Thursday, December 22, 2016

Holiday Ads: I've Never Known Anyone Who's Gotten a Car for Christmas!

As someone who's spent a long career in marketing, I’m still fascinated by advertising. Most of it is shockingly bad, but some of it is somewhere between engaging and brilliant. The stakes are high for retailers this time of year, so advertisers pull out all the stops.

The biggest promotion is for cars

This one continues to astonish me--luxury car dealers seem to think that everyone has the discretionary dollars to be buying cars for their SOs for Christmas. They're creating the expectation that we'll wake up on Christmas morning, and a quick look outside will reveal a luxury car with a big red bow on top. I don't know about you, but I've never known anyone who's ever gotten a car for Christmas.

Follow the advice of the ads and you’ll wake up fat and broke, with a hangover

Other notable ads are for alcohol and food. You're going to be dressed to the nines, attending
an endless round of galas and events as well as hosting glamorous parties for which you'll need expensive wine and gourmet food. Online sales are way up, and we’ve been receiving catalogs from a variety of high-end retailers, including Petrossian, soliciting our dollars for caviar, smoked salmon and other high-end delicacies. Advertising is all about the power of suggestion, so if you follow the recommendations of these retailers, you'll wake up around the first part of January fat and broke, with a giant hangover. The reality? Real people aren't celebrating the holidays like the people in these TV ads.

Time to slow down and take care of yourself

Years ago, my family and I decided to donate to our favorite charities in each other's behalf rather than buying gifts that we didn't need or like. Besides supporting some very worthy causes, we just eliminated a whole lot of shopping, wrapping and schlepping.
This was our way of getting off the holiday rollercoaster and focusing on the things we loved about the holidays that didn't cost a dime--holiday music, spending time together, playing a rousing game of Monopoly like we used to do when we were kids.
These days, I try to carry on this spirit of the holidays--contributing to something more important than myself, making time not just for my friends, but for myself.
Time to work on your marketing plan for 2017? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We're writers and marketing strategists. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

9 Steps to More Compelling Content

An effective content marketing program requires commitment and creativity

But you don’t have to be a world class writer or marketing expert to be a good content marketer. Here are 9 steps for generating more compelling content.
  1. Passion. Ya gotta feel it. People feel it and know if you’re writing about topics that you love, feel strongly about and are clearly knowledgeable. These are the reasons you first became interested in your industry, the reasons you started your own business. Sure you get frustrated, annoyed and dog-tired, but you rally and are still passionate about what you do.
  2. Preparation. Time to let go of that scattergun approach and one-off efforts. They don’t work and they’re wasting your time and money. Identify your audience—are they babyboomers, Gen-Xers or millennials. It makes a huge difference in the way you design your marketing program. Define your demographic and start building relationships with this group.
  3. Action. If you’ve created a strategy or a marketing plan, you need to implement it. This is where a lot of small business owners fail. It can be overwhelming. Break it up into manageable blocks of time each week. Calendar these and treat them like a meeting. Use these blocks of time to work on your action items–writing blog posts, recording podcasts, preparing your monthly newsletter, writing new web content.
  4. Commitment. To help you stay committed, create an editorial/content calendar. It should include the publish date, topic, your call to action, the format (blog post, image, video, etc.) and which social media platforms you will be posting to. I like to create a larger editorial calendar that identifies important events and topics, anything that’s seasonal, industry celebrations, etc. Keep this handy, add to it and reference it.
  5. Stay flexible. You may have a calendar, but this is a guide to keep you on track. If something better comes along, by all means take advantage of it. I do keep a calendar, but I’ve been taking advantage of some of the articles about the election—looking at these from a marketing perspective. Do stay on top of industry, national and local news and leverage these stories if they’re relevant for your industry.
  6. Listen. If you want to create great content that will be engaged with and shared by your community, find out what they want and need. To do this, spend time on the social media platforms they use and watch what they are sharing and engaging with. People like, comment and share what they feel emotional about, whether these emotions are positive or negative.
  7. Become a good communicator. Once you know what your community wants, you need to communicate in a way that resonates and is easily consumed and shared by your them. Remember that attention spans are short, so you need to quickly get to the point. This is as much about formatting as it is about actual content. Create blog and social media posts that are crisp and can be easily scanned and consumed. Use subheads to break up paragraphs and seduce your audience. Bullet points are a great way to make content more accessible.
  8. Be generousShare your knowledge with your community and build trust. Remember that there will always be a group of people who’ll see the value in the information you provide, lack the time, skills or desire to do it for themselves. These are the people we call clients—they will happily pay for your expertise!
  9. Become a continuous learner. Never stop learning. Whether it’s in your industry or about content creation itself, take the time to stay up-to-date on what’s new, what’s important and what’s changing. Stay passionate and genuine and you’ll build your community.
Thinking about outsourcing your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Election 2016: Where Did We Go So Terribly Wrong

On election day, I’d spent the day nervously checking headlines and social media looking for election news. I was encouraged by Hillary’s strong poll numbers despite FBI director Comey’s possibly illegal attempt to sabotage her with that endless email scandal. In the evening, I went over to a friend’s house with a bottle of champagne to watch the returns and celebrate the election of the first woman president. But it was more than that. As President Obama has pointed out, no candidate has ever been more qualified to be President of the United States. Looking at her opponent, no candidate has ever been more ill-qualified or poorly prepared for this office.
As the returns began to drift in, I began to get a disturbing feeling that something was wrong. There was an undercurrent that this would not have a happy ending. We sat in stunned silence watching state after state fall to Trump. The angry white masses had spoken with their votes. No one slept well that night, and the next day we wandered around in a fog.

We began to imagine what a Trump presidency might look like, and it was chilling

I thought of what this country looked like after eight years of Bush/Cheney—we took big steps backwards on the environment, science and technology. Forget an unnecessary war for now. One of the first things Bush had done when he got into office was to try to shut down Planned Parenthood. I read about our new VP Pence, who doesn’t believe in evolution or global warming. Both Trump and Pence believe that women should be punished for having abortions. Pence wanted women in his state to be forced to have funerals for fetuses. This is positively medieval.
What kind of cabinet would these men assemble, what kinds of advisers? Trump clearly placed no value on women except as objects of gratification, so there likely would be no smart women bringing their unique experience to his cabinet. With a Republican Congress and Supreme Court appointments, I simply can’t imagine what America will look like in four years.

So there’s a marketing lesson here

Let’s face it. Hillary is not for every taste. She has always been a divisive public figure. People are seldom neutral on Hillary. But as Oprah said, “You don’t have to LIKE her. Just vote for her.” She’s simply extraordinary, smart, prepared and hard working. She never gives up.
Hillary spent millions on a comprehensive multichannel marketing campaign, using print, TV and electronic media to communicate with her audience. Donald benefited from more than an estimated $3B in free media. In the end Trump did pour a significant amount of money—much of it his own– into advertising – and it apparently outperformed Clinton’s.

Marketing 101: Identifying, listening to and responding to her audience

Clearly, the biggest problem with the Clinton campaign was not listening to her audience and telling them what they want to hear. A total disconnect. This is Marketing 101. Hillary ostensibly won all of the debates because she was superbly prepared, articulate and polished, as compared to her bumbling opponent. But every time she talked about the ideals of inclusiveness—the very tenets upon which our Democracy is based—she drove a wedge into that mass of angry white voters. Every time she featured a disabled person, a Latina, Muslim or African American in an ad or one of her many very moving videos on YouTube, she turned off another one of the white working class (WWC) voters.

They’re not interested in inclusiveness

They see these people of other races as threats, taking their jobs, bringing multiculturalism to their communities. Instead, Donald Trump has empowered the WWC to hate the disabled and those of other races who have come to America seeking opportunity just as their own ancestors did. As Hillary reveled in our Democratic legacy, the angry white masses rejected it and voted for Trump.

No one predicted an upset

Everyone missed the signals–the pollsters, the political operatives and the media. Clinton’s team apparently didn’t go into the countryside, the little towns where people are struggling and many aren’t making it. What does the liberal elite know of this demographic? Apparently not enough, but this is where there were masses of Trump signs for the masses of angry white voters.

So what can we do?

Be aggressive. We still have a voice. Get to know your congress men and women. Work for change. Four years of Trump is one thing, but we can’t bear eight years.
Thinking about outsourcing your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Trump vs. Clinton: Who Wins the Social Media Battle?

Donald Trump, the man we are learning to loathe for his lies and hate-filled messaging has proven his mastery social media to generate press. His infamous Twitter tirades have played a key role in generating more than $3B in free media exposure, and of course, they keep his core audience engaged and enraged.

Not surprisingly, Trump’s content is consistent in tone and approach

He attacks others and their failures. He enables his base—often the disenfranchised—by empowering them to blame the government for their problems rather than taking responsibility for their troubles. He may allude to what he, as president, will bring to the office, but there is never any platform. Let’s face it—he’s interested in winning—not in the job of President.
Donald Trump’s style is simple, emotional and unsubstantiated. His ability to engage and rally supporters has significantly helped him throughout the campaign, and it will be remembered for its mastery of social media in drumming up press. Choosing Twitter as the platform of choice was deliberate–it’s a favorite of journalists, PR reps, campaign operatives and political junkies.

Hillary Clinton, a seasoned political veteran who immerses herself in policy

Hillary leverages the data-driven marketing capabilities of social media platforms; she wants to understand the metrics of her reach. Clinton’s Twitter approach is based on short, direct sentences that her audience finds engaging. Her social media campaign was more traditional and included paid Facebook ads that took advantage of the large audience and precision targeting capabilities to reach donors and voters and increase her email subscriber list.
When the Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, was reintroduced during the first presidential debate at the end of September, it exploded and became a social media talking point. Another important strategy for Clinton has been using social media to tell a story—many of these are little case studies or human interest stories that reach people on a very human and emotional level. Clinton been extremely successful sharing compelling stories via YouTube.

Trump’s support remained stable, but stable isn’t where you want to be

A significant difference between the Clinton and Trump social media presences is their support over the course of the campaign. Trump had the larger social media presence, but his trend remained stable. Anyone who works in social media knows that stable is not where you want to be. Clinton’s social presence, on the other hand, trended up and grew over time, and social engagement spiked in response to major campaign events like debates or breaking scandals.

No correlation between social media and winning

Keep in mind that social media, no matter how good it is, doesn’t necessarily correlate with success. Rather, social campaigns are worthwhile when they are able to drive desired action from the audience.

A lesson to be learned from Trump and his campaign

Trump broke all the rules. He kept the race tight without adhering to any of the conventional wisdom about how a campaign is supposed to be run. He exploited PR to transmit his message to a large, global audience. Regardless of how we might feel about the prospect of Donald Trump as President of the United States, he owned the news media in a way that we have never seen before. Many of us hope we never see anything like this again in our lifetimes.
Thinking about outsourcing your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Better Bullet Points for Enhanced Content Marketing

I’ve been preaching for years about the importance of using visual keys to making your blogs,
articles and other messaging more accessible.
You only have a few seconds to seduce your audience
You need to give then a reason to keep reading. When people look at a paragraph that’s taking
up six inches of their computer screens, there’s little chance of their reading this. But if you break it into smaller, more manageable information bites, make good use of clever, attention-getting subheads that provide a window into what they’re going to learn, it becomes accessible. By using bullet points whenever possible, you’re making your content even more approachable.

Strategic bullet points keep people reading

Something to keep in mind: People scan content to decide if they want to keep reading, but it’s also a way to justify not reading. There are a few different kinds of bullet points; used properly, they can significantly enhance your content.
1. External fascinations. Usually found in sales copy for information products and membership sites, functioning like headlines that prompt a purchase or other action. Also known as blind bullets, they hint at the content of a product or service and create curiosity without revealing the actual substance. These are generally slick, promotional bullet points about a product
2. Internal fascinations. Pretty much identical to external, except they’re designed to persuade people to continue reading the content they’re currently reading. These are the teasers. For example: By reading this article you’ll learn:
  • 3 counterintuitive activities that will improve your business
  • How to turn your process into a product you can sell
3. Bullet chunking. Extracting bullets out of compound sentences helps you drive home a point while also increasing the usability of your content. Attention spans are short; make it easy for your readers. Maintain parallel construction for your bullet points. An example:
  • Fascinating bullet points are great for:
  • Drawing people back into the copy they skimmed
  • Prompting the download of a free offer
  • Causing the click of a link
4. Authority bullets. Use these to recite data, providing support for your argument. Authority bullets bolster the credibility of your content and your level of authority as a subject matter expert. Try to turn dry, factual information into interesting reading, if possible. An example:
  • Don’t believe me when I say reading is an uncommon activity? Check these facts:
  • 58% of the U.S. adult population never reads another book after high school
  • 42% of college graduates never read another book
  • 80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year
5. Cliffhanger bullets. Tease and foreshadow what’s coming up next or in the near future. Entice your readers to read next week’s blog by using a few cliffhanger bullets to let them know what they can expect.
Are you ready to outsource your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Landing pages help promote your company’s products and services and encourage conversions from your web traffic. A landing page, officially any page on which you land, always has its own unique url. Landing pages can be temporary—thrown up as part of a campaign to promote a product or service. People will click on a call to action and land on this page; it’s generally taken down once the campaign is over. The messaging on these pages should be crisp, focused and direct. These landing pages are necessarily shorter.
Longer landing pages promote trust and credibility
The landing pages that promote your products and services need to have more substance—that means 300+ words. Longer landing pages generate trust and credibility, motivating web visitors to convert once they’ve learned more about you and your company. The user who scrolls to the bottom where the call to action is located and views all aspects of the page is typically a higher-quality lead—that’s the potential client who wants information about what you do. Don’t disappointment them by not answering their questions about what you do and how you work with your clients.
Short landing pages translate to missed opportunities

Longer landing pages: increased SEO value

As you increase the likelihood of conversion with longer landing pages, you also increase the SEO value of your website. Longer pages rank better in search engines. Use well-written, high-quality content that positions you as an expert.
  • Think about using quality video that explains your product. If it’s a service, provide an explanation of how it works. Testimonials are always effective.
  • Include images, a bulleted list of a product/service’s benefits and a strong call to action.
  • Also think about leveraging internal linking strategies within the pages on your site.

These days, people seem to be text-phobic

I frequently find myself going to websites to get more information—and am rewarded with a few lame sentences that translate to missed opportunities. Whether you’re selling a product or service, why wouldn’t you provide enough information to fully flesh out your business? If you’re selling your products online, longer landing pages with plenty of description is always recommended. If people are spending money, they want detailed information about the product they’re about to purchase.

I became I believer in long landing pages

I finished a project a few months ago that made me a believer in longer landing page content. It was a website for a lighting manufacturers’ rep, and I had to write descriptions of the 90+ manufacturers with which this company worked. Our goal was to provide comprehensive information about each company because we wanted potential clients to come to our site and stay there.
I quickly ramped up to the fascinating and complex lighting industry. I wanted to find out a little bit about each of these companies—did they specialize in lighting, controls or daylighting? Were they family-owned, where did they manufacture their products, what was the time to market and what did their customer service ethic look like? The quality of these 90 sites varied dramatically. Some were beautiful, with comprehensive portfolios of their national and international lighting projects. Others were dismal. Some sites didn’t even have an About section—nothing but product info and numbers. Others had badly written information about the company, sometimes talking about the company’s founders some 80 years ago—in which I had no interest. I ultimately had to work with my client SME to get enough information to flesh out some of these profiles.

I learned a big lesson from this project: Provide the information that will answer people’s questions

  • As a guide, think about your own questions when you go to a website looking for information.
  • Frontload the important stuff so that it’s readily available in the first few paragraphs.
  • Try providing a call to action higher in your page rather than burying it at the bottom. Convert people while you still have their attention rather than taking a chance that they’ll scroll to the bottom of the page.
Have questions about landing pages? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.