Finding your voice: content marketing dos

Content marketing is nothing new. If you are a company that consults or advises, or deals with “selling the invisible,” you may already be considered a thought leader and have a paper trail of articles, speeches and case studies that you’ve shared with clients. But are you consistently producing and distributing material that is useful and engaging to your target audience? Are you seeing results in organic search or social media efforts?

Finding your Voice

Remember, content is what drives the Internet. Search engines are looking for more than key words in a static website. When consumers (including your business clients) are looking for information to help them solve a problem, search engines are looking for more than key words in a static website. They are giving top ranking to those sites and listings that offer current, high quality, changing content, and links from other sites and media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blog comments, videos and more).

So, what is the right content and how should you go about developing it?

Having coffee the other day with a very talented marketing manager for an advisory firm, I asked questions about her company’s brand strategy. She shared with me how difficult it could be to come up with content at times. And yet, as I probed, she told me stories about how the founder started out and developed a niche, about how they managed to grow through the recession and how new opportunities were helping them think differently; I heard compelling story after compelling story. By the time we had finished our conversation, she had a fantastic list of monthly newsletter topics or blog posts.
Creating content not only helps you reach your client base–informing them and  providing value—but provides you with an opportunity to share how you are different. It’s important to find your unique voice in order to set yourself apart. How?
1) Think about who you are writing for. Who is your ideal client? What would they ask you? What issue might you be able to help them with? When you begin, write just for that one person.
2) Be conversational. Don’t fuss. Using jargon will push your audience away.
3) Come from your difference. Be clear on the “why” behind your brand — why your company does what it does beyond profitability. You will not convince others to believe in your why; don’t try. But be clear on why you write what you write and do what you do. That’s the inspiration that will make your content real, helpful and compelling.

4) Write about what you know. What are the questions that you answer for your clients every day? Make a list of these. Chances are you can write about these topics off the top of your head. Think in terms of what people who use your services might be searching for.
5) Think about how you can help. Make your content about providing information, about helping and about being a resource, not about convincing or selling. Provide value.
6) Don’t get stuck on strategy. Planning will ultimately help you, but the bottom line is to get started if you have not already. Start posting even snippets of great things you’ve already written. Get used to creating or regenerating content. Start telling your story.
Sound like yourself. Come up with your own voice. Experiment a little. Ask some key clients to take a look and comment. Or ask them what they would like to know more about. Don’t be afraid to tell a personal story if you can tie it into a point. And provide real value. Get read and get found.
–Wendy
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YOU ARE MY HERO!!!!!!!!!

What does your subject line say?  

The other day I received an email from my friend. The subject read, “YOU ARE MY HERO!!!!!!!” I looked at the subject line, and thought, ‘Really? Why?’ So… I opened the email – even though I was in the middle of something else. Of course I would have opened the email even if there was no subject, because it was from a good friend of mine, but I probably would have left it until I finished with the project I was working on.

The subject line piqued my interest; I wanted to know why I was her hero. I did not do anything that warranted this title. I opened the email, read the message – she was thanking me for a small favor I did for her – and then I moved on with my day. But then I got to thinking about the power of a subject line. In this instance, the text of the subject line pushed me to open the email, when I normally would have waited until I was finished working before looking at it.

As I thought about this, I thought it would be useful to share some of the important aspects of a subject line for email marketing campaigns. If all emails sent by business owners utilized the subject line to its full potential, then perhaps their email marketing campaigns would be more successful.

So what is it that makes a strong subject line?

1.  Consider the length. While there is no one solution, generally shorter is sweeter. Do not write wordy subjects, as this will not captivate your audience. However, you also should not sacrifice the message you are trying to convey because you are trying to keep your subject short. So, make sure that your subject line conveys your message, but in the most concise way possible.

2.  Identify yourself. While this is not true of all emails, it is often a good idea for companies and brands to identify themselves in the email. This allows the receiver of the message to connect the email with the positive relationship they have built with the company or brand. You can add your company name in brackets before or after the subject, as to not take away from the message in the subject line.

3.  Match the subject to the content. According to recent research from email campaign platforms, subject lines that contain the key point of the email message perform better. In addition, you do not want to state a promise or expectation that your email does not meet. If you hype up you subject line, readers may open the email, but when they read the message they will feel that you are letting them down.

4.  Appeal to emotions. Know your audience and what will grab their attention. Whether you use curiosity to pique interest, as my friend did, or excitement about a special service offering, understand what will get your recipients to open your message and take action.

Utilize the subject line. If you need help determining what your subject line should read, it may be worth contacting a copywriter, or professional marketer. Writing a poor subject can hinder your campaign, but a good subject can greatly increase the results.

– Michelle

Think it through… from all perspectives.

If there is one thing you can learn from the recent Coca-Cola fiasco, let it be this- when you set out to do something new, always think about how it will affect ALL of your customers or clients.  When Coca-Cola came out with white cans in an effort to raise awareness for the World Wildlife Fund, Coca-Cola customers quickly began complaining that they were confusing the white cans with the silver Diet Coke cans. For some, this was extremely frustrating. Which makes me wonder, did coca-cola think this campaign through? I am not sure the company realized what such a drastic change would do to its consumers. The ABC news clip below explains the change from red to white, and how this affected the customer, and why the change made such an impact. coca-colas-white-mistake-15069181

A similar event occurred with the current Best Buy campaign, Game On, Santa. 

While some people (myself included) think the ad is “awesome,” others are up in arms wondering how Best Buy could air an ad like this on television. On the Best Buy community site, hundreds of people commented that they would not be shopping in Best Buy stores this holiday season, as they were upset about the commercial.  People feel that the chain was “being mean” and belittling Santa.

My conclusion is this: every individual views events, situations, and even marketing campaigns in a different way. A person’s perspective is dependent on many factors- and these will change the way he/she feels about certain topics. You will never satisfy everyone. However, if you are a marketer, or one who is in any decision making position, it is your job to step into the shoes of your clients and customers and try to see the campaign through their perspectives.  Doing so will help to avoid campaigns that can potentially backfire. So, think it through – from all perspectives.

And don’t forget, when the comments start flowing—positive or negative—it is an opportunity to engage with the customer. Make the most of that conversation. See if you can turn an “awkward” situation into something better.

-Michelle

Authenticity, Art & Copy

If you are a fan of the history of branding and advertising like we are at Insight180, check out “Art & Copy”, a documentary that delves into the history of the advertising industry and the advent of the artist and copywriter actually working together in the same room. The film does not tout “trashy” advertising, but rather sought to gather insights from the greatest advertising minds of the last 50 years. Director, Doug Pray, describes these great minds as fiercely independent mavericks. Some cast members include Wieden+Kennedy’s Dan Wieden and David Kennedy, responsible for Nike’s “Just do it” campaign, Mary Wells, founding president of Wells Rich Greene and the first woman to own and run an ad agency, Rich Silverstein and Jeff Goodby of Goodby, Silverstein and partners who conceived the simple yet effective “Got Milk” campaign; additionally, Lee Clow, Chairman and Global Director of TBWA\Worldwide, responsible for the groundbreaking 1984 Apple ad. This all-star cast really shows the audience how advertising works and the ideas behind “good advertising”.

You can view the trailer here:

“Art & Copy” aims to prove that “good” advertising is not out to mislead society, but it helps convey the struggle of the creative side of advertising and describes how the public responds to and feels about advertising.

“Great advertising almost always starts with something true.” This is one of the quotes from the film that resonates for me. An advertisement is like a persuasive argument to the public, urging them to choose your product or service. When the argument is based on a valid foundation or authenticity, it will really stand up, and consequently stand out from competitors. Great advertising is rooted in this idea, combined with creativity and thoughtfulness. Where does that authenticity and valid foundation come from? Branding. If the brand is well defined at the core, then all that’s needed is to find the right way to convey its message to the public.

Throughout the film, various cast members express a rebellious attitude toward the business side of creativity and those who are afraid to take risks. Dan Wieden talks about risk, challenging convention and the creative struggle against the “non-believers”. He then goes on to say, “I think the real risk comes in being willing to try to be authentic.” If a company has things to hide, they can’t be authentic, which hinders them. “Art & Copy” stresses the idea of the product truth: strong ideas, simply presented.

Lee Clow said, ”I think we have higher aspirations for our clients, and are more passionate about what our clients can be, should be, should try to be, than they are. We’re trying to tell them “Hey! You can be more than just a car company. You can be more than just a pet food company. You can aspire to loving dogs, rather than just feeding dogs.” Lee Clow understands that in order to sell yourself through advertising, you need to convince, and the best way to convince is to be more as a brand, in a socially responsible sense.

“Art & Copy” also talks about the consumer’s relationship to advertisements. Rich Silverstein mentions, “We’re trying to entertain society…to connect to society in some entertainment form.” Jeff Goodby notes that advertising is something that millions experience at the same time; A mass communal happening.

The film also notes that ads don’t necessarily need to have anything to do with the product. It’s about people wanting to share what they saw. What a consumer is saying when an ad connects with them is that they are part of something; part of a group that is “in on it”. Consumers want to be a part of that community associated with that brand.

Overall, “Art & Copy” is an amazing insight into the world of advertising. In addition to an in depth description of how advertising works, it’s also an incredibly interesting, turbo-charged history lesson on the subject straight from the history makers themselves. Take a look, and let us know what you think.

–Tara

Starbucks Holiday Cups!

Today was the debut of the Starbucks holiday cup. You may think, “so what, who cares? It is just a cup.” Or, if you’re like me, a little smile crept onto your face, and a small burst of joy hit you when you saw the Holiday cup. I am not sure why, but each year I get excited when I get my coffee in a red cup with a wintery mix of graphics.

For Starbucks, red holiday cups have become a tradition.  At the start of November, the coffee shops begin to use their unique and creatively designed red cups. This year, there is an image of a girl and boy ice-skating in the snow.

Most people hate the cold, but Starbucks has embraced the season and used it to their benefit. According to one Starbucks customer, “the holiday cups make me want to curl up.” By designing a cup that brings warm feelings, Starbucks has conjured the happy memories of the Winter season. The cups also include encouraging quotes that uplift and entertain. 

As marketers, it is important to recognize the way your customers and clients are feeling. This can change with the seasons, with current events, or with client celebrations, news and life events. But, whatever the reason, tap into the way your target audience feels, and use that to your advantage.

Further, small changes like using a red cup instead of a white one, is just refreshing. Though there is absolutely nothing wrong with the typical white cups Starbucks uses year round, sometimes a small change is good. It gives people something to talk about – and creating buzz and engaging with customers, including their commentary in social media outlets, are some of the strongest marketing tools. Type into twitter “Starbucks Red Cup” and see for yourself – there is a ton of positive talk about the change! Just make sure whatever mix you add to your campaign is something that complements or benefits your brand.
–Michelle 

History Repeats

The First Advertisements

William Caxton set up the first printing press in England. Caxton was a merchant by trade, but learned printing later in his life. He is responsible for being the first to print many well-known books, including Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (BBC). He was also, the first to publish an ad in English.

Caxton's First Ad

In 1477 Caxton printed an ad that announced that the first book was for sale at his print shop. This ad is seven lines of simple text that tells the public what, where, when, and how much. Caxton printed the ad on small scrap papers he had around his shop, and then posted them on church doors. This method was quickly embraced as a form of communication. Caxton and his competitors also posted ads in other public areas such as walls of buildings and fences.

 

Slogans
In the early 1800s paper was scarce, and business owners were only able to have a few lines of text in the paper. No pictures – just words. In a paper full of text, people recognized that in order to sell their merchandise they needed to make their ads stand out. So, advertisers started to write slogans and repeated these slogans three times in the same ad. The three lines of the same text made the ad stand out from all the other lines of text, and once the customer already knew about the product, the seller just needed to remind them that it was for sale. Slogans were a memorable trigger. Even when paper became more abundant, slogans stuck, as they proved to be a successful way for the public to recognize a brand.

Even during the dawn of advertising, repetition was important, just as it is today.

-Michelle

Floods and Facebook

In the wake of topical storm Lee, there were flash floods throughout Maryland on Wednesday, September 7, 2011. Ellicott City ‘s Main Street became a river. After evacuating our office, we posted some footage of the action happening right outside our office. (In this video, you can actually see the entrance to our office with near foot-high water when the camera pans to the left of the big black truck.) The footage was taken from a bystander’s phone and then posted to You Tube.

So here is what happened. Insight180 lives at a low point near the Tiber River, the little river that flows aside historic Main Street, under footbridges in the large Hamilton Street parking lot behind the old post office and La Palapa. At about 11:45am we looked outside and realized that the river was going to overflow. At about 11:55, it did. With only a few hundred feet between the entrance of our office and the river, water started seeping into the office by 11:57. (In those few minutes, we picked up couches, unplugged our computers, and got all the wires off the floor.) Then we left the office as quickly as possible as the water continued to come through the door. We dashed through near knee-deep water to get to our cars. Thankfully we all got out and home safely.

So aside from just telling you our saga, there are some interesting things to note. Before the work day was over (probably before we even arrived home), several pictures and video accounts were posted all over Facebook and YouTube and tweeted via Twitter.

As we continued to find clips related to “Ellicott City flood,” we were mesmerized and astounded watching the various clips of rushing water and cars driving through it. One of the people narrating as they taped the goings-on said, “Yeah, this is definitely Facebook material.” Interesting. Is this the way we have trained out minds to work? If we see something of this magnitude, all we can think is – Facebook?

Well, the truth is, we have always thought this way. When something big happens, good news or bad news, it is human nature to want to share it with others. In the past we called people to tell them the news. Now we just post it on the Internet and share it with an entire network of people at once.

As marketers, we share content that we think will be useful to others. And in this web-based world where social media is providing more opportunities for communication and transparency, businesses are also sharing things that happen to them (as are their customers) — the good, the bad and the ugly. What insight180 found as news spread, was not only people wanting to know what happened, but offers of assistance, people just showing up to help in clean-up, calls from clients, shared stories of similar circumstances, and reconnecting with some folks we hadn’t heard from in a while.

Share the story, because chances are it will interest others too, and it may be a point that allows clients or potential clients to relate to you on a more personal level.

–Wendy and Michelle



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