.) Why is Madonna still considered a mega-star and successful business woman, while Cyndi Lauper – though still well-known, especially for her advocacy – has not seen the same level of success as Madonna? It comes down to this – Madonna was willing to adapt and change to stay relevant in pop music. Cyndi Lauper continued to march to her own drummer. Don’t get me wrong, I do not see Cyndi Lauper as a failure – far from it. She has won two Grammy awards (one this year), an Emmy award, a Tony award, and several other awards. She is a passionate advocate for LGBT rights and AIDS awareness. (And to be honest, recently I have seen her in concert and I have no desire to see Madonna.)

If you want to be Madonna, your content marketing strategy has to adapt.

If you want your product or service to continue to grow and become hugely successful, you need to be like Madonna. She has constantly reinvented herself – without losing the true essence of who she is. She changed as the style of popular music changed. She also found ways to stay in the spotlight and expanded her offerings. She has many dance crossover hits and collaborated with younger artists who were currently in the spotlight. When she took risks, they were often calculated risks. Yes, she had a few missteps, but she was able to move past them. Be diverse in your content marketing strategy. Don’t focus all of your efforts in one place, but make sure you are aware of the latest in content marketing. Be willing to expand into:

  • Video marketing
  • Social media – including whatever the next “big thing” is
  • Mobile apps (if applicable)
  • Newsletters
  • And the list goes on

There’s nothing wrong with being Cyndi Lauper.

Cyndi Lauper is still relevant, but not as widely known. Comparatively speaking, she did not reach the level of success that Madonna reached, but she still did very well for herself. If you want to be successful, but don’t need to take it to super-stardom, you can definitely follow Cyndi’s lead. In your marketing efforts stay true to your brand. It’s OK to try new things, but only if they are in line with who you are (or what your company is).

Find your content’s inner ’80s pop superstar

Whether you want to be a Madonna or a Cyndi Lauper, you need to build a content marketing strategy. Determine what mix is best for your brand … and don’t be afraid to take some chances. Just remember to Express Yourself and show your True Colors.

Madonna Photo By Tony Barton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Cyndi Lauper Photo by Bastique (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL] via Wikimedia Commons

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