Archive for the ‘Messaging’ Category

If You Want to Get Attention, Say Something Worth Hearing

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Every day, we’re bombarded with more online information than our brains can possibly absorb. It’s as if a truck backed up to our homes and businesses each morning and dumped a ton of junk mail at our feet.

If you want to get any work done, you simply have to ignore or trash about 95 percent of anything you receive, even if it’s a subscription to a blog or eNewsletter you really mean to read.

So how do you get others to pay attention to your marketing messages?

Not by yelling louder or more often.

Here are my guidelines for being heard by the people you want to reach:

1. Know your ideal client and what problems she’s trying to solve.

If you don’t know whom you’re trying to attract and how you can be of help, it’s time to stop and figure that out. Everything else flows from this fundamental knowledge.

2. Provide quality content that solves a problem, teaches a new skill or inspires.

If you can do all three, even better. People are busy and easily distracted. To get your ideal client to pause and read, you need to give her content that’s immediately useful. It can be as short as a few sentences or as long as a feature article. Just be sure it’s worth her time.

3. Write with clarity and precision.

Nothing undercuts your message more than rambling sentences and poor grammar. If you’re not sure of your writing and editorial skills, find a good copyeditor to review your work before publishing.

4. Be consistent.

Produce and distribute your messaging content, via a blog, eNewsletter or other form of social media, on a predictable schedule, so your readers know when to expect your quality content—and look forward to it.

5. Be truthful and trustworthy.

Building a good reputation for your work is contingent on being a good person to work with. Enough said.

There is, of course, much to master about messaging tactics—how to build a good email distribution list, how to write effective headlines that get noticed, how to integrate keywords into your content to maximize search optimization, and so on. But even if you’re brilliant in all of these skills, if what you have to share isn’t worth reading, you’re wasting your time and everyone else’s.

The best test of your content? If you weren’t the author, would you take the time in the middle of a busy day to read it? I hope your answer is yes, but if not, you know what you have to do.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Photo Credit: maol via Compfight cc

A Powerful Message Worth Remembering: Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

Monday, January 21st, 2013

As he takes his public oath of office for his second term at noon, President Barack Obama will use two Bibles—that of Martin Luther King, Jr., whose memory we honor today, and of President Abraham Lincoln, two of the greatest communicators in history.

Lincoln’s second inaugural address, only 701 words, is a model of powerful messaging—clear, poignant, concise, inspiring. Well worth reading this 57th Inauguration Day, 2013.

Saturday, March 4, 1865

Fellow-Countrymen:

At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

What Have You Learned This Year? Five Questions to Help You Improve Your Marketing in 2013

Monday, December 31st, 2012

There’s plenty of advice out there about trends for 2013 and how to plan for the coming year. But before you look forward, it’s a good idea to take stock of the year drawing to a close.

If you’re like me, some of what you tried for your business worked well this year; other strategies were less successful. But mistakes are as valuable as successes. Both provide opportunities to learn and do even better next time.

So here are five questions to ask yourself as you reflect on 2012 and plan ahead:

1. Who is your ideal client—and whom are you actually helping? Are your present clients meeting your expectations?

All too often, especially when you’re starting out and don’t want to turn anyone away, it’s easy to fall into the trap of accepting clients who soak up your time but want to pay the minimum. Not worth it, especially as you’re trying to build your business. Look over your client list and determine who’s worth your time and who isn’t. Then let the sponges go.

2. What was your most successful marketing strategy? What did you do right to gain more qualified clients?

Note the adjective: qualified. You want to focus on the outreach you did that brought you more of those you want to help, not just more inquiries or more people who aren’t your target market. As you evaluate your success, think in terms of return on investment—not simply money spent, but time, as well. How can you expand on this effort during the coming year to build on your success?

3. Which marketing efforts failed to bring you desired results? Why? What went wrong?

Remember, this isn’t about banging your head against the wall. You want to identify what was a waste of time and money, and why. Maybe your concept was good, but the execution failed. Or maybe your execution was perfect, but you misunderstood your ideal client and how she would respond. Analyze your effort to figure out how you missed your target, what’s worth refining and repeating, and what to avoid in 2013.

4. How has your understanding of your work evolved? Is that reflected in your marketing messaging? Do you need to make refinements?

The more clients you help, the more you develop and refine your sense of your own capabilities and what you do best. Take some time to pat yourself on the back, note down your strengths and the words your best clients have used to describe you and how you’ve improved their lives. Look over your web content and other marketing materials to assess whether your content accurately reflects the true nature of your work—from your ideal client’s point of view—and your true abilities. Then make any necessary refinements.

5. Of all the marketing initiatives you tried this year, which one did you enjoy the most? Why?

Chances are that the marketing you enjoyed the most, you did the best. Maybe you discovered a passion for blogging, or you love the challenge of maximizing ROI from a Google AdWords campaign. Perhaps you found that you have a skill for teaching through workshops or webinars. Or maybe you’ve met some of your best customers by shmoozing in professional networking meetings or by helping others through LinkedIn forums.

We all thrive when we’re playing to our strengths. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new approaches that push you out of your comfort zone, but it’s always a good idea to make the most of the strategies you really enjoy. Not only will you excel at what you love, but you’ll learn more about yourself and new directions for your business.

As we enter 2013, use what you’ve learned from this exercise to plan for an even better, more successful year of promoting your great work. Good luck and best wishes for a prosperous, fulfilling New Year!

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Want Your Message to Get Attention? Think Like a Telegraph Operator

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

I finally got to see Lincoln this weekend, Steven Spielberg’s stunning portrayal of the President’s battle to pass the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery. Among the film’s most powerful scenes, there are several moments when all action pauses for a telegraph transmission. Tension mounts as the telegraph receives a string of Morse Code beeps and the critical news is translated—the outcome of a key battle, the House vote on the Amendment’s fate.

We take instantaneous messaging for granted today. But during the Civil War, the telegraph had only been in use for some 20 years; Western Union had just laid the first transcontinental telegraph cable in 1861. Operators needed be proficient in Morse Code, the series of dots and dashes, transmitted as short beeps and long beeps, that represent each letter of the alphabet.

Messages were short, focused and aimed at a very specific audience, then communicated in person or hand-carried to the intended recipient. And for those reasons, quite effective.

Except for the medium, not so different from effective messaging today.

Here are a few lessons about messaging we can all learn from the days of the telegraph:

  1. Know your audience. It’s easy to send out any kind of message into cyberspace. But if you’re not clear about whom your trying to reach and what they care about—what information they would stop in their tracks to discover—chances are good no one will pay any attention.
  2. Convey your message in a way your audience understands. In the 19th century, not everyone knew Morse Code; they needed an operator who could translate telegraph transmissions. With the Internet, you can write anything you want and put it online, publish it via emails, your blog and other social media. But if you’re using lingo or a language style that the people you want to reach don’t share, your message will be dismissed as unintelligible beeps.
  3. Keep it focused. Whether by telegraph or Internet, short, simple and clear add up to a memorable message that sticks.
  4. Time your message to arrive when people are looking for the information you want to provide. There are cycles in every business. Everyone’s looking for bargains right now before the holidays. After New Year’s, people look for ways to fulfill their resolutions to lose weight and get fit. In January and February, people in cold climates begin to plan for vacations in warmer ones. These are the obvious cycles. Whatever messaging you do, understand when those you want to help need it most, and set your schedule accordingly.

Bottom line: Our technology certainly has evolved, but the essence of human communication hasn’t.

End of transmission.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

How to Keep Your Annual Appeal Out of the Circular File

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

The week before Thanksgiving, along with the inevitable flood of holiday gift catalogues in the mail, comes the inevitable flood of annual appeals from your alma mater and any good cause you may have supported in the past, along with requests from many causes you haven’t.

If you’re like me, I’m sure you toss the ones you don’t really care about, which constitute at least 90 percent of the mail, and set aside the ones you want to review for tax-deductible giving before the end of the calendar year.

So what makes a direct mail annual appeal worth opening, let alone reading—let alone responding to with a donation?

Just saying what you do and why it’s important aren’t enough to save an appeal from the circular file. Here are three key criteria to an effective annual appeal:

1) A Qualified Mailing List

This may seem obvious, but given the amount of junk mail we all receive, it’s certainly not always followed. Especially for non-profits that need to watch every dollar spent, it is well worth the time and investment to create and maintain an up-to-date database of qualified donors who have given in the past.

You can amplify this list through effective lead generation materials on your website—free, valuable content that your site visitors will want to download in exchange for their contact information. Understand the people you are trying to attract as donors, what they care about, what motivates them, what they would want to receive that is relevant to your work and helps to educate. Create quality content to give away in exchange for the contact information you need to expand your list of potential donors.

2) A Compelling Story

The best way to bring home the positive impact of your non-profit’s work is to tell a story that illustrates how your efforts benefited those you intend to help. Journalists use this approach all the time to explain a complicated issue—like rising gas prices—by telling the story from a local point of view. Readers can more readily identify with an abstract issue if it’s explained in personal terms.

To hold your audience, your story needs to have emotional impact that’s earned, not forced. People don’t want to feel manipulated. Stick to the truth. If your work is really good, you’ll have plenty of compelling anecdotes that can be woven into your narrative.

3) Great Visuals

A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. Not everyone will read a long appeal letter, no matter how well crafted. Use quality photos that illustrate how you help—not grip-and-grin snapshots of donors at events—to help tell your story and draw your reader into your appeal. It also pays to invest in a professional graphic designer to lay out your story in a way that is compelling and easy to follow.

In addition to the above, be sure to get your appeal in the mail in time for it to arrive a month to six weeks before December 31, so recipients won’t miss it in the Christmas rush. And do a thorough evaluation of your appeal’s effectiveness when you’ve received all your donations.

There are many, many good causes out there, all competing for donations. Your chances of raising money for your good works are significantly better if you have a solid mailing list and a great, humane story, well presented, to share with your qualified donors.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Why Bother with a Website If You Have Good Word-of-Mouth?

Monday, November 12th, 2012

I know a small business owner, a specialist in computer repair and Internet security, who doesn’t have a website. Ironic, he admits, to be in the business of helping others have safe and effective communication online while lacking an on-line presence. But he does great work and has an excellent network of person-to-person referrals, and he’s been very busy.

The problem is this: Last year, someone across the globe pushed a scam over the Internet using the name of his company. If a potential customer looks up his business online, the first thing they find is the thread of warnings about the scam. You have to know him and type in his name to get to the real information about his business on his LinkedIn profile. Last time we spoke, he was planning to create his own website, but I have yet to see one.

Maintain Control of Your Message

Now, just because you don’t have a website for your business doesn’t mean you’ll end up with this kind of dilemma about your good name. But the point is, just about everyone checks you out online these days before they try to contact you to do business. And you want to be sure to have the upper hand in controlling what they read about you when they do.

According to Google, 97 percent of consumers go online to find local businesses. So if you’re relying on word-of-mouth for your business, like my friend, chances are you have a clientele that is primarily local and possibly regional. If people hear about you from trusted sources, they may call, but they probably will look you up, too. If they don’t find you online, this is what can happen:

  • They won’t fully understand your work and the range of options you offer for helping them solve the problem that’s brought them to you in the first place.
  • They may make assumptions about your qualifications that aren’t true.
  • They may make assumptions about your pricing that aren’t true.
  • They may wonder if you take your work seriously.

At the least, answering any of these questions or doubts can cost you time, having to explain yourself and your work in detail whenever you get an inquiry. At most, your lack of a web presence can cost you more business.

Expand Your Referral Network

While it’s wonderful to have a strong word-of-mouth network, you expand your odds of getting more business through your website. As any solopreneur soon learns, there are unpredictable cycles of feast or famine. If you’re just relying on a local personal network for business, you can find yourself without work at the most inopportune moment. Building a strong referral network online begins with a solid web presence that is your main reference point.

Clarify What You Do and Why

One of the great benefits of creating a website for your business is that it forces you to clarify for yourself what you do, the value of your work and why you do it. You may already have good answers for all of the above, but until you sit down to put it into words, you won’t realize what you’re missing from your pitch and how you could make it better.

Simply put, even if you have a strong personal referral network, a professional website that presents you and your great work in a way that resonates with those you hope to reach is well worth the time and investment to ensure you that you’ll continue to have all the business you need.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

When NOT to Promote Yourself

Monday, November 5th, 2012

There is a time to speak and a time to listen. This past week, when Superstorm Sandy plowed into the East Coast, it was a time to pay attention, seek shelter and offer genuine help. But not a time to promote your brand.

American Apparel and The Gap learned that lesson the hard way. American Apparel was roundly criticized for launching a 36-hour Hurricane Sandy Sale, and Gap got an equally well-deserved trouncing for encouraging those who might be bored during the storm to shop online. Both received an outpouring of angry social media push-back. With so many suffering from the disaster, the pitches were justly recognized as tasteless and completely inappropriate.

Sears was chastised, too, for pushing generators and cleaning products via its Twitter feed in the storm’s aftermath. Even if people were looking for these items, the promotion appeared self-serving. Which, of course, it was.

Other businesses demonstrated thoughtful restraint or offered genuine assistance. Chevrolet donated 50 trucks and vans to search and rescue efforts. The Citi Foundation, which gives $500,000 annually to the American Red Cross, donated $1,000,000 for Sandy disaster relief. Sure, these moves helped burnish brand image. But they were tangible gifts of much-needed resources.

So, what’s the best, most humane approach to marketing your brand under such circumstances? Two rules make sense:

  1. Put yourself in the shoes of the people affected by the disaster. What information would be truly helpful to them that’s relevant to your work? Can you be of genuine assistance in some way, or will your offer appear to be simply self-serving or making light of the true suffering involved?
  2. If your business is located within the disaster zone, sincere words of support and comfort are appropriate (emphasis on sincere), as well as any updates about what’s happened to your business, when you expect to be available again for your customers and how to contact you.

For thoughtful commentary on the subject, see:

Nick Cicero: Is There a Right Way to Respond On Social Media After a Hurricane? on Social Fresh

Michael Sebastian: After Sandy, Lessons Emerge for Corporate Communicators on PR Daily.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Just Be Civil

Monday, October 29th, 2012

As we hurtle through the final weeks of the Presidential campaigns, language has reached a new low. All you have to do is check out Twitter for the two candidates to see how people fling gratuitous lies and innuendos with the speed of data transmission—or check your junk mail or political ads on TV, if you can actually sit there and watch. I can’t.

As a professional writer and marketing consultant, I care a lot about language—using well-chosen words to tell the truth about people, products and services that I believe in. I’m tired, to say the least, of all the campaign cheap shots, insults, curses and outright lies that are being published without any editorial filters.

So I was very gratified to read Sonia Simon’s thoughtful post on Copyblogger this week, The Civility Manifesto: A Call to Action (Your Input Needed). Read the post. Take it seriously. And think carefully next time, before you hit Send.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Seven Ways to Repeat Your Message and Get Noticed

Monday, October 1st, 2012

There’s a golden rule in public speaking:

Tell your audience what you’re going to tell them.

Tell them.

Then tell them what you told them.

When it comes to delivering a memorable message, repetition is key. With so much information battering us for attention every second—from emails, texts, tweets, social network posts; on our smart phones, radio, TV; not to mention from live beings in our midst—it’s amazing that we can remember anything at all.

The Rule of Seven
So how many times do you need to repeat your marketing message for your ideal customer to pay attention, remember and follow your call-to-action?

The annoying answer is—it depends. If you’re an expert in a small but clearly defined niche, you may have a dedicated following who just need to hear your advice once to take action.

But if you’re competing in a crowded marketplace, you need to repeat and repeat and repeat. Some marketing pros cite the Rule of Seven—a minimum of seven times to repeat your message in order to be noticed. It’s probably no coincidence that seven is the average number of bits of information that we can hold in our short-term, conscious memory.

Vary the Medium to Develop Your Message
This doesn’t mean you need to repeat the exact same message in the exact same format, over and over. In fact, it helps if you promote your message with some variety, so your ideal client doesn’t yawn and move on because she’s heard it already. There’s a balance to be struck between reinforcing your message and annoying the people you’re trying to convince with too much of the same thing.

So here are seven ways to get your message across in different styles and formats:

  1. Blog about it. Tell a story about how your helped solve a problem for a client. Be sure she’s someone your target audience can identify with. Tweet about your blog post, using keywords that your target audience is likely to use for search.
  2. Create a video of your client explaining how you helped her solve that problem. Embed it on your website homepage, post it on your social networking sites and tweet to your followers.
  3. Create a short guide to solving that problem, optimize it with keywords and post it on your website as a download in exchange for email addresses. Promote it through your social networks.
  4. Promote a free webinar about how to solve that problem in greater detail, using  your email list of qualified potential clients and social networks.
  5. Do the webinar. Offer participants a discount for your product or service.
  6. Guest post on a blog with a significant audience of potential clients about how to solve that problem. Link to your website and your problem-solving download.
  7. Get yourself an interview on your local business radio show and tell your story. Promote your next webinar.

And so on. You can, of course, also tell your story through traditional advertising, such as newspaper ads, if your budget allows. The point is to think creatively, across media that your ideal client favors, and plan your promotional push within a short enough period that will help you to reinforce your message multiple times.

As you develop your campaign, be sure to measure results. Which tactic garnered the most inquiries? Which gave you the best return on your investment of time and resources? Experiment, test and refine. With each new round of repetition, you’ll have a better shot that your ideal client will actually be listening.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

 

Why TV Ads May Not Win Elections, After All

Monday, September 24th, 2012

If you’re able to stomach the hype, dueling punditry and horserace journalism of this year’s bitter presidential campaign, you probably know by now that the Romney campaign has raised millions more than Obama’s, largely through secret private donations to Super PACs. Both campaigns are flooding TV markets in battleground states with commercials; by Election Day on November 6, the contenders will have spent an estimated $1.1 billion on TV ads.

That in itself is a sobering thought (how much of the national debt could have been retired with that money?). But according to James Suroweicki’s financial column in this week’s New Yorker magazine, all that money for all those ads may be an even bigger waste of resources when you consider how campaigns are actually won.

Step One: Target Your Message to Voters You’re Most Likely to Win Over
Citing Sasha Issenberg’s new book, The Victory Lab, Suroweicki explains how sophisticated political campaigns have adopted corporate marketing strategies of micro-targeting their messages to each segment of voters. Focusing on voters who are still undecided or who favor their candidate but need that extra push, campaigns tailor messaging according to detailed demographics, including shopping tastes, voting history and media preferences.

If that approach sounds familiar, it should. Political campaigns are only following best practices for strategic messaging—know your ideal client, understand her issues and explain how you can help solve her problems or help meet her challenges.

Of course, delivering the right message to the right audience segment isn’t enough. You have to follow through on your promises, which, in politics, is not always a guarantee.

Step Two: Persuade Your Won-over Voters in Person to Get Out and Vote
But of greatest importance during the run-up to the election is this: Even if you persuade the right market segment of voters with your expensive, targeted TV commercials and direct mail to vote for your candidate, it doesn’t mean squat unless the people you convince actually get out and vote.

And here, Suroweicki points out, political science researchers have demonstrated that good old fashioned human contact works best. Forget those robo-phone calls with recorded political VIPs urging you to go to the polls (not to mention the pure annoyance factor). Personal calls by real campaign workers and door-to-door stumping, when strategically targeted, are the most effective ways to get your won-over voters to vote.

Which brings us to a common-sense conclusion—market research is essential, targeted messaging is good strategy, but nothing beats the personal touch of one person speaking honestly to another about why your candidate or product or service is worth her time, effort and resources.

And above all, of course, your marketing efforts should promote something or someone of true substance that lives up to your message. Imagine if that were always the case in politics.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.