Research, Research, Research!

research

I’m often asked questions such as these:

“What should I be doing to improve on Facebook or Instagram?

“Is this piece of ad copy good?”

“How do I get more followers?”

“What should the offer be in my search engine advertisements?”

It is often the case that behind these questions is the all-too common blunder of putting tactics before strategy. There is a world of difference between strategy and tactics.

A strategy is an overall plan of action designed to achieve a certain aim. A tactic is a method one implements as part of achieving that aim. In other words, your strategy may be comprised of a variety of tactics that help you reach your goals.

According to diffen.com,

“A strategy is a larger, overall plan that can comprise several tactics, which are smaller, focused, less impactful plans that are part of the overall plan.”

A frequent problem in the world of marketing is a rush headlong into tactics without first fomenting a proper and guided strategy. The problems that can arise when implementing tactics without a strategy already in place could be the subject of a much larger post.

However, here we will focus on the one thing that must be done even before creating a strategy:

Research

Yes, research. I know time is money. There is an insatiable urge to just get it all out there. We want results NOW. But without doing research all your marketing efforts will have been in vain.

According to Hubspot, a good marketing strategy must be built upon specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely goals (SMART). But how do you know your goals meet such criteria? How can one determine one’s goals in the first place?

The answer is research.

Although it doesn’t sound sexy, you must first spend some time doing research before you get started.  You must research such data as, demographics, market trends, and your current clients and customers. This will enable you to set SMART goals, develop accurate buyer personas to target, and figure out how to optimize in order to reach your objectives.

And research is not only something to be done at the beginning. You must research throughout the entirety of every single campaign and optimize accordingly.

The data revolution has brought with it the ability and the need to constantly research our marketing campaigns. Research is required at all stages of a campaign from awareness to consideration to decision.

So, before you worry about what to post on Facebook, first determine if Facebook is even the channel where you should be devoting most of your time and resources. Identify your ideal customers and find out where they hang out online before choosing which social networks on which to focus your efforts.

Before writing a piece of copy or trying to determine its effectiveness, do some research to find out who is your target audience and what are their pain-points, problems, and concerns. Don’t just try to get followers. Get engaged followers who want to interact with your brand. Your research should guide every piece of content you create and where you distribute it. Use research to guide all of your business decisions.

The only way to be successful in the long run is to take the time to do your due diligence and research, research, research. There’s no getting around it. There are no shortcuts.

Once you have done a sufficient amount of research, don’t be afraid to implement with confidence and then research some more.

 

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Your Weekly Content Marketing Round-Up

This is my weekly round-up of useful content marketing related articles.

I spend time finding articles about the latest trends in content marketing that help you achieve your marketing goals so you don’t have to. 🙂

This article by Hubspot features 15 premier examples of effective landing pages explaining why each is so good at motivating users to take the desired call to action.

15 Examples of Fantastic Landing Pages @Hubspot

A key part of any social media marketing strategy is finding influential people in your industry. Attracting their attention can prove immensely valuable for boosting your bottom line. Identifying influencers and establishing beneficial connections with them is an effective way to engage your target audience. Influencer marketing is bound grow in importance in 2016:

Why You Need to Utilize Influencers in 2016 @Inc

Do you wish to promote your brand on Facebook, but have no budget to utilize any of the network’s paid options? Fear not. This article suggests 10 things you can do that don’t require money:

Top 10 Facebook Marketing Tactics When You Have No Budget @BoomSocialMktg

Content marketing experienced explosive growth in 2015 and it’s not slowing down. The state of content marketing in 2015 and where it’s likely to go in 2016:

The Content Strategist @Contently

If you’re an entrepreneur or a freelancer, here are 7 great books @Entrepreneur Magazine suggests you read: 7 Must-Read Books for the Budding Entrepreneur

Video marketing has experienced tremendous growth over the past year with video now accounting for over 70% of internet traffic in North America. This trend is expected to increase exponentially over the next few years and you need to be ready. Here are 12 affordable apps you can use to edit your videos for social media: 12 Budget-Friendly Video Editing Apps You Can Use For Social Video .

More information about predicted video marketing trends can be found here:

Top 5 Video Marketing Trends for 2016

Hope these links were helpful! If you have any useful articles related to brand blogging, inbound marketing, or content strategy, please feel free to share in the comments.

Do you want more content like this? Subscribe to the blog now for weekly tips, updates, and inspiration.

Be Contagious

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Starting from a young age I had a knack for talking about my interests in ways that would get my listeners excited about them as well. Whether it was about a favorite comedian, band, book series, TV show, product, or paper airplanes, my enthusiasm was infectious. It was contagious.

However, it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I would figure out how to turn this quality, which I always perceived as little more than an interesting quirk, into a professional career. Apparently, there is an entire industry based on hyping things up and generating interest. It’s called marketing. Who knew?

Recently, I spoke to several people about my chosen profession – digital marketing – and explained to them the vast amount of changes taking place at a rapid rate in this growing field. I prattled on about how the growth of mobile has created a shift from a linear sales funnel to a sales cycle powered by catching people in “micro moments.” The impact of an increasingly consumer-focused market that forces brands to engage with customers in an ongoing dialogue rather than dominate a one-way conversation. The interconnected nature of search and social and how the data revolution enables brands to get the most for their spend while painstakingly tracking every aspect of their operations down to the most minute detail and optimize accordingly.

When I was finished, my audience (who was not in the marketing field) was not bored, but enrapt. “I never heard someone talk about these things with such a genuine passion,” one person said. It wasn’t only what I said, but how I said it that made the difference.

And then it hit me. If I want prospects to get on board with my vision and if I want clients to be truly invested in our projects, then it’s not enough to be knowledgeable and passionate, but so effing excited about my work that it’s contagious. The strength of my conviction in progressive, relevant, consumer-focused, data-driven online marketing must be contagious enough to spread like a virus.

This applies not only to my field, but to any field. Don’t “sell.” Be genuine. This will be your greatest currency. Stand by your products 100% whether it’s furniture, food, entertainment, plumbing services, or clothing. Demonstrate that you love what you offer and believe in your products or services in a way that your target audience feels they will genuinely benefit and you will not only get customers, but create a tribe of loyal followers.

And once you have a tribe that has caught your disease, the real fun begins, because they will spread it to others. There is a reason it’s called “going viral.” It has long been known that “word of mouth” is the strongest form of marketing. A referral from a trusted friend will always beat  an ad or even an engaging piece of content.

In the olden days before print journalism, TV, or radio, word of mouth was all we had. Later, these forms of traditional media took its place. Now, we have come full circle and technology allows us to steer the conversation and generate word-of mouth marketing through large networks of fans, expanding our reach like never before.

Social media enables you to create a tribe of brand ambassadors who will then spread your message for you and further infect the population. If you’re effective, you’ll create an epidemic.

Don’t keep your enthusiasm quarantined. Hopefully, after reading this you have caught the bug and are ready to be contagious.

Nobody Reads Ads

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The famous advertising master of the “Mad Men’ era, Howard Gossage, also known as the “Socrates of San Francisco,” once said: “Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.”

When I got my first agency job as a junior copywriter, one of the senior writers had this quote hanging on the wall in front of his desk. This insight is very crucial to keep in mind whenever you are writing copy either for traditional media advertising or for the web.

It’s surprising how many companies fail to remember this sound advice. Instead, brands often end up making the foolish mistake of talking “at” their target audience rather than “to” them. Nowhere is this error made more often than on social media where the conversation is supposed to be just that – a conversation. Not a one-way communication, but a real connection between brands and consumers.

This golden Gossage-ism is even more relevant now than it was then. And I think in the digital age it has taken on a slightly new meaning that is perhaps more poignant now than it was originally intended.

In today’s fast-past world of media bombardment we are totally saturated with content vying for our attention both on traditional mediums (e.g. billboards, print, television, and radio) and on the internet which has predictably come to dominate how we access information.

How many promotional emails did you delete just this morning?! Are you even still reading this?!?!

If so, congrats.

Today, we mostly tune out advertisements with rare exceptions. When you are writing copy, it is not about how funny or cute or creative you can be nearly as much as it is how well you respond to the needs and wants of your audience. Just as in offline interpersonal relationships, one of the most important things you can do is listen, the same goes for any kind of marketing copy. And digital analytics programs as well as social media networks have opened up new avenues that make listening much easier for marketers to do. It is the smart brand who will put in the time to figure out where her audience is hanging out and what are its fears, concerns, questions, and needs.

Nobody will read your ad.

Get over it.

But if you talk about what interests your audience and you speak to its needs, then sometimes your copy will be read. And way more importantly, it will inspire your reader to take the desired call to action.

Keep Away from Cute & Clever

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A common mistake many make when writing headlines (or really any sort of advertising/marketing copy) is to make them cute or catchy.

Avoid gimmicks. According to successful freelance copywriter and professor of the online San Francisco School of Copywriting, Amy Posner, ‘cute’ is forgettable and it does not deliver the results you need.

The most important thing to remember when writing copy – and we will explore this concept at length in a future piece – is that it is not about being original, creative, or funny. It is about sales and achieving a return on your investment (ROI). Losing money for your client or your business is no laughing matter so stay focused on your objective.

Keeping in mind the following questions when writing headlines will help to focus and guide your writing.

1) Who am I writing to? Always write your headlines – and all of your copy for that matter – as if you are addressing it to only one person. Visualize that person. What does he need? What are his problems, desires, and challenges and how are you going to help him meet those needs? You are not writing to everyone. You are writing to a target audience. According to Robert Bly, author of the Copywriter’s Handbook, selecting an audience is your first step.

2) What problems are you solving?

3) What are the key benefits and features of this product or service?

4) What action do I want the reader to take? Be specific.

It is also very important to make sure your headline draws the reader into the body copy, especially if the product you are marketing is not something that can be quickly explained in a brief headline.

Some people strongly advocate writing your headline before writing the rest of the piece. Others write the rest of the piece and write the headline afterward. Still, other copywriters advise it is best to come up with a few possible headlines, write the body copy, and then go back to the headline. Personally, I think the second or the third approach works best for me. No doubt passionate arguments can be made for all three options. It is really up to the individual copywriter to discover what works best for him or her.

According to Posner, headlines should be specific and intriguing, but never tell the whole story. Rather, a headline should build anticipation and lead up to the big idea. This brings to mind one of my favorite quotes written by Voltaire: “The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” If Voltaire were a copywriter, he no doubt would have added the phrase “in the headline” to that quote. We copywriters and marketers are not in the business of boring people! We are storytellers of the highest order. We inspire people to care about whatever it is we are writing about.

Headlines must capture attention and interest. They must engage readers and draw them into the body copy. The purpose of the body copy is to prove and support your headline.

In the next post, we will examine several types of headlines.

Class dismissed!

How to Write a Great Headline – The 4 U’s

When writing copy for an advertisement it is extremely important to begin with a sterling, attention-grabbing headline. How important is it to have a good headline, you ask? Well, according to David Ogilvy, author of Confessions of an Advertising Man, “on average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. If you haven’t done some selling in your headline, you have wasted 80 percent of your client’s money.” Those are some powerful words which should motivate us to crank out killer headlines. In today’s environment of rapidly shrinking attention spans as well as numerous advertisements and various forms of content competing for our attention on the web and in other forms of media writing effective headlines is more important than ever.

In what will be the beginning of a brief series about headlines, I will present to you an excellent formula known as the Four U’s. This strategy was developed by Michael Masterson and it is explained thoroughly in “The Copywriter’s Handbook” by Robert Bly – a must-read for copywriters, advertisers, and marketers. For a more comprehensive treatment of this subject and many others that arise in copywriting, please get your hands on this book. Here, I will summarize some main ideas, which should start you off on your journey of headline writing mastery.

The Four U’s

1) Urgent. Urgency encourages your prospect to act now rather than later. There are many different ways you can create a sense of urgency in your headline. Adding words like “this month” e.g. ‘Start making money from home this month’ is one effective way to do it. Other phrases that are helpful include: ‘while supplies last’, ‘for limited time only’, and ‘today’. You can probably think of many more. Time-limited special offers such as a discount or premium by a certain date also create a sense of urgency. Urgent headlines often promise a reward to readers who are quick to take a specific action.

2) Unique. A powerful headline should either say something new or communicate something the reader may already know in a fresh, new way. An example would include “The reason you are not losing weight” rather than simply advertising 10% off of a dietary supplement.

3) Ultra-Specific. Bullet point phrases that tease the reader into reading further and ordering the product. Think juicy newspaper headlines. For example: “What not to do at a restaurant,” “Bills it’s ok to pay late, ” and “Why your kids might not be getting the nutrition they need”.

4) Useful. A strong headline should appeal to the reader’s self-interest by offering a benefit. When writing a headline (or any piece of copy really) it is always important to keep in mind the WIM – the ‘What’s In it for Me?’ For example, ‘Look Younger without Surgery’ or ‘Experience world travel and save money’. Readers do not care to listen to you talk about yourself. All your reader cares about is how she can benefit from what you are telling her. This is such an important thing to keep in mind and will be the subject of a future post.

Assessing the Strength of your Headline:
According to Robert Bly, when you have written your headline, you should ask yourself how strong it is in each of the 4 U’s. Grade yourself on a scale of 1 to 4 (1 = weak and 4 = strong) to rank your headline in each of the four categories. It is rare, he explains, that a headline will rate a three or a four on all four U’s. But if your headline doesn’t rate a 3 or a 4 on at least three of the U’s, it’s probably not as strong as it could be and you should consider doing a rewrite. Stay tuned for more helpful advice on headline writing!

Work to live, don’t live to work

The link below is a news story about a woman who literally sacrificed herself for her craft.

http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/archive/segment/copywriter-dies-after-30-hours-of-work/52b1facf78c90a4cde000260

This tragic story should be a reminder to all of us to remember to put life in perspective. Do we live to work or do we work to live? Personally, I think it is much better to work to live. It’s great to love what we do, but it should not completely define who we are or be the measuring stick by which we determine our self worth. My only hope is that this woman died doing what she loved.

Work hard, but be careful and remember to take a breather now and then. You will then return to your work energized, refreshed, and with even more zeal and creativity than before. Working non-stop until you drop is not worth it. I believe having a life outside of your work will not detract from your ability as a copywriter. If anything, your hobbies, passions, family life, spiritual life, travel etc. will only serve to enhance and enrich the quality of your work.