...despite the blackhole of the internet
You're an entrepreneur or a business owner. You want to reach your audience and market your business through the wonderful world wide web, the miraculous network of space and electronics that connects us all and is able to reach people and places you never dreamed of. But making a connection one-to-many is so vastly different than reaching it one-to-one. Your message is about more than 'buy me', 'use me', get this 'thing' I want to sell you. How do you make that connection personal? How do you get your name and brand and message to resonate in a very real way, despite the impersonal mass-market medium that is the internet?
This is my challenge and the subject of this blog. It may be a rant really. I'm not sure if I can offer any real wisdom or advice. But let's pontificate just the same… Because, I sense, I'm not alone in this dilemma.
We are at an incredible age of do-it-yourselfer, self-made men and women who have chucked the corporate rat-race and are seeking their own path with some sort of freelance, part-time/ full-time, entrepreneurial gig. We are a generational force of business owners, all shucking our wares in a grassroots digital way on social networks and websites. Regardless of the seeming floodgates however, in such big waters our voices can give the impression of just a trickle, barely noticeable and perhaps undistinguishable from the roar. We want to stand out. We want to speak to possible users, clients and customers as if we are the only two people in the chat universe and yet that type of connection is oh, so very hard.
Have you felt the struggle? Are you with me in my frustration?
Here's what the experts advise:
1. FIND YOUR NICHE
Know your prospect and know them well. Know where they gather and what they talk about. Meet them on their level, like one of them. Then, when you market to them don't push your solution but let them see you fully understand their problems and issues. Make helpful suggestions and advice that doesn't cost them anything but gets them closer to the solution. But don't give away the farm. Plant the seeds. Give advice. Be the expert. They'll learn that if they want the full service to come to you.
2. BE AUTHENTIC
Authenticity is a popular word these days and it's being tossed around without much depth of understanding. The definition connotes an authority that is verifiable, as well as a quality of genuineness. The genuine quality includes sincerity and emotion. So, to be authentic means to be both an authority on the topic and one who cares about the outcome and those seeking the advice. Be that and your words will shine.
3. DELIVER, DELIVER, DELIVER
Good news travels fast but not as fast as bad news. Make an unhappy customer and you're likely to kill all the goodwill, authority and authenticity you worked so hard to build. So, work as hard as you can to make every customer exceedingly happy. Many small businesses have thrived through "word-of-mouth." I don't recommend you rest your laurels on this expansion model but never underestimate its power either. Your good work will follow you. But, bad work will kill you.
OK. Those are the golden rules from the experts. Are you inspired to make it reality? Can we reach through the black hole of the internet and make a personal connection in our marketing efforts? It's hard. And challenging. And difficult to sustain.
Let me add a few of my own tips that may also help:
1. KNOW YOURSELF
Maybe a better phrase might be "know your brand." For some of us that's one and the same. Fully define in your head what your brand stands for and how you express that. Then be true to yourself in every post and phrase and ad. Keep it consistent and real. Those little drops in the bucket can fill an entire pool over time.
2. BE CONFIDENT
Don't let the 'naysayers' get in your head. Be confident and persistent. Also, be positive. No one wants to hear us gripe all the time. If there is a problem, pose the solution. Be the light that shines on the issue and helps us overcome it. Your audience will welcome your positivity and will keep coming back for more.
3. REMEMBER THE GOAL
In any struggle in life, it's good to remind ourselves along the way of the end goal. The path can get long and tiresome. But keeping the goal in mind will help us persevere. What is your end goal? Why are you doing this? Are you reaping some of the rewards already? Don't forget to count your blessings daily. If your goal is unchanged, then don't give up in striving to reach it. One day you'll realize… you did!
So, all that being said, I'm not sure if I revealed how to make your own marketing personal so as to penetrate the black hole of the internet. But, per usual, my rant served to clarify a few things in my own head and assuage my mind that I'm on the right track. So, I think I'll keep at it. How about you?
To all you go-getter, self-made men and women solopreneurs out there: You got this.
If you wanna chat or make a personal connection with me, I may be able to help with your marketing or branding efforts — it's what I do — just give me a ping.
Make it visually delightful. Engaging. Interactive.
Is content still king?
In the marketing world of 2017, it appears content is still king. The style, length and frequency of content may be ever evolving but the drive to engagement is still speckled with customer-centric, relevant and relatable meals of content, served-up along the roadside of the customer buyer's journey.
If you're a marketer like me, the goal is to find fresh and new types of content to deliver to your prospects.
Why visual content?
While video is ever the hot commodity of late, it can be labor-intensive to create and may not fit for every type of engagement. Interactive content is an exciting alternative. With the advent and prevalence of SaaS tools and digital apps, it has become easier for the average marketer to dip their hand into an interactive bag-of-tricks without breaking budgets or deadlines.
Let's have a look at why interactive content is so compelling and what tools are out there to help you get started.
Visual content works harder, while being remembered and shared more often than standard content.
Statistics and graphics courtesy of Ion Interactive: The 75 Essential Content Marketing Stats You Need to Know.
Consumers will come to value and trust your brand by the customization of content you offer and by the engaging nature of visual content, especially interactive content.
What is interactive content?
So, what do we mean by interactive content and what are some examples? Interactive content is any type of visual-text combination that allows the user to engage with it. This can be a quiz, a poll, a collection of links, clicks, or pop-ups, a game, a contest or sweepstake, an animated web experience, an animated coupon, ad or banner, a VR experience, navigable map, 360-degree video and any assets like these.
These deliverables can range from rich, complex evergreen content with long shelf-lives, to content that is easily generated and quickly digestible offering the advantage of grabbing the attention of your prospect to foster sharing and engagement. In either category online tools and apps can play a huge role in helping you to create information that is both spontaneous and delightfully interactive.
Some common types and tools
Quizzes -- Tools and apps that fall into this category include Qzzr, WooBox, Heyo, Tryinteract.com and Ion Interactive. I've tried a couple of these so I'll speak to my experience with those.
Qzzr is an easy quiz-building tool. I've used the free version of this tool, which is intuitive and easy to use. Like most tools of this kind, you can choose an existing template design for the quickest result. However, if you want something more custom and you have the skills to create imagery that is more specific to your theme and branding, you can import your own images with great result. Paid subscription levels offer additional features and integrations if you find this to be a frequently-used tool in your content bag.
TryInteract.com offers a nice user experience and a similar creator interface. However, the ability to score and control the outcomes of my quiz took me longer to figure out and offered less customization here than Qzzr. For more playful, less serious content applications, this may be a superior building tool than Qzzr (where I could customize my answer screen to provide more in-depth information) but I'm guessing it would fall to subjective preferences. Paid subscriptions start at $29/mo. This app also creates polls and giveaways.
Ion Interactive is a more sophisticated option for interactive quizzes. This application has a high ticket-price but offers a wide range of interactive content types, targeted at agencies or enterprise marketing teams. This app includes templates for assessments, calculators, quick-start guides, ebooks, infographics, white papers, landing pages, look-books, solutions finders and quizzes. The templates may initially require some web development expertise to build them to your brand guidelines, but once built, they can be used as the basis for a slew of interactive assets. Full disclosure: I haven't actually used this tool yet. I've only walked through a demo. I have also read some warnings on forums about the application's complexity and difficult learning curve, but for a non-coding designer/content marketer like me, the possibilities of this tool are highly enticing.
Interactive Infographics -- The tools I found for this include Ion Interactive, ThingLink and the old-school methods requiring web development and code.
ThingLink is an inexpensive subscription tool which allows you to take a static photo or existing illustration (say you created an infographic design via Photoshop or Illustrator) and add clickable links which offer pop-up content and CTAs on top of the image, thus creating an integrated, interactive experience. The links can be to a video, a pdf, a webpage, a content box, or a CTA input form. I experimented with the free version of this tool (which offers very limited functionality unfortunately). To get the full experience, you must make the annual investment commitment (or at least the 14-day trial) of $20/month.
Animation -- This is a wider category, offering animation tools for websites and online advertising to social media. Some of these tools include Zembula, Hello Bar, Ion Interactive, Legend, Canva, Ripl, and YouTube Studio among many, many others. Look also for GIF generators like ezgif and gifmaker which will take a series of static images and build an animated gif for you.
Animation alone doesn't necessarily offer an interactive component unless the user can click on it or engage with it in some way. But animation does make your content more dynamic, thus making it more sharable. That makes this type of content pretty 'golden' in my book, especially if I can create it quickly, and on-the-fly. So, here are a couple of apps I've tried.
Legend is a free app for iOS or android with some pre-programed animation sets that allows you to create some dynamically interesting short videos or gifs for social media. The tool is simple to use, comes with a library of images or the ability to import your own, and allows you to customize font and color choices in a somewhat limited way. For brands that are very strict with colors or fonts, this may not be a good choice but for ones that are more flexible, the interface is intuitive and fast. While you can save what you've created, you can't go back and re-edit. But since the process takes just seconds, it's not difficult to just start from scratch.
Ripl is similar to Legend. This app seems to have more reporting and engagement features to plan your social strategy and then track the effectiveness of your posts and campaigns. If you're not already using another social media tracking tool, this may be a good option. I found the actual creation interface less intuitive, but it offers some template types (like: offer a review, ask a question, or #TransformationTuesday a before/after post) to get you inspired.
Canva is a popular app which allows users to create various types of designed marketing or promotional materials without expensive and hard-to-use design software. Canva template types include resumes, posters, business cards, stickers, and social media to name a few. Canva doesn't create the animation, but it can help you create a series of visual frames which you download as pngs and then import into a GIF generator to animate.
Ezgif.com is one generator I've used. Simply upload your images and choose make GIF. From there you'll have some options to cross-fade one from to the next, how much time delay you want on each frame, etc. Once the GIF is to your liking, it's best to optimize the result, to reduce the file size as much as possible. Strive for 5MG max size if you hope to have it viewed on mobile devices.
Bringing it all together
So, we've looked at types and tools for interactive content. Are you ready to give it a try? Like any type of content, be sure to get the tone and the actual content itself right before investing your time into interactivity or animation. What is it you want people to do? What is the best way to communicate the point of the content is a fun and dynamic way? Neil Patel offered the following tips for developing interactive content in his article for Content Marketing Institute:
Don't forget the 'what's in it for me?'
You've thought through the best way to make your content dynamic and interactive. You've managed to capture the attention of your audience and engage them with your content. But now what? What do you want them to do next? Is it to share and invite others? Is it to visit a landing page or download more content? Maybe they are ready to fill out a lead form or assessment? Whatever it is, don't let all your hard work go to waste by forgetting the ever-important call to action.
For social media, your call to action built into the text you post to accompany your GIF or asset. It's not just "Play This" but tell them why and offer them more once they do. Whether it's a social media post, an article or a slide-share, download these templates to create your own branded set of buttons, clicks and calls to action. And, never miss the opportunity to prompt your reader to take the next step.
Content is still king, whatever form it takes
Make no mistake, content is still the cornerstone of most marketing strategies in this social-sharing age. Keeping it relevant, dynamic and fun, where appropriate, will increase the effectiveness of anything you produce. So, try these interactive types and tools to increase the impact of your content.
Need help creating your content?
Since the first website in 1991 there are now more than a billion sites, all competing for attention and mindshare. When did your current website launch? Are you wishing for a redesign but can't afford it?
According to one calculator, the average 10-50 page website with standard database integration could run $12 to $18k to design, build and launch. Even a DIY model with a pre-designed theme will cost you numerous hours of management, coordination, design, copywriting, development, integration and testing time, not to mention hosting, maintenance and security costs.
So, what do you do? How can you breathe some life into the site you already have with little investment?
Here are 3 cost-effective ways to revitalize your current website.
1. Think Refresh not Redesign
There are ways to work within your current layout design and navigational structure and still energize and boost your website performance.
Amp Up Your Branding: Design trends can quickly date your website. Look for ways to rid your site of outdated imagery or graphic tricks. Aim instead for a simple, clean look. Can you replace tired stock photography with something more authentic and unique? Look to modern brands you admire in your space for inspiration (but don't steal or copy them outright). Take cues from how they use imagery to convey ideas and concepts or how they customize an image with color treatments or overlays. Use your brand colors in thoughtful but contemporary ways. Remove outdated shadow techniques or boxy treatments that limit the browser view. If in doubt, go for simple, flat color treatments.
Related Content: How to banish a case of the brand blahs
Tweak Your Messaging: Your brand is also expressed by the words you choose on your website. This is called your brand voice. It should be uniquely you and consistent throughout your site. Some websites are all business and authority (Hubspot). Others are brash and provocative (Red Bull). Some brands represent a sense of cause and purpose (Cisco). Modern websites are no longer an online, self-promoting corporate brochure. So, consider how your corporate story can convey punch and personality. Are you attracting customers, investors and prospective employees by the way you speak about your company and solutions?
Aim for Clarity: While related to your brand voice, this area has more to do with substance than voice. Is it absolutely clear what your product or service does when users first land on your home page or product pages? Speak to them about the problem(s) you can solve for them and how you will make their life and work easier. Let them see it in action or via case studies or ROI. Show them with purpose, persuasion and clarity. For each main webpage, have in mind what information they are looking for and give it to them as clearly as possible. And if you can say it with less words, do so.
2. Be the User
Our second tweak to make your website work harder is its structure and function. I know, I said we weren't going to change navigation, which can be expensive. But this has to do with improving on what is already there, not changing it.
SEO: To get users to your website you must address SEO basics. This means knowing which search terms people use to find information related to your offering. Your Google Analytic stats will tell you what search terms are working for you. What terms are you missing? Next, update your on-page content and keyword metadata to better target your new keywords. Use synonyms, short and long-tail versions or phrases. Focus mainly on your home page and main product page(s).
Site Nav: Without a completely reorganization of your site, you can make sure that site navigation is clear and users can find the content they are looking. Some navigational areas are standard practice and shouldn't be missed--like "Company/About" sections or "Contact/Service" sections. Also remember users do not always enter your website from the homepage, in fact, your keywords are doing their job if visitors are entering via other internal pages. Once there, can they navigate the site clearly? Can they tell where they are on the site and easily move to other content areas? Is back-navigation user-friendly? What about adding a search function to help them find exactly what they want?
CTAs: Calls to action are the bread and butter of your website. To make your website work harder, identify the top 3-5 CTAs you want visitors to take on your website (there are many, but prioritizing the top few will help you manage them within limited resources). Consider different types of users and where they are along the buying cycle.
These may include the following:
Now that you've identified the most important CTAs, decide where they logically should appear on your website and build persuasive and supportive content around each of them. Be sure the buttons themselves stand out visually from the surrounding content. Then be sure you have a strong landing page and form for each of these actions (as appropriate) that are also consistently well-branded (impactful visually and with brand voice).
Related Content: Download free button templates (ppt)
3. What's Outside the Box?
The final tweak to refresh your tired website is to look beyond the constructs of the website itself to the methods you use to drive traffic to your site. These include things like your social media, a blog and an inbound content strategy.
Content Calendar: An inbound strategy ties all your marketing tactics together into one neat package, so it's best to start our discussion with the content calendar. This doesn't have to be labor-intensive if you don't have the resources for a full-blown content marketing strategy. Instead, just consider what events and tactics you plan on using in your marketing arsenal throughout the year. Map them out. Think about what assets and supporting resources will be used for each and plot them.
Blog: If you don't already have a blog on your website, this is an easy add-on and will help drive new visitors to an otherwise static website. Launching a blog will give you a way to incorporate your keyword topics and link to other areas of your website that highlight your expertise. Don't forget to include sharing and engaging functions within your blog design too. Now, add blog post ideas to your content calendar above. Next is social media.
Related Content: Marketing-schmarketing, just tell me how to get more sales
Social: Even though B2B marketers have been slower to jump on the social bandwagon, most recognize the added boost these mediums can have on the overall marketing mix. B2B social media like Twitter and LinkedIn are now considered key avenues for sharing information about tradeshows and events, or in raising awareness about trending topics and solutions. As you develop new collateral offerings, think of ways to optimize this content with infographics, charts and quotes that will play well in social media. Now, add these social media posts to your content calendar.
You'll quickly see how this "outside the box" mindset of content, blogs and social media all work together to form an inbound content marketing strategy--much like coloring outside the lines of an integrated and dynamic website.
Now Measure, Rinse and Repeat
So, you've tackled your tired website with these 3 manageable tweaks: Think Refresh, Be the User and What's Outside the Box.
Now it's time to measure your success and see where you have impacted ROI, increased traffic or improved conversion rates. But a website (design or redesign) is never really done.
A good webmaster is always tweaking and boosting something. There should always be some fresh content, some new initiative, the latest product features to focus on, or better ways to explain your differentiators. So, reiterate the redesign process as often as possible to keep your website fresh.
Then, when the timing and budget cycle deem it appropriate, you can plan for and embark on a complete redesign project--where the sky's the limit (so to speak).
NEED HELP? Even the simplest website tweaks may be more than you have time or bandwidth to handle. No worries. Give me a buzz. From creative direction and branding to graphic design and copywriting, you only need one creative expert, so you can concentrate on your business. Win-win.
"Hey, I have this "thing" I need to name. I need to call it something… sexy. Something exciting… you know, something catchy."
If this is you, whether it's a new business name, or a product, or an event or some promotional thing. My friend, you need to say it with zing.
There are lots of things in business that it makes sense to name. You can't just call it any old thing. You need a catchy phrase that gets stuck in your head. But how do you go about doing that… finding that catchy phrase or that perfect name for your 'thing'?
Here are some guiding principles to help (or download the full Naming Worksheet: Say it with Zing here).
Consider the 5 types of names
Naming strategies generally fall into one of five categories (or some combination of them). They are:
You also need to be clear on the scope of your naming project. Ask yourself questions like:
These answers comprise your design brief. Whether you're taking on this project yourself, or enlisting help, everyone needs a creative brief. It will focus your exploration and influence the decision you make in the end.
The creative process
Now you're ready for the fun part. This creative brainstorming process might look something like this.
You may repeat steps 1-3 in various forms as many times as you like, depending on the project or you may move on to step 5.
Choose & Go
That's it. You've taken the creative naming strategy journey and hopefully you have a new name for your 'thing.' Congratulations. You've successfully added some zing to your thing.
Download the full Naming Strategy Worksheet here.
Don't have time for DIY or just need some help? Fill out the contact form or give me a shout and let's chat. I would love to noodle on it for you.
Back in 2016, the Urban Dictionary added the word "adulting" to their compendium. The verb is defined as "doing grown up things and holding responsibilities like a 9-5 job, paying rent, mortgage, or car payments, etc." Time.com coined it as the new favorite word for Millennials.
Millenials and Gen Zs (post-millennials) are sometimes harshly characterized as being coddled, lazy and narcissistic--as indicated by their aversion to adulting. Their "failure to launch" or take on adult responsibilities and move out of their parent's home has been the butt of many a sit-com.
However, psychologist Rachael Weinstein disagrees, saying she finds young people in her practice who are feeling isolated, overwhelmed and paralyzed by too little skills and too many choices.
So, why am I telling you this? This isn't an essay on the societal implications of generational learning or coping (or lack thereof). Nope.
Rather, it dawned on me the other day that when it comes to running my own creative business there are a lot of tasks that, for me, fall into the adulting category. I may not want to do them! I feel ill-equipped to tackle these chores and wholeheartedly relate to that sense of being overwhelmed. Yes, I would much rather avoid those grown-up things completely, and just have fun doing the work I love to do!
It's a little like the common creative complaint about clients. If we could just do our work without those pesky, demanding, hard-to-please clients, right? Well, business doesn't work that way. We wouldn't have the work if it wasn't for those clients.
I've never had a problem with the client-work relationship though. That's doable and manageable to me. I understand how much I need them and that they, in turn, need me. It's reciprocal and I'm good with that.
No, the adulting aspects of running this business are much more daunting to me. Things like:
Ugh! I'm a creative. I want to create and solve problems. I want to be helpful to others and keep my creative juices flowing with ideas and discovering new ways of doing things. But numbers, processes, business necessities--these are not my strengths.
Don't get me wrong, I'm great at project planning and management. But those are learned skills. It took me time to gather the routines and habits that serve me well in taking on a complex project. I'm just early on the learning curve with these more business adulting skills.
But, I'm an avid reader and eager learner, so I try to tackle one nut at a time on that list. I've learned tons about proposals, contracts and invoicing and found some awesome online tools to help me out. I've taken advice and found an accountant to help me with taxes and bookkeeping to some degree.
Trouble is, life gets in the way and the next thing you know it's tax time again and you're not fully prepared. Or maybe sickness rears an ugly head and you don't have the financial cushion to allow for sick days and extra medical bills.
What about those slump days when the work runs dry and the leads are not there to fill the coffers again. Feast or famine they call it. Ugh! How am I supposed to prepare for that without the money to invest in a better lead funnel?
Risk. I'm still working on this one--coming to grips with the reality of living with uncertainty day in and day out. I keep thinking I'll get this steady flow of clients who can keep the work coming in and the risk will go away. I'm not sure that's realistic.
And networking. Turns out I rather hate the idea of networking. I'm more of an introvert than I realized when I got up and went into an office full of people every day. Take me out of that grind with the luxury of working from own home, and now I can't seem to force my foot out the door for necessary socializing and relationship building.
Guess these are just items on the list yet to be checked off as conquered.
I'm not proposing any solutions here...just musing at the predicament I've created. I smile at myself because the little girl inside doesn't want to act like a big girl and face all these grown-up challenges.
Can't someone do it for me? Oh yeah... that's what I had before I was self-employed.
That was the case when someone else carried the load as the business owner and I just showed up to the office each day and worked for them, not for me.
I remember now....
Written by Barbara Bogue
So you’ve been in business for a while now but new leads are dwindling… you need new clients! What are you doing wrong? How can you jumpstart your marketing and breathe some fresh air into your awareness strategy to shake some new interest out of the woodwork?
Maybe the market has changed and your offering needs tweaking. Maybe there is a new competitor on the horizon who’s stealing your thunder? Maybe it’s the end of a season and you need help planning your product roadmap for the future. Or perhaps you hope to develop an inspiring new direction for your sales organization for the new year.
Whatever the case, you may be due for a brand audit.
What is a brand audit?
Marketing professionals can offer you the services of a brand audit. This involves a thorough analysis of your company or product brand, as reflected by your logo, website, collateral, and customer experience–all the outward-facing elements that reflect on your reputation and the public perception of your product or service. A brand audit can be sort of like a report card. And like a report card, there is a comparative aspect to a brand audit. Where do you rank on the curve, if you will, made up of other competitors in your space.
Why do competitors matter?
Businesses compete on lots of different levels. Not all companies that sell “widgets” let’s say, are created equal. Do you sell primarily to a local geographic area with a physical storefront? Or do you sell on a national scale with a wide-reaching web presence? Are you highly specialized or do you offer a wide variety? All of these aspects are relevant to your brand audit because the ultimate goal is to make you stand out as unique and superior when compared to your competitors. So you must to be careful that your audit is comparing apples to apples. When considering your brand it's necessary to understand the value proposition you are offering and what makes you unique.
What does a brand audit look like?
Brand audit reports can take on several forms. From a design perspective, I like to look at the outward visual aspects of the brand – the brand assets – and evaluate if they are reflective of what the current market needs. Does the brand stand out? Does it speak to the buyers or have they shifted in some way in terms or age or style or other demographics? Is the brand memorable and communicating a perceived value? Your brand audit should be able to answer these vital questions and recommend some suggestions for improvement.
Depending on the scale and focus of your brand audit it might include all or any of the following:
• Logo & business system
• Brand positioning
• Value proposition
• Product pricing
• Tagline or campaign slogan
• Colors or other design elements
• Company “voice” and copywriting style
• Sales pitch deck
• Storefront, signage, merchandising
• Vehicles & uniforms
• Lead-gen tactics
• Communications, email, newsletters
• Direct mail
• Employee & customer onboarding
• Press and social media
• Internal communications, training
Who is involved in a brand audit?
Again, the extent of your brand audit depends on the goals you are trying to meet. Larger companies often have a lot of “cooks in the kitchen” or various department players, all with some sort of impact on the brand. This may require a more extensive audit process involving various stakeholders through interviews, meetings and information gathering techniques.
Possible organization stakeholders might include:
• Corporate Strategy
• Market Research
• Communications & Design
• Sales & Marketing
• Human Resources
• Product Management
• Customer Support or Service Techs
What do you do with a brand audit?
Your brand audit is your formula to move forward. From the conclusions outlined in the audit, your organization can build the plan for the future to meet your overall goals.
>> Designers can refresh or revise the logo and design of the brand assets to better differentiate the brand and resonate with the right buyers.
>> Product teams can develop an agile roadmap for a more competitive future product.
>> Marketing teams can develop new messaging, website, collateral and more to reflect a new, revitalized brand.
>> Human resource recruiters and managers can focus on hiring the right people and developing the rock-stars who will make your brand successful.
>> Media reps will have new stories and lead-generation assets to share that will drive awareness and bring in new customers.
A brand audit may be just the ticket
When looking to refocus and improve your bottom line, a brand audit may be just the ticket. The brand audit will help you develop that all-important roadmap that drives all the functioning departments and individuals in your company to make it successful in the long term. With a refreshed brand thanks to your brand audit, you’ll soon feel that breath of fresh air and feel that spark of rejuvenated clients, revenue and buzz you’ve been hoping for.
Look out world. Here you come!
Content marketing is all the buzz as products and brands wrangle for attention and leads. Among the many marketing formats a content marketer can use is the eBook. If you’re a little new to this content marketing game you might be wondering:
• What is an eBook exactly?
• Why should I use it over some other content type?
• What are some best practices when creating an eBook?
This post will dive into those questions and help you decide if an eBook is right for your marketing efforts and if so, how to make yours successful.
So what is an eBook exactly?
While strict definitions may vary, for purposes of this blog post, an eBook is an easy-to-read, graphically-enhanced short-form content piece primarily used to educate and promote awareness of a product or service. It has been defined as the “helping” business book that provides insights, education, and information. Some eBooks are content rich and sold for recurring revenue. But in this blog, our eBook is free-of-charge and used as an integrated part of a content marketing strategy.
By definition, an eBook is distributed online and should be optimized for web viewing, linking and sharing. There are various file format options, the most popular of which are epub, pdf and mobi, but we’ll leave that debate for another post. In my experience, the pdf is the most popular format for marketing purposes.
An eBook should not be text-heavy or technical like a white paper or report. Although it could be a condensed, summary version of that same content.
Also, an eBook should not be product collateral that specifically and exclusively addresses a sole product or service brand. But it can be promoted by a specific brand and offer a possible product solution in an indirect or incidental way to solve a user’s problem or pain (more on that later).
To summarize, an eBook:
1. is an online booklet approximately 5-25 pages
2. is easy-to-read, not text-heavy with graphics
3. promotes a solution, position or results (not a product directly)
What types of content works??
The latest marketing studies indicate that eBooks are among the top six tactics used by content marketers, particularly for B2B marketers and small businesses.
Top Six B2B Content Marketers’ Tactics:
• Social Media Content ....83%
• Blogs ....80%
• Email Newsletters ....77%
• In-Person Events ....68%
• eBooks/Whitepapers ....65%
• Video (pre-produced) ...60%
The top six options among small businesses:
• eBooks (65%)
• Webinars/Webcasts (65%)
• In-person Events (62%)
• Videos (61%)
• Blogs and Newsletters (toed at 60% each)
As you can see there are lots of marketing tactics out there. Each have a different purpose and can prove useful depending on the specific product, service or market. The content marketer’s toolkit consists of the following formats along what we call the Buyer’s Journey.
(Image source: Hubspot)
EBooks are especially useful for the content marketer in what we call the awareness stage. This is the point where a prospect is researching about a topic or pain-point. He has a problem he is trying to solve and wants to learn more about how to do that. He may not even be aware of your company or product at this point. And he may not even know that a solution exists for his pain.
For this reason, eBooks are effective at positioning your company as thought leaders. The solutions you present can be new; they may demonstrate the latest technology or offer best practices within an industry.
At the same time, the eBook can help to hook your prospect and educate him. An eBook is perfect for whetting the appetite of the reader, setting the stage for them to want to learn more—it’s a powerful lead-generating tool and SEO asset.
Some advantages of an eBook include:
• Establishes your company as a thought leader
• Offers a comprehensive way to make a business case
• Creates a launching pad for more in-depth content
• Delivers engaging, branded information to your audience
• Enhances search engine optimization (SEO) because content is searchable
• Provides user friendly content to a searcher, thus building awareness
• Encourages the release of lead information for download or to learn more
What do some marketers say is the most effective content?
In a blog by Docurated, top content thought leaders were asked what they felt was the single most effective content marketing tactic for B2B companies. A few of their conclusions follow:
UPSANA KAKROO (@upasnakakroo) stated: “Creating long form content (e.g. eBooks/White papers) that can be downloaded in exchange for prospects’ contact details.”
While long-form white papers are useful for highly technical products and buyers, an eBook casts a net to a much wider audience. As mentioned earlier, these documents grab attention and have perceived value to the prospect who is willing to divulge some personal information about themselves (i.e. email, phone, company, etc.) to obtain the asset.
GARY BROOKS (@urjanet) said: “Most effective tactic is to create content to the buying process.”
“To develop buyer focused content I propose the following steps:
1. Interview and understand how and why your prospective customers buy.
2. Develop detailed buyer personas.
3. Document the phases of the buying process.
4. Build a content map that aligns pain content with personas.
5. Know where the content falls within the buying cycle.
6. Use custom drip campaigns to deliver the right content at the right time.”
STEPHEN WILLIAMS (@allwebcafe) stated: “The answer lies within your story, and telling that story to the right people.”
Both Gary and Stephen touch upon personas. Personas are nothing more than a “stereotypical” definition of your prospect. These profiles help you remember who you are targeting to make your content as effective as relatable as possible. Remember, every time your customer or prospect sees your content they will be asking themselves “what’s in it for me?” Tell them. Show them. Delight them with your helpfulness.
And don’t forget the power of a story. The narrative and voice of your eBook is essential to keep the reader’s interest and intrigue. Similar to the storyline, David recommends another essential criteria below…the concept.
DAVID SMITH (@immortologyusa) answered: “There is only one sure-fire marketing tactic I know of…It works every single time (which is not to say it’s easy to execute). It is a great concept.”
What does he mean by concept? As designers and copywriters will tell you the most compelling pieces start with a solid concept. Understanding the user and their pain is not enough. To make the content sing, wrap it into a nice package with a concept, analogy or illustration. This can be a combination of words and images that serve to enhance the main point and guide your reader along the way. It makes your eBook memorable and enjoyable.
How do you recognize a great concept?
David suggests that it will:
• be impossible to ignore;
• meaningfully differentiate you from your competitors;
• crystalize why your product or service is better;
• interest, entertain, or educate potential customers to where they feel compelled to share or act upon it (and make that action easy).
You want to create an eBook, now what?
Now that you know the what and why, let’s cover how to create an eBook that will prove to be effective in our content marketing strategy. What should your eBook include?
Basic content should include:
• An interesting, well-designed cover
• An attention-grabbing headline or title
• A table of contents (depending on the length)
• Chapter or section pages
• Content with break-outs and images
• Some “about” content for your product or company
• A Call to Action (CTA)
If you plan to write the book yourself, start by keeping your goals in mind. This means defining your persona and pain, and fully researching what the content hook is that will get them to read your eBook.
Next, create an outline and fully research and develop your copy. Since this is an online read, be sure to follow the copy guidelines for online content.
Online copy should be:
• Relatively short, easy to read sentences
• Break up blocks of copy with headlines, subheads and lists
• Follow the rule of 3-5 with lists and bullets
• Keep your lists phases short or break them into small paragraphs instead
In addition to general online copy rules, don’t forget to follow recommended eBook best practices.
Make your eBook kick-ass:
• Be creative, tell a story
• Educate, don’t sell
• Limit your content to just 1-3 points per page
• Consider the flow, keep it interesting
• Use break-out copy like pull quotes, sidebars, charts, graphics
• Implement good design with section breaks, headings, page numbers
• Make it hyperlinked to access resources, cited research, page and section jumps
• Make it brand appropriate
• Don’t forget your CTA (call to action) What do you want them to do next?
• Proofread, proofread, proofread
And, DON’T make these common mistakes:
• Don’t write about what you don’t know
• Don’t give them what you think they need; give them what they actually want
• Don’t be too formal, put yourself in their heads, use an authentic voice
• Don’t just write, plan first
• Don’t forget the impact of images and design
• Don’t give them everything! Save some for what’s next
• Don’t skimp on the time spent researching your title
• Don’t stop when you publish, now you’ve got to promote!
Yikes! You're not a designer, you say?
No worries. These days everyone can be a designer… sort of. There are tons of resources out there for eBook templates if you want to try and do it yourself. Google search to find your own or use one of the existing templates or themes below.
Here are a few to check out:
• PowerPoint + InDesign: Hubspot’s 5 EBook Templates
• PowerPoint + InDesign: Hubspot’s 13 EBook Templates
• PowerPoint: InboundPro’s 2 EBook Templates
• Apple Pages + iBooks Author: Author Ready Templates
• Keynote: Weelii’s 32 Keynote Templates
• Google Slides: Slides Carnival – Free presentation templates
Better yet, hire an actual designer. It will be worth your time and money. They can help you develop and create your theme, provide a cohesive, well-deigned look and offer image choices that complement and enhance your copy…without the frustration of doing it yourself. Same is true if you need help with writing. A freelance writer knows the ins and outs of eBooks and may save you some headaches. Better yet, find a vendor who can do both!
You can also learn by example or get inspired by checking out some of the good eBooks out there and emulating them.
These are among my favorites:
• "The eBook eBook"
• “The Alchemy of Content: A Formula for Overcoming Four Major Content Pain Points”
• "B2B Content Marketing 2017 benchmarks, budgets and Trends, North America eBook"
• "The Essential Guide to Branding Your Company"
• "The Brand Building Guide for Professional Services Firms" | Hinge
Love the idea but need some help?
If you want to explore contracting the design and/or writing of a customized eBook for your content marketing, I can help. I can write it, design it, produce it and help you promote it.
Written by Barbara Bogue
Do I need 'authenticity' in my 'account-based' 'content marketing' for 'mindful' 'micro-moments'?
Huh? Marketers, writers, would-be content generators: stop talking gobbledygook. You’re confusing your audience! From over-used buzzwords to vertical-specific jargon, it’s a bad idea to pack your content with empty words. Does it make you sound smarter or give you an “in” with your reader because you name-dropped that inside lingo? Nope. The opposite is true. Looking to alienate your readers? Check.
Show and educate in simple terms
For truly knock-out content, you need to tell and educate with real words in simple terms. Sound too simple? It can be hard.
We’ve all been guilty of using buzzwords or over-used terminology that’s popular at the time. Marketing is filled with some nasty culprits—so much so that the creative folks at Cornett launched a “marketing buzzword jar” (the equivalent of a swear-word jar) as a virtual spoof on the problem. Use one of the over 500 no-no marketing buzzwords and you’re putting your hard-earned cash into the communal jar. Yikes! (http://marketingbuzzwordjar.com/)
Let’s see if you recognize these commonly over-used terms.
• Deep dive
• Low-hanging fruit
• Outside the box
• Close the loop
• Level the playing field
• Mission critical
• Data-driven decisions
• Growth hacking
• Account-based marketing
• Thought leadership
• POV (point of view)
Ugh! Any of these words sound familiar? Maybe too familiar.
Toxic trend that obscures clarity
Digiday.com coined this phenomenon as a “toxically obfuscating buzzword culture.” Wanting to sound informed or in-the-know we can fall victim to clouding our meaning with meaningless words. Yet Content Marketing Institute explains that successful speakers and marketers don’t resort to using jargon or phony words to communicate their messages, citing such giants as Warren Buffet and Steve Jobs as stellar examples.
But what about connecting with your audience, you say? Doesn’t using some inside lingo show that I’m one of them, that I understand their problems?
Getting to know your audience, what marketers like to term “personas” is certainly important. The trick is grasping their issues and problems to speak to them insightfully, but doing so in basic language everyone can understand.
By the way, see what I did there with “personas”? I used the term and explained it at the same time. This is one of the tactics recommended by Content Marketing Institute.
How to walk the terminology tightrope:
1. Meet the reader halfway
If you find it necessary or important to use jargon in your content, meet the reader halfway by explaining the meaning at the same time. Your best material is used to educate and inform your readers in a useful way. So, if a terminology is relevant then explain what and why, making sure not to talk down to nor alienate any of your audience.
2. Show, don’t tell
A powerful tactic to be used instead of jargon is to illustrate. Show an example, give a real-life experience, case-study result or otherwise demonstrate the meaning of the term to drive home your point. Your subject matter should be rich with reality and meaning, not empty words. Don’t tell readers what to do, show them how others have done it successfully, providing models for them to emulate. This can have a powerful effect on building your readership and proving your value.
3. Eliminate trite words from your speech and writing
When you remove empty words from your vocabulary all together, you’re less likely to slip them into a blog post or article, thus distancing yourself from potential prospects. Strive for words that everyone knows for maximum persuasion and punch.
A word about acronyms
I would be remiss if I didn’t include a brief mention of acronyms in this post. Some folks just love acronyms and think they’re the best tool around. We find acronyms used especially in government and public institutions like education or non-profits. And while acronyms can be useful for helping us to remember a meaty or complicated concept (like BANT Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline or KISS Keep it Simple Stupid) that doesn’t mean they make good company names, project names, slogans, causes or campaigns. So, let’s keep them out of marketing please.
There are a few company names who have used and survived the acronym model. Think ABC, IBM, KFC and GE. But closer examination shows these companies: 1) didn’t start out as sheer acronyms but were once full names that were later dropped over time; 2) spent billions of dollars saturating the market to build awareness and educate prospects about who they were and what they did and finally; 3) they ran the risk of not have a unique, one-of-a-kind identity. Google (that’s the verb) ABC and you get a list of organizations and enterprises that share the same acronym with American Broadcast Corporation. If you want to be unique, an acronym is not your best option.
But, if there’s still any doubt in your mind, when you have the right use for an acronym or you just want to play around with the idea, check out this crazy site www.allacronyms.com. Ridiculous fact: one meaning for the government application of the acronym LOVE = Level Of ViolencE. No kidding. And, if the need dictates you decipher some government speak of the abbreviated form, try this online government library http://ucsd.libguides.com/govspeak.
Marketing-schmarketing aside, just tell it like it is
To sum up: For the best results from your marketing content—building increased loyalty, awareness and sales—just use straight-forward, direct language. Be helpful and educational. Don’t talk over the heads of your readers with terms that someone might not understand. If you do use terminology or jargon, explain it and demonstrate it. Keep acronyms to their place and over-used words in the trash.
Turn to the experts
Need help choosing the right words for your content marketing? For strategy, design and copywriting, I can choose the brand words and images that people will love. Check out my work then let’s chat.
Want more reading? Check out these supplemental articles on buzzwords, jargon and acronyms:
Hi. I'm Barbara Bogue. The name [double b] came from my initials. Here I share tips and advice on marketing, design and copywriting.
Check out how to write taglines and slogans for your business with this easy, do-it-yourself foolproof formula--yours today. You'll be marketing with zing tomorrow!