Marketing during COVID-19 can be challenging. I've seen so many vapid pleas of "we're in this together" I can't see straight! And yes, "Black Lives Matter" but I don't need another email from some random company telling me what that means to them. As a marketer in these times, what can you do? How do you pivot?
Let's address the elephant in the room: we're living a new normal. With COVID-19 most of us are either afraid or cautious of leaving our homes. So, if live events have been integral to your marketing strategies, you may be wondering: now what?
Not to worry. With the right messaging and approach, now is the perfect time to launch an event. You just need to rethink it a little.
I've identified three P's to a winning event strategy: Pivot. Plan. And Personalize.
Gone are the days of live conventions, trade shows, or seminars. Even in smaller venues, the travel and expense of trying to pull one off a live event may not be worth the small turnout or exposure — for your staff or your prospects. But online events are a great alternative if you can quickly adjust your approach. With a little imagination and forethought, you can fill your event room with live bodies, even when they won't leave their homes.
Pivoting requires adjusting your goals, tactics, message and delivery. Online events can be hosted in several ways. Let's consider each so you can determine which might be best for your marketing strategy.
Now that you've considered which online tactics best meet your marketing goals, you need to plan and launch quickly. The marketing timeline for these types of events versus large live events is often much shorter. Once you nail the topic, speaker and times for your event, you want to be able to pull the trigger quickly and seamlessly. Your planning-to-launch timeline should fall within 2-5 weeks. The more you can template your efforts with ready-made themes, graphics and tools for emails, registration, agendas, presentations, social media, etc. the better equipped you will be to plan, launch and reiterate FAST.
Making an event successful, especially in these turbulent and stressful times, requires a little more personal touch on your part. Put your audience first. Make your event about them, not you. Businesses that are here to serve and support (not sell) are those that will succeed in times like these. So be sure to offer tips and insights that are helpful to your prospects. Provide tools, services or products that are free to those in need if possible. Be empathetic, warm and personable.
This goes for your event marketing and follow-up, as well as all your marketing efforts. Now is the time to engage with individuals via email or social media, not in an automated way, but with individual and personal messages. Reach out to folks you've done business with or contacts in your LinkedIn account and just ask how they are doing. No agenda. No sales pitch. Make connections that are authentic and sincere. These efforts will strengthen your relationships and carry you through this challenging time.
So, despite the elephant in the room — the fear and anxiety that has become our new normal — you can get everyone in the room of your choice and build some positive, helpful connections that will strengthen your business.
Brands are like friendships. We build bonds and show them loyalty. They bring us rewards. Or we can take them for granted and neglect them. Like friendships, brands require effort from their owners to keep them fresh and healthy.
Every marketer knows that a brand is not a static entity, but is an ever-evolving, changing thing. So, how do you know if your brand is getting stale or if it's time for a brand refresh? And what do you do about it? Here are some tips to energize and empower your brand to keep is as fresh as your new best friend.
Energize your brand
Step 1: data
The first step is self-examination. Look to your data for clues. No doubt you already track certain metrics that monitor brand success -- number of clients, leads, sales. What about website and social stats like visitors, followers, and customer engagement? There are also industry data points like news mentions, reviews, awards, or testimonials. Contrastingly, you could look at competitor news and where you stand in comparison. Are you being overshadowed by a new player in the market? All of these can indicate how your brand is doing and what you should do about it.
Step 2: story
With better insight into the health of your brand (or lack thereof), it's time to refocus. You want to re-examine the positioning, mission and differentiation of your brand. Refine and update your brand story so that it resonates with your current market, focusing on a strategy to address the areas that need improvement. Give your story emotional punch and communicate it consistently across every touchpoint.
Step 2: visuals
Now that you've refocused your mission and brand story, it's time to energize your team and audience with compelling visuals that drive home the message. Does your visual brand palette need a refresh as well? Can you add more color, stronger imagery, impactful typography? Words and images go hand-in-hand to build and strengthen those bonds of friendship and loyalty we experience with a brand.
Empower your brand
Tactic #1: create a campaign
One way to breathe new life and power into a brand is with a campaign. Tie in your campaign messaging with a big event or a new product launch. Conversely you could add a new slogan or tagline to everything as an over-arching message. Make the campaign visuals prominent on all your social and external sites and foster ways to increase audience engagement with social media and outreach efforts.
Tactic #2: create industry buzz
External exposure can breathe life into your brand in powerful ways. When done thoughtfully, you can influence press coverage with well-placed interviews, content posts and speaking engagements. Tie these messages in with your new brand story and promote them to your customer base in consistent visual ways. You will empower your brand with existing and new audiences, encouraging more growth and synergy.
Tactic #3: create team tools
Be certain to arm your internal teams with strong messaging tools to consistently evangelize for you. It's not just your external audience that may need a refresher. Internal teams need to be on the same page and must be as excited about your brand as you are. Provide internal slide decks, campaign briefs and other incentives to align their talking points with your new brand story. And empower and energize them with praise, commendation and recognition opportunities. Happy employees will work harder and improve overall productivity for your business. This new momentum will also empower your brand.
Time to take the first step
With the new year upon us, now may be the perfect time to reflect on how your brand is doing. Many organizations conduct or hire an outside consultant to perform a brand audit. From this assessment, a brand strategist can then offer ideas, messaging and design solutions that can add some life to stale, lackluster branding. See some mood board examples developed for clients by [double b] as part of our brand mood boards. If you need some help with your current branding, please give me a shout and let's chat.
Marketing is a demanding sport, even in B2B. The challenge to get your brand out there and call attention to your latest product launch, webinar, event or whatever can be grueling. And no doubt, you have limited time and budget!
Maybe you have in-house graphic designers at your disposal, or you might use freelancers or agencies to help you get it all done. Either way, you want to achieve a custom-designed look without going overboard.
As an experienced freelance graphic designer who also spent years working on in-house design teams for various B2B products, I have a few tried and true tips to help you get the job done creatively and efficiently. Lucky you, I'm in a sharing mood.
Tip #1: Be original in some way
If you're picking a slogan, headline or theme for your promotion, it's hard to be original. And sometimes, that's OK. Business is rife with 'already done' concepts and often you just don't have time to reinvent something totally original. If that's the case, at least try to interpret the theme in a unique way, or style the design in some way that is totally yours. A past colleague of mine would offer the advice: "take that already-done idea and turn it on its ear."
Let's take an example. Say you're planning your annual sales kick-off meeting and you've been given the theme "Leading the Pack." Not much for originality, but you don't have time to argue the point and come up with something new. Instead, interpret it in an original way.
Maybe tie it in with your corporate mascot, or your local sports team. Or maybe choose imagery that is specific to your product/solution and what "leading" might look like for your sales team, not just the generic race-car theme that could just as easily be seen at your 7-year-old's birthday party! No one wants that, my friend.
Tip #2: Keep the concept clean
The best designs start with a concept that makes sense to the content and the application. Maybe you're doing a lead-gen campaign. The main asset is an ebook, based on an industry research survey you conducted. Research stats in-and-of themselves are not very sexy. Your ebook needs a hook. The concept for the hook will drive your title, your graphics and the stats throughout the ebook. It must be relevant and attention-grabbing to your intended audience.
Here are a few examples:
The point is to find a concept that works with your content and can drive the visual presentation of the information in a compelling, relevant and memorable way.
Tip #3: Be consistent and integrated
This leads us to our third tip which is consistency and integration of the design concept. Rarely does one marketing asset stand alone. Once you write that ebook, you have to promote it on social media. Maybe there is a similar webinar the presents the same data. And for all of that you no doubt need emails, landing page and website assets to promote them. To get the most out of your design, be consistent with all your asset treatments and your campaign will work well together to make a bigger impact.
Using the same words, colors, images and URLs will create a truly integrated campaign. Your design investment will go farther because you're just resizing and repurposing what you started with when developing the initial concept. Aren't you the smart one?
Tip #4: Stock art can be your friend
The days of cheesy clip art are a thing of the past -- or they can be when placed in the hands of a skilled graphic designer. Sure, it would be great if you had an unlimited budget like some tech giant who can hire an illustrator or photographer to create an original piece for every project. Reality check; that rarely exists!
Not to worry. Every graphic element doesn't have to be developed completely from scratch to look custom to your project and brand. A good designer knows how to follow your brand guidelines to stay consistent with style, color and fonts. And the best brand books allow room for a skilled designer to stretch their creativity.
Source files can be purchased very inexpensively that are editable and customizable to match your color palette. Typography can be combined with modified vector files, inexpensive stock photography (chosen carefully), textures and backgrounds. With originality you can walk away with something truly unique and custom -- on-brand, on budget and unique to your need.
The secret's out.
It is possible to achieve a custom design look without going overboard in time or resources. It just takes a little creativity and skill plus a willingness to work with what you've got. So, go ahead! Think big and aim for something unique even though you may only have a small budget. Only small imaginations think that's a real limitation. We know better, now, don't we?
Sometimes marketing can feel like shouting into the wind. Is your voice even being heard?
Companies work hard to build a unified visual brand. They strive to fully understand who their buyer is and to share information with their audience. They communicate the pains and challenges prospects face, and how they can solve them. Solution providers sweat the details when explaining benefits and features. And sales teams exert considerable efforts toward finding a prospect who needs their solution at just the right time.
Tons of factors impact whether or not a marketing message gets through. Assuming you do all of them right, don't risk ruining your chances of making the sale by saying the right thing in the wrong way.
That is the power of brand voice.
Brands are both seen and heard
Every company should give as much consideration to their brand voice as they do their visual brand. What does the company message sound like?
Let's dig into what and why you need a brand voice, and how you can define and implement it consistently across all messaging types and channels.
That brand has a burly voice (not mine!)
Brand voice is directly related to brand personality. Think of a company, then imagine its personality. Playful. Serious. Helpful. Innovative. If the outward appearance and the mission of a company is "helpful" but the words used are unresponsive, detached, and indifferent the messaging will come off as hollow and insincere. You will lose your customer.
Likewise, the best way to define your brand voice, is to fully understand your brand personality. Start with your product or service offering. What does it provide to the customer? What feelings are you delivering? How do you want them to feel about your product or service? What is your mission in serving them?
There are three common techniques for defining brand personality
Now imagine someone who is a personification of that personality and how they speak. What words do they use? Don't confuse this with industry jargon, acronyms or buzzwords. While you need to know those terms to reach your audience, it's best to use plain English for prospect messaging, so you don't alienate anyone who doesn't know what they mean.
Do consider the type of personas you are speaking to but never talk down to your audience. Connect with them head-on, like a meeting-of-the-minds.
Voice vs. tone
Once you have some descriptive words for your brand voice, you need to understand tone. Tone comes into play based on when you are talking to your audience. While voice expresses the personality of your brand, tone expresses the emotional inflection appropriate to the specific situation or message type. What is the communication channel? Are you writing for the website to a general visitor? Or is this an email communication to an existing customer? Is this a sales pitch within a slide deck? Or a booth banner at a tradeshow?
Places where your brand voice will be most noticeable and impactful include: calls to action, customer onboarding communications, Instagram messaging, customer service emails, and social media bios.
All of these channels will have a variation of your brand voice known as tone. It might be more sales-focused. More persuasive. More instructive and advisory. A good copywriter knows how to adjust the tone of a message for each specific channel.
Learn from the best
The quintessential example of mastering brand voice is Mail Chimp. They devised a unique and quirky brand and followed through with carefully crafted copy at every customer touchpoint. If you've ever used Mail Chimp you know that using the product just made you smile. If you're unfamiliar, check out their well-defined brand voice style guide here.
Want to see more? Check these out these sample guidelines:
Document, monitor and modify
OK. You've done the hard part. You've defined your brand personality and voice. You've isolated your various communication channels and filtered your tone for each, accordingly. Then, you documented it all and built some guidelines to help you stay on track.
Now it's time to write. And market. And message. And educate. And write some more.
Take the time to monitor how you're doing. Listen to your audience and make sure you're staying in tune with trends and the competition. Then learn and modify and write some more.
Rinse and repeat as they say. By following these tips, you're sure to be a sounding voice above the noisy marketplace. With a well-defined brand voice, you can be distinct call, with a message all your own.
Need some help finding your voice? Sometimes our own messaging is too close to our heart and it's hard to be discerning. I can help. From a single project to a full brand audit, we can find your authentic voice, together. Download the brochure. Or reach out.
I found these articles helpful in crafting this post:
I recently dipped my toes into the waters of Instagram for one of my clients. Essentially a start-up company, I was already helping them to establish a stronger brand voice and visual language for the company that could be extended to collateral, website and social media. So, it was only fitting that I help relaunch their brand and show them how it could be done on Instagram.
Instagram is the primary social channel for this provider to inspire and evangelize a growing market as they offer a unique and visual product. Appealing to both a consumer and a commercial buyer, the posts need to look both trendy and beautiful. An elevated design sensibility is the backbone of this product's design, so it also needed to communicate design excellence across the Instagram feed.
Photo by Dean Rose on Unsplash
So, what did I do? Or maybe the better question is, how can you identify and extrapolate key elements from your existing brand palette to create a cohesive and unique Instagram feed?
Follow these three tips to elevate your brand:
Choose a consistent color story
The key to Instagram is the feed. Those discovering you for the first time will look at your home page and see the grid display of your past posts. This become the visual essence of who you. From the description at the top, to the images you chose to post, it all needs to communicate as one.
Color is the easiest way to unite this disparate collection of images. Feature just 1-3 of your brand colors. You can do this with color overlays, filters, textures or any combination of these. Even 4-color photography can be unified by the consistent use of point-of-view, lighting source, depth of field, subject and more.
For this client I used a combination of techniques. A consistent color filter was applied to 4-color photography which gave them a bit of a high-contrast, blue-green hue. I also introduced a selection of 4 different texture treatments which could be rotated as overlays and layered with solid color and text. And the 2 brand colors were consistently applied, along with uniform typography.
Lastly, an essential element of the brand palette was a small version of the logo that displayed in the lower right corner of every post. While this treatment may not be appropriate for every brand, for this client I felt it was the best way to drive brand recognition with the limited effort and resources they had at their disposal.
Inspire your audience
Like all social media, marketers need to remember that "marketing" is not about "selling" on these platforms. It's more about inspiring followers and building an audience that can relate to the values and mission behind your brand. Images should therefore be less product-focused and more motivational. Words should be minimal, conversational and informal. Helpful tips or insights are also good.
Related to this strategy is the use of hashtags. There are a lot of conflicting methods of using hashtags to build your audience. Some embed the hashtags within the text. Some list them at the end. Some say you should use a minimum of 20 different hashtags per post. Others focus on just a small handful (https://sproutsocial.com/insights/hashtags-for-instagram/). My strategy is less is more. I try to choose relevant hashtags and use not more than a half dozen per post. But the hashtags I do choose should be high-ranking ones which can be tested using this handy tool (https://hashtagify.me/hashtag/value) or ones like it.
I also like to use famous or aspirational quotes on Instagram. People will often like or share these so they are ideal for building followers and awareness. Find relevant quotes from people in your industry or create your own that can serve as a rally cry to your specific tribe.
Instagram stories, polls and other interactive posts are also a great way to involve and engage with your growing audience.
Like most good things, building a quality audience will take time. There are tricks to boost your followers or even purchase them. But to make it really count, those that follow you should be actual prospects who may one day purchase your product or solution. In this way, they easily become evangelizers and will serve to inspire others to buy down the line.
With this in mind, play the long game and be thoughtful about what you post and how you earn the respect and trust of your followers. Influencers and related product providers can be good resources, so cross-promote and engage with their feeds respectfully. There is plenty of internet love to go around. But fair warning, you can also earn bad juju if you do it wrong!
Don't be self-serving. Always keep the user in mind. Consider offers and content links that provide your audience with more valuable information. Content marketing is about being helpful and proving yourself an expert in your field. So, point readers to blog posts or additional content on your website in a helpful way. This will serve to nurture their interest and readiness to buy.
Quality begets quality. What I mean by that is to be sure and follow the rules and best-practices for instagram. There are specific sizes and post lengths that will get you the best results (https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-image-sizes-guide/#instagram), as well as best days/times and frequencies to post for your industry (https://sproutsocial.com/insights/best-times-to-post-on-social-media/). Be a quality channel and over time you will build a quality audience.
Your brand is your lifeblood
Whether you're already active in social media or you're just now dipping your toes in the water with Instagram like I was, these tips should help you set your brand apart. As the lifeblood to your commercial success, be certain that how prospects perceive you in social media is in a way that elevates your brand to new heights, thus building loyalty and inspiration for what's possible.
Need some help with your social strategy? Give me a shout and we can look at ways to elevate your brand and build your audience. Custom-designed social templates can be yours to create and manage your own posts or retainer social-media management contracts are also available.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Seconds are ticking away to an inevitable expiration date. Is your stress level rising? Do you sometimes feel like your day is so driven by deadlines it's like one ticking time bomb after another?
The historical definition of a deadline stems from a physical line around a prison which could not be crossed without loss of life. The modern idea of a deadline might range from the blare of your morning alarm clock at the break of dawn to the looming due date of a critical assignment. One way or another, we probably all live with deadlines.
In marketing, deadlines are an inevitable and necessary fact of life. None-the-less they can drive you batshit crazy and stress out even the most "Zen" marketing guru.
So, how we can go from dreading those deadlines to embracing them and making them our bitches (no sexism intended!)?
First, let's consider how we use deadlines to manage our work. Types of deadlines include:
1. External Deadlines
These types of deadlines are imposed by forces usually beyond our control. They might include things like:
2. Hinged Deadlines
In multi-faceted project planning, deadlines are often imposed by a complex hierarchy of integrated tasks. One deadline might hinge on the completion of another. If one deadline is missed, the entire schedule cascades down, pushing the final completion date further or collapsing the schedule completely. Milestone calendars and Gant charts are used to manage these intricate workflows.
3. Team Deadlines
Unlike hinged deadlines, the team deadline requires input from the entire team in order to accomplish an end result. However, in this case, input from one contributor doesn't hinge on the other. These types of projects might include team goals or achievements. The greater the contributions, the more wholistic the end result might be, but lack of participation by certain team members doesn't preclude the completion of the overall task.
4. Self-Imposed Deadlines
These deadlines can be individual or team-based and are the foundation of project planning. Larger tasks are broken down and scheduled so as to track and facilitate progress toward an end-goal. Although self-discipline is necessary, this type of deadline can become your best friend. No, really!
A World Without Deadlines
Could productive, modern lives really be managed without these milestone markers? Deadline haters might think so. Some even claim deadlines are the enemy of creativity or free thinking. Hogwash. The alternative to deadlines, one might say, is chaos. And, no one wants that.
Deadlines, limits, constraints and self-discipline can be effective tools to motivate and facilitate end results. And when used to manage our workflow, deadlines help keep planning in sync and team members on task.
Deadlines and Urgency
Another inherent advantage of the deadline is the built-in sense of urgency. It motivates us to act and thwarts procrastination. Deadlines encourage team-members toward a common goal, fostering efficiency, action and initiative.
Deadlines and the sense of urgency can also be used on prospects and customers. This motivating force can impel users to purchase products, complete tasks, or prompt them to action in a myriad of different ways.
Deadlines Are Your Friend
Have I made a believer of you yet? Are you ready to make the leap that deadlines can be as comforting as your best friend? Well, if you're having trouble wrapping your head around that, maybe you need some tools that make managing deadlines a little easier.
Deadlines and Tools
Time management: From calendars, to-do lists, and reminders, these simple tools can prompt and prod us to stay on task and meet our deadlines. Are you old-school and still love pad and paper, wall or desk calendars and post-it notes? Or have you branched out to the digital world where everything from Outlook to Evernote and a million apps in-between can help us manage our day on our desktops, tablets and phones.
Project management: Software like Basecamp and Asana are essential to many teams, tracking members, collaboration, tasks and milestones. Collaboration/communication tools like Slack, Hive, Fuze and Workzone are also incredibly popular.
Prospect management: Tools that help motivate prospects along a path can include CRM tools, digital marketing, emails and lead nurturing software, limited-time offer messaging and built-in reminders that prompt a visitor or customer to action. These deadline-driven communication tracking tools help us manage and motivate people to join, to respond, to sign-up, to buy and more.
Some of the best marketing tools that have entered the market in the past 5 years are those that help us manage the marketing deadline in one way or another. Not using them? Where have you been my friend!?
Bottom Line: Deadlines are Here to Stay
Our lives are incredibly busy. Marketers simply cannot function without the reality of external and self-imposed deadlines. They help us plan and get shit done. Yes, deadlines make us crazy at times. But, they can also make us crazy productive if we just accept them for what they are -- that familiar sidekick who only has our best interest at heart.
Are you having a hard time meeting your marketing deadlines? Maybe you need a little help. I can offer graphic design, copywriting or general marketing advice to help you get your shit done. Just give me a shout. Hurry, you have a deadline, don't you?
You've got a growing business and looming projects. Maybe your website is top priority and needs a refresh or redesign. Don't let your web copy be an afterthought. In fact, don't let your copywriting for any project become second rate. While you may have writers on your marketing team or within the company, is that the best choice for your needs right now?
Deciding when, who and how to snag the best copywriter for your business project right now is the subject of this blog. We'll examine some criteria you'll need when deciding whether to hire outside the company or not, and discuss how to set your copywriter up for success. So let's get started.
In-house or outside hire?
To make this choice, start first by answering a few basic questions:
Now evaluate. Based on your answers to the three questions above, you should be in a better position to choose between an in-house or outside hire. Still undecided?
Time to hire. Now what?
You've made the decision to look outside the company for the perfect copywriter. Now let's see how to find and evaluate the right candidate.
Not all copywriters are created equal. Find a contractor who knows your niche and is experienced with the type of project you're doing. Blog writing for B2C is NOT the same skillset as website copy for B2B. You want to hire someone who won't require days or weeks learning about your specific industry or understanding what makes your audience personas tick. They've got a leg-up if they've written this type of thing for others in your space, so use your network and ask around for referrals. Search for vendors who are in the relevant groups you're aware of, or who list as clients those who have similar products and services as you do.
Read their work. Your business should have a copy style or brand voice. You want to choose a copywriter who understands the differences between one style and another and can match your tone.
Is your company considered the expert in your field, with a scholarly, somewhat formal style of writing? Or maybe you represent a younger audience with an edgy, possibly maybe even a rebellious tone of voice? Or you may be first-and-foremost a service company, with a naturally helpful attitude, always wanting to put the reader as ease with a friendly and informal voice.
Read examples of possible copywriter's work and see if you can find a match. This will narrow your search to the best copywriter for your business project.
Now that you've narrowed the field and done your research you're almost ready to reach out. WAIT, I said almost ready.
Do your prep work
What do I mean by prep work? To make it easier on any contractor, you should clearly define what you want them to do in writing first. Don't make them drag it out of you by interviewing you or providing questionnaires. Especially is this important when bidding a project so be sure to level the playing field with a clearly-defined scope or brief of your project. This ensures that you are comparing apples to apples, so to speak, when reviewing your estimates.
Include answers to questions like:
Your project brief should be no more than one page. With this in-hand you can reach out to 1-3 possible copywriters and ask if they are available for the project, if think they would be a good fit, and would they like to offer an estimate? If so, answer any additional questions they may have and send them the brief.
Evaluate for success. Don't look just at the bottom line. If you have any questions about what they provide, give them the opportunity to talk you through their estimate and what the project process would look like when working with them. Consider your rapport with the contractor, their readiness to tackle the project and their level of expertise and availability. All of these factors should go into your decision.
Once you make a choice, get everything in writing and review the contract agreement carefully. Consider copy revisions and the approval process. If deadlines are paramount, be sure it's written in the contract. Then, be a good steward for your company by being transparent regarding any new vendor processes, invoicing and accounts-payable procedures, and the like. This will set up your working relationship with your copywriter for long-term success.
Decision made. Success snagged.
Well done. You've made that perfect hire. Because you followed a well-planned process, properly evaluating your needs, defining the scope of your project and researching your copywriting contractor, you are well-positioned to deliver an effective and compelling piece of content that is perfect for your business.
...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.
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!