Viewing all posts by Amy C. Teeple.

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.

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.)


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.”


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.


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.


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 |

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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.

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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.



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



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



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



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



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


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


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, 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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Don’t just get customers – keep them’ve most likely seen offers from cable companies, mobile phone carriers, and internet providers that promise amazing value and service.

But what happens if you are already a customer and you want to get these deals? Typically you hear, “No. These are for new customers only.”

So much for rewarding loyalty!

Is your content marketing strategy the phone company?

Do your website and social media plan only focus on leads and not on your current customers?

This is a big mistake.

You are missing a great opportunity. According to Marketing Metrics, it is approximately 50% easier to sell to existing customers than it is to sell to brand new prospects.

New customers aren’t the only ones you should be wooing. Addressing the needs of your current customers – and rewarding them for loyalty when you can – has the potential to increase your sales (with less work).

There are easy ways to show your customers you care about them

In addition to offering your current customers the same pricing options (or even better ones) that you offer to new ones, you can continue to court your current customers through your content marketing.

Here are just a few of the simple ways you can market to your current customers:

  • Dedicate a section of your website to address issues for current customers (offer guides, FAQs, customer service options, etc.)
  • Keep customers up to date through e-newsletters (make sure customers opt in)
  • Invite conversations on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
  • Include blog posts that current customers can connect with
  • Announce customer-only sales/offers

Don’t forget about your customers and they won’t forget about you.

How do you court your customers?


Photo credit: ©  |

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Baby, it’s cold outside … or is it?

Petersburg2008 110The other day, my iHeartRadio app alerted me that it just added a playlist that was “perfect for staying warm on a snow day.”

That’s great, except I live in San Diego and it reached 80 degrees that day.

I know that I am in the minority when it comes to weather in the country. (I’m also sure that many of you are probably cursing me right now.) However, this situation got me thinking about tailoring your message.

Yes, it makes sense to appeal to your main demographic (in this case, the chunk of the country dealing with cold weather), but it would have had a bigger impact on me if I had been alerted (based on the location listed in my profile – or from whatever location tracking I inadvertently agreed to when I signed up) that they had added a playlist that was “perfect for enjoyable, enviable weather.”

Do you have more than one target demographic?

Who are you writing for? Your ideal customer is not everyone, but you can have more than one target market.

If you are trying to reach more than one group, you need to have web pages for each segment of your target audience.

Start broad then narrow it down

Your home page should feature your overarching message and tone. It should also let people know they are in the right place. However, your home page should also act as a funnel that directs visitors to the pages that speak directly to them.

If your target market includes different specific niches, you need a page that addresses the needs for each niche.

For example, a dentist may have a practice that offers family dentistry and cosmetic dentistry. On one hand, you need to address the concerns of parents looking for an affordable dentist who takes their insurance and has a good reputation working with kids. On the other hand, you need to target people with a bit more disposable income, who are willing to invest in cosmetic dental work. These are two completely different markets and should have their needs addressed separately.

Winter in San Diego

Winter in San Diego

You can’t please them all

While you won’t be able to address specifically each person who comes to your website, you can appeal to your main markets.

Take some time to really discover who your target markets are. Find out what connects these markets. Address these similarities on your home page.

Then, find out what makes these markets different. Is it:

  • Location?
  • Occupation?
  • Family status?
  • Income level?

Use this information to address the unique needs of these markets when you write your target-specific pages. By using this technique, you can better connect with your customers and see your conversions increase.

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The trick to web writing: White it out

WhiteboardWhen you sit down to write a web page, what’s your M.O.?

Do you just sit down and write? If you do, you may find yourself getting off topic or stuck trying to get all of the elements on the page to flow.

All I have to say is, “White it out.”

Add a visual, don’t take it away

By “white it out,” I am not referring to the product Wite-Out (or whatever version you use). No, I don’t want you to erase something; I want you to add something.

When I have to write web pages, I turn to my whiteboard. Depending on the project, I may just sketch an outline of one page at a time or I may craft a website’s navigation on the whiteboard.

Many times, it is just the simple act of writing headings for the page. By doing this on the whiteboard, I can visualize which section or topic should go where and how to connect each section. Then, when I start to write, my ideas flow more easily and my writing time is trimmed without sacrificing quality.

Write, sketch, plot – whatever works for you

Personally, I like the whiteboard because it allows me to not only visualize things, but also to easily move things (dry-erase markers rule).

However, you don’t have to use a whiteboard. You can sketch your ideas on a notebook page. You can type it out in Word. You can even use mind mapping software.

Whatever method you choose, the point is to plan. The simple act of outlining your page before you write will make the writing process smoother.

Do you have a method that helps you when planning your page? I’d love to hear it – please share it below in the comments.

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