Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Marketing Mishaps: Pushing the "Edgy" Envelope a Bit TOO Far

Marketing Mishaps: Pushing the "Edgy" Envelope a Bit TOO Far

Twice in two days, I came across branding that caught me off-guard. First, I was directed to this "coaching" site; then, I saw a new business near my house.

Now, I'm not a prude, but the coaching site really stunned me. Maybe it's the giant cow's nose on the Facebook page. Maybe it's the whip. Maybe it's just use of a crass word for a business that looks as if it desperately wants to be professional.
The F-Bomb store actually made a lesser impact. More of a "Hmm ... check that out," because I know it's not a place I'll likely ever shop.The thing about my responses to these two "brands" is that they are personal. My dad must have told me a thousand times, "There's no accounting for taste," usually when I was complaining about politics, food, or someone's choice of a partner. And he was right there IS no accounting for taste. Except for places and instances when we generally expcet things to be tasteful.
You may have heard me rant about the business coach I once heard speak who described herself as a "business pimp." Crikey that term still gets under my skin. Wonder how that branding worked out for her.
Another incident involving a speaker brings home this idea of each person's taste being unique. A friend recently told me about losing all respect for a national speaker who, in telling a story during her keynote at national convention, said something to the effect of, "I laughed so hard, I nearly peed my pants."
"So what?" I wanted to ask my friend, who clearly thought the comment was tawdry and unworthy of the speaker. We each have differing degrees of what we consider appropriate.
Entertaiment may be the one place where it can benefit an act to push things to an extreme. I was just out of college when Van Halen released an album titled, "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge." In case the words don't ring a bell, check out the initial caps in the title.
Then, more recently, a little Law of Attraction movie created quite a stir. Initially titled, "What the #$@! Do We Know!?" it became colloquially known as "What the Bleep?" I'm not sure the title had anything to do with the movie's success, but I'm not sure it didn't, either.
People have different perspectives about coarse language in the business world. Right Spot Media makes the case that such language can actually help public speakers: "[R]esearch shows that—at least for speakers delivering presentations—obscenities can increase the perception of passion and enthusiasm." Of course, they go on to mention mild epithets like "hell" and "damn," but in some places not long ago, use of those by a speaker would have been considered scandalous.
Similarly, the following excerpt from Influential Marketing Blog makes a case for pushing things a bit to attract attention:

The first time I thought about this was when reading about a wonderful social marketing campaign from Saatchi and Saatchi that was done close to 20 years ago. It was for an organization fighting childhood hunger on the streets in Canada (I think) and as the ad featured visuals of young homeless boys on the street just trying to survive, the following voice-over of a boy's voice came on:
                "If I said 'I'm hungry,' that probabbly wouldn't bother you."

                "If I said f*ck, it probably would."

                "F*ck, I'm hungry."
That being said, there are still those who seem to agree with me that some words just don't belong in business, particularly in a brand name. Case in point: this discussion on the use of swear words in domain names.
There's no accounting for taste.
It was from branding expert Peter Montoya that I first heard the comment, "Good branding repels as much as it attracts." The thing the marketer/brand/business owner needs to determine ahead of time is how far they can safely push the envelope and still reach their intended audience. I may be the perfect demographic for the whip-wielding coach, but I will never hire her because I find her brand name tacky.
When you're building a brand, it will serve you to remember a couple of key points:
  1. You are not your client.
  2. Test everything. 
If you have examples of branding that gave you a bad taste in your mouth or left you wishing the business owner had been a bit more selective, please share them in the comments section  below.
Until next time happy marketing!

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Good copy is relatable to your readers, regardless of the venue

Good copy is relatable to your readers, regardless of the venue

Years ago, I had a conversation with an Internet marketer who asked me how my writing differed, depending on my audience. He was taken aback when I told him that my writing doesn't really differ much depending on my audience. My single goal is always to communicate my message as clearly and simply as possible.

"But ... but ... but ..." he protested, "what about times when it needs to be formal, times when a more specific kind of writing is called for?"
OK, there may be small degrees of difference in formality, like perhaps fewer contractions or an upleveling of vocabulary, but overall, my tone and style of writing don't change from project to project. They are almost universally upbeat and conversational.

My friend implied that I must be mistaken, insisted that was definitely a need for different kinds of writing. I pushed back. "Even legal writing is only stuffy and formal because we've come to expect that and it keeps lawyers in business. But as long as all the required elements in a brief or legal filing are included, the way it's said is more or less irrelevant."

This, I believe, is the gist of Brian Clark's quote, and as founder of CopyBlogger, he should know!

People often seem to be terrified of writing because they think it's difficult, when in reality, every piece of writing is an act of storytelling. Yes, there is a bit of an art to selecting the words that will draw your reader to you, as opposed to sending her packing, but it's not about the formality, structure, or informality of the writing. It's about how well the words themselves resonate with the reader. No matter how much time, effort, or money you pour into your copy, it will ring hollow if the reader doesn't feel you are speaking to him in language he can understand.

Regardless of your venue social media conversations, ad copy, your website, or your blog spend time honing your relational writing. Take a page out of Joe Vitale's book and discover the art of hypnotic writing. If you worry less about correct and formal and more about connection, you will find your writing resonating in a way you may never have dreamed possible.
Here’s to your successful writing!
Next, I invite you to do 2 things next:
(1) Visit Write | Market | Design to download your free eBook copy of The First-Time Author's Guide to Hiring the Right Editor for YOU! (2) Visit my Facebook page — and "Like" it if you like it!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Blogs: Still the place you should begin your social media campaign

Blogs: Still the place you should begin your social media campaign

You know social media is crucial to your marketing strategy, but if you're like many who have hesitated to jump in, you may be wondering where to begin. This very question often arises with my clients when discussing social media and other low- to no-cost marketing strategies. I've got to agree with Chris Brogan: Blogging offers, hands-down, the best ROI on your time and energy.

Before you tackle Facebook, start Tweeting, or create your LinkedIn profile, get your blog underway. There are a few keys to successful blogging:
  • Quality content
  • An image/graphic with every post
  • Posting on a regular schedule
  • Commeting on other relevant/related blogs  
But why should you start with a blog? What exactly is the power in this platform that began as an online journal tool?

Blogs allow you to do 6 important things:
  1. Generate lots of relevant content that the search spiders love. The World Wide Web turned 20 this week, yet generating traffice remains perhaps the biggest challenge for new sites. Because a blog is much more dyamic than a traditional website, in that the best bloggers are adding new content at least once a week, the search engines love well-populated blogs. A blog is the perfect platform through which to add gallons of relevant new content to your site. Not only will the spiders love this content and pull you up in the rankings, but if it's relevant to their searches, your readers and prospective clients will love your content, too.
  2. Work wonders in long-tail* searches. Generally speaking, smart bloggers focus their blogs around a reasonably narrow topic or niche, rather than taking a kitchen-sink, one-size-fits-all approach. When writing on such focused topics, an interesting thing tends to happen. Search results and traffic will wend their way to your blog via long-tailed queries that might never have occurred to you. Long-tail searches can generate a lot of traffic to a newer blog, with much less competition for those all-important rankings.

    * As explained by MarketingHub.info, "The term ‘long tail’ is used to describe the strategy of targeting less-competitive niche markets rather than the hugely competitive broad keywords. A long-tail keyword might be something like ‘Small Business Web Design,’ while the short-tail would be ‘Web Design.’"
  3. Produce high-quality, link-worthy content. Although links to your site from other well-populated sites are not as crucial to successful SEO as they once were, they are still important. But the only reason anyone will link to your blog is if you create content that's worth linking to. Producing regular, high-quality blog posts will give you something to offer site owners so that they will want to link to your blog.
  4. Become a credible expert. If you're new to your business or industry, one of the biggest challenges, both on- and offline, is becoming a credible expert. A blog can be a means to catapult right over that little difficulty, if you take the time to do your research and write posts that demonstrate your qualifications and expertise. A great blog post won't necessarily seal the deal for you, but it will lead prospects to you and open the door for an initial conversation. It can also demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of your subject matter so that your prospects feel a certain level of comfort in doing business with you. A high-quality blog can also give you an advantage over the others in your industry if you become the person in your industry who stands out as the expert.
  5. Provide a focal point for your social media. Blogs are the organic nexis of any well-crafted social media campaign because they offer syndication tools that make it easy to link to other social media outlets such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn. 
  6. Build rapport with your clients, prospects, readers, colleagues, vendors, and other interested folks. Once upon a time, not so long ago, when you wanted to contact a company, you scoured their packaging for their mailing address, wrote a letter, smacked a stamp on it, found a postbox, and crossed your fingers that someone who cared enough to write back would open the letter. Then came traditional websites, which allowed you to learn a lot more about the company – things like their mission statement, product descriptions, and even employment opportunities with their organizations. But there was still a disconnect between you, the consumer, and the folks running the company. Blogging has changed that. Now, companies – even large ones – use blogs to communicate directly with their customers. Take GoDaddy's Bob Parsons, for instance. He’s famous for his personal blog in which he offers commentary and advice to GoDaddy patrons. Think of your blog as your opportunity to sit down for a cup of coffee with every client or potential client. Chat with them. Be personal. Build a relationship. The fact that your readers can post feedback and comments  helps you create a conversation with them, which is the first step in building rapport.
So if you have a new mission, message, company, book, service, or product the world needs to know about, I encourage you to wholeheartedly embrace social media – but start with a blog.

Here’s to your successful blogging!


Next, I invite you to do 2 things next:

(1) Visit Write | Market | Design to download your free eBook copy of The First-Time Author's Guide to Hiring the Right Editor for YOU! (2) Visit my Facebook page — and "Like" it if you like it!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What if you had to spell "there" correctly before you could post a comment online?

What if you had to spell "there" correctly before you could post a comment online?

Yesterday, I posted a blog at Marcie Brock, Book Marketing Maven about the annoying trend of misusing apostrophes to create plural words. My brother-in-law saw it, and sent me these hilarious graphics from DangerousMinds.net.

I know it's snarky, but I love this idea. Of course, I also did a recent post about spelling skills (or lack thereof) not equating with intelligence. There's a giant distinction, though, between actual learning challenges that make spelling difficult and laziness or apathy. 

Sometimes it feels as though we're losing the smart language battle, but I insist that attention to these details matters. This is especially true if you plan to publish your writing publicly, whether in a book or a blog.

Here’s to your successful writing!


I invite you to do 2 things next:

Visit Write | Market | Design to download your free eBook copy of The First-Time Author's Guide to Hiring the Right Editor for YOU!

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Marketing Mishaps: Using Tech Speak (or Industry Lingo) with Non-Techies

Marketing Mishaps: Using Tech Speak (or Industry Lingo) with Non-Techies

Sense. You're not making any.
I came across a blog today, the intent of which is probably to help the company build business. The problem is that it's a tech company whose writer(s) does not know how to address a non-techie audience.

This month I promised to tell you how to save money by virtualizing your server(s).
This is one of the most powerful money-saving and environmentally friendly concepts in computing today. And one of the cool things is that you don't sacrifice performance. In fact, in most cases performance is enhanced.
Again, this might be a little technical, but [our company's] techs are always able to help you navigate any issues you might have.

The problem here is that the blogger/company assumes (a) the reader understands enough of the concept of "virtualizing your servers" to know (b) they need to do it and (c) be willing to spend money on this upgrade. Pay particular attention to the text in red. This writer KNOWS the info is technical, but instead of figuring out a way to simplify it, he/she thinks the fact that they have pros on their team is going to get him over that little challenge. WRONG.

Granted, there is more to this post than I am quoting here, but it's full of more techie mumbo-jumbo like "redundant machines," "virtualization platform," "load balancing across diverse hardware," and "host architecture."

Say you run the small to medium-sized business that is looking to enhance its technology performance. Are you going to read this and think, "Yup. That's probably what we need. Let's write a purchase order"? Or are you going to head back to the search engine to find a company that speaks a language you can understand?

Years ago, I remember my friend, master techie Matt Moran, telling me he threatened to fire any of his employees who spoke tech-speak to their clients. His thinking? Their job wasn't to overwhelm the clients with the depth of their computer knowledge; it was to explain the situation to the client in words they could understand and fix the problem. Period.

The thing to remember is that this issue is not exclusive to the technology field. I was in a meeting recently with a printer who was obviously adept at his business but had ZERO ability to translate the conversation into everyday English for my client who was his potential client. She had no idea what full-bleed (printing that goes to the edge of the page) meant, not did she need to. Not in this meeting.

A while back, I did a post about the dangers of being too insider in your industry. Going top-heavy with the insider language is a perfect example of what you don't want to do.

If you're not sure whether your copy is resonating with your clients and PROSPECTIVE clients test it. Have non-insiders read it and give you their honest feedback. If they can describe to you what you meant to say, you know you've succeeded. If they're confused by any of it, it probably needs to be rewritten. Remember, the onus of communication is on the communicator, not the one receiving the information. Don't lose potential clients by talking right past them.


I invite you to do 2 things next:

Visit Write | Market | Design to download your free eBook copy of The First-Time Author's Guide to Hiring the Right Editor for YOU!

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The least you need to know about Self-Publishing from David Carnoy

The least you need to know about Self-Publishing from David Carnoy

I just came across an article titled Self-publishing a book: 25 things you need to know, by David Carnoy. It's truly the best, most succinct lists of need-to-know info on the subject I've ever come across.

Written from his personal experience publishing a novel, Carnoy cuts through the clutter, the BS, and the drama to give those considering self-publishing a real look at the pitfalls and plusses of heading into this enormous undertaking.

Here's the list, with my comments - but I HIGHLY advise that you go read his column for the nuts and bolts.

1. Self-publishing is easy. True enough.

2. Quality has improved. Also true. The self-publishing industry has come a long way since the horrible production jobs where you were lucky to make it to Chapter 2 before the pages started falling out of the book.

3. Some of the more successful self-published books are about self-publishing. There are a LOT of books on self-publishing out there. But think about it - what's in it for a traditional publisher to print a book about self-publishing? Some are definitely better than others.

4. Good self-published books are few and far between. While this is true about self-published books, I would also argue that it's true about ALL books.

5. The odds are against you. Only in that there are 200,000 new titles released every year, so the odds are against everybody.

6. Creating a "professional" book is really hard. Yes, yes, yes. But if you're going into this to brand yourself or your business, make the best book you can!

7. Have a clear goal for your book. File under "Duh!"

8. Even if it's great, there's a good chance your book won't sell. You MUST have a marketing plan if you want to sell books!

9. Niche books do best. True about almost any business.

10. Buy your own ISBN - and create your own publishing house. And do NOT make the name of your publishing house in any way reflect YOUR name.

11. Create a unique title. If you're using this book as a branding tool, make sure your keywords are in the MAIN title, not relegated to the subtitle, which frequently is left off in reviews and online cataloug

12. Turn-key solutions cost a lot of money. Think of yourself as the general contractor for your book.

13. Self-publishers don't care if your book is successful. I think he means the companies that offer self-publishing tools. Why would they care, as long as they get paid?

14. Buy as little as possible from your publishing company. True. Create Space's printing costs are highly competitive. They're like a car dealership, though. They make their money on the upsell of ancillary services.

15. If you're serious about your book, hire a book doctor and get it copy-edited. Eh-hehm ... it's good to be validated!

16. Negotiate everything. Practice ahead of time, if you need to, but get this one down!

17. Ask a lot of questions and don't be afraid to complain. Not so much on the complaining, but yes, make sure you get your needs met!
18. Self-publishing is a contact sport. And how!

19. Getting your book in bookstores sounds good, but that shouldn't be a real concern. For the most part, this is true.

20. Self-published books don't get reviewed. Unfortunately, still very true.

21. Design your book cover to look good small. EXCELLENT advice!

22. If you're selling online, make the most out of your Amazon page. So many authors neglect this very easy step.

23. Pricing is a serious challenge. Do your homework. A self-published book is considered successful if you recoup your costs in the first year after publishimg.

24. Electronic books offer the most potential for self-publishers. The wave of the future - and if you've already written it, why NOT make it available for the growing ereader crowd?

25. Self-publishing is a fluid business. The entire publishing industry seems to be changing daily. Either make a commitment to stay on top of it, or hire someone who can help you do that.

All that being said, it's time to get busy writing, building, and marketing your book! Don't let this list scare you. Let it inspire you and guide you so that your experience is as seamless as possible.


I invite you to do 2 things next:

Visit Write | Market | Design to download your free eBook copy of The First-Time Author's Guide to Hiring the Right Editor for YOU!

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

At what point should you think about showing your work to an editor?

At what point should you think about showing your work to an editor?

Had a great question from a prospective client yesterday:
At what point would it be beneficial for you to see a sample of my writing?
My response:
That's a good question. Typically, when I'm interviewing a prospective client, I ask to see EITHER the first chapter OR the section of the book that is most representative of their writing. The reason being that we sometimes rewrite the first chapter a bit, so it tends to be somewhat cleaner than the meatier portions of the book. How's the writing going? Do you feel you have enough pages (5 to 10 should do it) to show me a representative sample?
The interesting thing is that there's no right or wrong order to things when it comes to writing a book. Some people feel like they need more than just editing; in that case, they might hire a book coach to help them through the writing process. Others are very disciplined, follow an outline well, and won't bring in an editor until their manuscript is finished. You'll have to determine the right process for you.

Regardless of where you are in the process when you bring in your editor, there are a few things to keep in mind when interviewing the person who will edit your book project: 
  1. Any editor worth their weight will give you a courtesy sample edit. This happens for 2 reasons: (a) so they can see a sample of your work and (b) so that you can get an idea of how they would approach your text. 
  2. Make sure you feel confident that your questions are being fully answered before you engage an editor. 
  3. Find out ahead of time how the editor works and whether their style jives with yours (another reason for that all important sample edit). 
  4. An editor’s PRIMARY role is to make your words sound like you, just better. 
  5. Keep in mind that your editor is bringing their professional expertise to your text; however, their changes are ultimately only suggestions.
  6. Avoid using price as your sole determinant when hiring an editor: as with most things, you get what you pay for. A good editor is going to be somewhat pricey, but worth every penny.
I can’t emphasize enough how important a professional editor will be to your finished work, especially for someone who’s not a practiced writer – but remember, even the pros have great editors!

Here’s to your successful writing!

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Marketing Mishaps: Using TOO MANY FONTS on a single mailer

Marketing Mishaps: Using TOO MANY FONTS on a single mailer

There's an old rule of thumb when it comes to designing an ad, mailer, or other marketing piece that involves copy: unless you are a very gifted graphic designer, limit yourself to TWO fonts. In case you doubt me, here it is from the Creative Marketing Guru blog
Why It's Ugly
Too many fonts. Use only 2 fonts per marketing piece, max. Change in a typeface signals a change in function or purpose - restrain yourself!
Care to see an example?
This mailer fails on a couple different levels, but the fonts are the most immediately noticeable, because it doesn't stop at 2 fonts, or 3 fonts, or even 4 fonts. It goes all the way to FIVE fonts on one smallish piece of paper. It's just too much.

For one thing, the message looks disjointed and disorganized. Additionally, the fonts don't really represent what they were apparently chosen to describe. For example, the BIG is much bolder than the BOLD. And that BOOMING looks more like boomeranging to me. Lastly, the main font - the one meant to convey details such as the date and call to action - is unnecessarily difficult to read.

Other Mishaps

Another problem with this mailer is the Web site. Go back to the image above and see if you can locate the Web site.

Don't feel bad if it took you awhile ... the Web address is utterly lost in the middle of that challenging font, with no space around it or other reference to it.

The final problem for this one little mailer is that the image appears inconsistent with the message. It references a "Hollywood Event," and yet the background picture more readily depicts a Hawaiian beach than a Hollywood event. Do a Google images search for Hollywood and the first five results are the famous Hollywood sign; the next three are stars on the Walk of Fame.

There is a reason graphic designers and advertising copywriters command big bucks: They know what they're doing! That is not to say you MUST hire an expensive pro for your ad campaign to succeed. However, IF you are going to venture into the design world, I highly recommend that you get some education first. The following are a few books that were recommended by Dexigner, an international design links directory.
Basic Brochures

Direct Mail Design

The Best Advertising and Design in the World
May the graphic design and copy writing force be with you!