It’s Election Day. You Won’t Read this Post.

I VotedExcept you might read my post now that I’ve included a shameless mention of Election Day.

When your customers are universally interested in an event or holiday, don’t change the subject. Work with it. Although cycles of celebration may not correspond with your business cycle, customers will disregard marketing communications that don’t fit with their interests or current needs.

Small business marketing requires strategic use of resources that earn a high level of engagement from customers. We can’t waste time and money on efforts that will be ignored.

Here are some ways I help my clients address the ebbs and flows of the calendar:

  • One B2B client accepts that her clients’ attention is distracted during certain times of the year, including Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We focus our marketing efforts on other times of year and don’t waste resources trying to “cut through the clutter.”
  • Another B2B client tackles the New Year with challenges for his clients to plan for success in the coming months.
  • To tie-in with Thanksgiving, I’m helping one veterinary client promote pet safety during the holiday, for instance with this Fido Friendly Thanksgiving Infographic.
  • With another veterinary client, we typically run seasonally-themed Facebook photo contests for clients to brag about their pets. Last year, we sponsored a Winter Wonderland contest.
  • A landscape services company knows that pre-Thanksgiving is a popular time for customers to install landscape lighting, so we run promotions during that period.
  • This summer, another landscape services client earned customer attention when we suggested ways to create an herb container garden to enhance their outdoor kitchens and barbecues.

So, after you go vote and before the results start coming in, spend some time today considering how to make your marketing communications more seasonally relevant to your customers. It will certainly be more productive than nervously biting your nails as you wait to learn who our next President will be.

 

LinkedIn Publishing Platform Yields Lackluster Results

LinkedIn Pulse Publishing Yields Lackluster ResultsLinkedIn is a critical social media tool for networking, while adding significant value to B2B marketing and sales. I recommend that every individual stay active on the network, along with regularly updating your profile. Many businesses should have a LinkedIn strategy, too.

When LinkedIn launched its publishing platform, I was excited to try it out for my clients. Here are the benefits I was hoping would result from publishing on Pulse:

  • Providing content directly to a member’s network would promote more interaction from relevant audiences.
  • Articles would get an SEO boost from being on LinkedIn.

Several months later, and tests of Pulse have yielded lackluster results. Articles of similar theme and content perform better on my clients’ other platforms than on Pulse.

The Drawbacks of Marketing Your Small Business with LinkedIn Pulse

  • Articles from small business seem to be effective only if your subject matter surrounds networking, career advancement or recruiting.
  • Posts are published live. Without the ability to schedule posts, it’s difficult to publish at optimal times for your audience.
  • SEO appears to be less effective on Pulse than other networks.
  • Only three tags can be assigned to any one article.
  • Image size and placement customization are very limited.

LinkedIn Pulse could become a useful platform for marketing your small business. But first it needs to mature by adding features and giving authors more publicity.

Blogging is Not Dead. It’s a Vital Marketing Tool.

Blogs increase traffic 77%Blogging has been around since the 1990’s, and the practice has been fairly universally panned ever since. In the early days, detractors sneered that no one wants to read what bloggers ate for lunch (before the rise of foodie blogs proved them wrong). Today, blog belittlers insist that businesses should stop blogging and focus solely on social media.

But the truth is that blogs remain a vital small business marketing tool.

Why Blogs are Great for Marketing Your Small Business

  1. When you write with focused keywords, blogs are great for SEO. Search engines value websites that are regularly updated.
  2. Interesting blog posts provide content for your social media campaigns, while directing customers to pages that promote your brand in the best way.
  3. Packaging one or two interesting blog posts with your promotional emails increase open rates and customer engagement.

HubSpot published a helpful article last year, “21 Essential Strategies for Growing Your Business with Inbound Marketing.” Included is helpful research showing how blogs increase your small business marketing effectiveness, such as:

92% of all online experiences begin with a search engine 61% of people say they prefer content

If you’ve been neglecting your blog, start it up again! Try posting one interesting piece of content each week, including posts, videos or pictures. To keep on schedule, follow my tips for creating an editorial calendar.

Overcoming Blog Writer’s Block

Overcoming Blog Writer's BlockHaving a regularly-updated blog is an important part of your small business marketing strategy. Well-written blog posts help your organic SEO rankings and give customers a reason to explore your site. These articles can also be used in your email marketing and social media efforts. Conceptually, almost every small business understands the value.

But then you actually have to write the posts, develop the videos and create the graphics! Publishing a blog requires creativity, imagination and… time.

Here are some tips for overcoming writer’s block and keeping your blog up-to-date.

  • Schedule a brainstorming session. Take 30 minutes to an hour to write out ideas and create skeleton blog post drafts. When you’re stumped, you can rely on your previous creativity.
  • Need a blog post right now, but don’t have any drafts? Let your mind wander over the last week. What problems have you solved? Have customers been asking any particular questions? Did you complete a successful project that customer’s will find meaningful? Usually, by answering these questions, you’ll find a topic just waiting to be discovered.
  • Beyond your actual business, is there anything in your personal life that relates to your business and customer interests? For instance, sometimes I will share effective or ineffective marketing executions I’ve seen.
  • Get creative with using your SEO keywords. Craft a compelling SEO headline and let the story flow from there.

Sometimes, though, small business owners are simply too busy to publish their blog and other marketing content on a regular basis. If that sounds like you, give me a call. I help many businesses with content creation and would love to learn more about your business.

Keep Mobile in Mind: Small Business Marketing Tip

More than 50% of customers view email marketing communications or social media marketing campaigns on a smartphone. This means every message you share must keep mobile in mind or risk being ignored by half of your customers.

Keep Mobile in Mind

Here are some tips for designing mobile-friendly marketing messages:

  • About 500 pixels wide will display beautifully on smart phones. Minimize the amount of horizontal scrolling required to see the content.
  • Try to keep file sizes as small as possible. Smartphones load content more slowly than desktop computers, and customers are ever more impatient. Also, you need to be mindful of how much data you are asking customers to download.
  • If you have fairly sophisticated abilities, design elements using responsive design that adapts with the customer’s screen size. One good option for email marketing are services like Mail Chimp that have responsive templates.
  • If you have to send your content as an image, use a PNG, GIF or JPG format. Avoid PDFs, as that format usually won’t display automatically like other file formats.

Designing mobile-friendly messages can be more challenging than designing for print or desktops, because screen sizes are different among devices. But if you embrace the challenge, you’ll have the marketing advantage over your competitors who stay stuck in the past.

Web Design: Why Go WordPress?

In the last few years, I’ve chosen WordPress as the web design platform for the vast majority of my clients’ websites. In fact, a colleague told me yesterday that his web team recommended they rebuild their entire site in WordPress, even though he asked for just a couple new features (the site was originally built using a supposedly more versatile platform).  And yet I still occasionally witness web design professionals scoff at WordPress as merely for bloggers, not for businesses.

So let me tell you why WordPress is usually an amazing choice when you’re considering redesigning your website.

  1. It’s free and open-source, with a large, active community constantly improving it.
  2. It’s a Content Management System (CMS), meaning anyone in your company who can use Microsoft Word can update the website.
  3. It’s incredibly versatile, whether you want a sparse, minimalist website or one that has all the bells and whistles.
  4. It’s expandable. Need a new page? No problem. Want to add some new capability? There’s no limit.
  5. It’s easy to make WordPress SEO-friendly.
Check out WordPress’s featured sites to see what the platform is capable of.

5 Tips for Writing Great Marketing Copy

Although marketers aren’t typically viewed as writers, every aspect of great marketing requires talented writing and precise editing. If there are any doubters, just observe this example from Starbucks:

Not only is this poster confusing, it has a glaring typo. The main message– Get $1 off any pastry when you buy a beverage– is overshadowed by the “it’s.” I imagine Starbucks patrons are more discerning about grammar than most (which is why one of my friends posted this picture on Facebook).

Of course posters aren’t the only form of marketing writing. Here’s a sampling of the kinds of marketing writing most businesses need:

  • Advertising copy
  • Brochure copy
  • Sign copy
  • Website copy
  • Direct mail copy
  • Blog articles
  • Trade journal articles
  • Press releases
  • Facebook posts
  • Twitter updates
  • Product packaging
  • Radio ad scripts
  • TV ad scripts
  • Telephone scripts
  • YouTube video scripts
  • Proposals and contracts
  • Presentations
  • Speeches
  • User guides and manuals

Writing for marketing is usually termed, “copy,” which is such an uninspiring word. The Online Etymology Dictionary traces the term to its roots:

copy (n.) Look up copy at Dictionary.com
early 14c., “written account or record,” from O.Fr. copie (13c.), from M.L. copia “reproduction, transcript,” from L. copia “plenty, means” (see copious). Sense extended 15c. to any specimen of writing (especially MS for a printer) and any reproduction or imitation. Related: Copyist.

The roots of “copy” are not very exciting. We may be stuck with a word that has connotations of automation and transcripting, but we don’t need to fulfill that history. Marketing copy should be fresh and vibrant, effectively communicating your brand. Following are a few tips for writing great marketing copy:

5 Tips for Writing Great Marketing Copy

1. Cut, cut and cut

Just because marketing copy is important doesn’t mean it should exist in abundance. There’s an inverse correlation between the quality of marketing copy and its length. There’s a simple reason for this equation– customers are confronted with thousands of messages each day and have short attention spans when it comes to your product. So cut out everything that isn’t essential.

2. Communicate one message at a time

Each marketing piece a marketer writes can only communicate one message well, no matter how many messages the marketer may try to cram into the space. A postcard, a landing page, a radio ad– all of these represent a brief opportunity to communicate one message. Try to tell your company’s whole story, and customers will be overwhelmed or bored.

3. Give copy room to breathe

“White space” is the term for the spacing and margins around your copy. Spacing your words nicely and keeping the graphics surrounding the them simple will allow your copy to stand out and increase the chances customers will read it.

4. Practice makes better

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Writing is never perfect, but eventually marketers reach deadlines. Never go with the first attempt at writing copy. Edit and revise until the final product is better than when you started.

5. Let someone else read it before you publish it

Don’t publish or print marketing copy before having someone else proofread it. Your familiarity with the text will cause your brain to skip over any typos, seeing what you intended to write instead of what was actually written. I imagine that’s what happened to the poor Starbucks copywriter in the poster example.

These five marketing copy tips certainly aren’t comprehensive, but they are rules that every writer keeps in mind during each assignment. Using them every day in your marketing efforts will lead to more effective (and more interesting) marketing copy.

Google says, “Tag, you’re it!”

This article highlights the importance of html tags to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This may seem technical and dry, but it could make the difference between a customer finding your site or your competitor’s site.

A tag, among other things, can make text bold, italic or denote it as a heading. How you use tags to style your website is important to search engines like Google.

If you’ve studied SEO, you know how crucial it is to create keywords for each page of your website. The importance of tags is less well-known. All else being equal, Google will pay more attention to text that is in a heading, bold or italicized. It follows that you want to place keywords inside these tags whenever possible.

Here are a list of tags you could consider using on your own site:

  • Heading 1: <h1>
  • Heading 2: <h2>
  • Heading 3: <h3>
  • Bold: <strong>
  • Italic: <em>

Along with bold and italics, I use Heading 1 (h1) and Heading 2 (h2) for my SEO. You can style them just as you would any other text.

Observe:

h1: Small Business Marketing

h2: Zoo in a Jungle Marketing uncages small business potential.

I only use two levels of headings because the more headings you use, the less important Google will consider them.

A word of caution to those of you eagerly making plans to pepper your pages with headings and emphasis: don’t overdo it! Only use headings sparingly and when appropriate. Heading 1 is fine to use as the title of your page, but Google will ignore your site if you enclose an entire paragraph in an h1 tag. And your human readers may flee if you insist on bolding and italicizing every little thing (after all, the point of SEO is to get actual people to visit your site).

Having trouble? No worries. Feel free to email me with any questions at amanda@zooinajungle.com.

Marketing Communication: It’s All About Meaning

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, I want to proclaim my love for the expert use of words. I liken word definitions to a gradient. Synonyms of a word retain the color of the original but vary dramatically in shade. I illustrated this concept based on the age-old question,”What is the true meaning of love?”


Meaning of Love – Larger version

If you click through to the larger version, you can see that following synonyms of a word can lead to some surprising definitions. In business and marketing, it is especially important to know exactly what words mean to your audience. Using the perfect words can help us communicate more perfectly.

For example, I was purchasing a gift card last night and was disappointed to see that the gift cards came in specific dollar amounts. I asked the salesperson, “Do you offer gift cards in variable denominations?” I realized I had chosen the wrong words when my question was answered with a blank stare. Trying again, I asked, “Can I get a gift card with any amount I want on it?” “Oh sure,” he replied. There are many ways to say any one thing. The goal of good communication is to find the words best suited to the person hearing or reading them.

What are some ways you could improve communication with your customers? Here are some thought starters:

  • Most businesses use jargon and acronyms. When you use them with your customers, do they understand what you mean?
  • Email and text messaging are notoriously bad at conveying inflection and context. Do the messages you send carry a double meaning if read differently?
  • The best way for your customers to understand you is if you talk like they do. Do you listen for their terms and phrases? Do you use them in communication?
  • How often do you listen to your customers? Do you make an effort to understand them?

If you talk to your customers in ways that are meaningful to them, your message will be more successful. Get to know different types of customers, the ways they describe your business, what they expect from the relationship with you and what words that they use. Successful communication will lead to success with your business goals.

(In future articles, I’ll delve into how to develop business goals for your small business. Marketing starts with knowing what results you want.)

How to Keep Your Blog Regular

Does your blog suffer from ennui?

It does if you’ve ever posted something like, “I can’t believe how long it’s been since I updated my blog!” Even though posting regularly is the number one key to blogging success, it can be hard to keep a schedule. From finding time to finding something to write about, there are many obstacles to keep you from posting as much as you should.

Here are some tips to keep your blog regular.

Know your blog’s purpose.

Many writers can’t figure out what to write about because they don’t know the goal they are trying to reach. If you have a business blog, what are the business goals you are trying to achieve? One goal could be to find qualified buyers interested in your products. Another could be to engage your current customers. You might be trying to get referrals. What is your blog’s purpose? Write to fulfill that purpose and reach your goals.

Record your thoughts.

If you find it hard to sort out your thoughts in writing, don’t! Use a voice recorder to compose your blog posts. Many people find it difficult to write, but almost everyone can have a conversation. Once you determine what you’re trying to say, use the transcript as your blog post.

Make notes.

It seems obvious, but ideas for a blog post can strike at any time. Be prepared with your favorite notebook, iPhone app or even that voice recorder. You never know when a visit to a restaurant, dramatic sunset or chance encouter could be the impetus for a fantastic post. Capture the details as they happen.

Use your notes.

Don’t just take notes! Use them to write blog posts. And here’s a secret: if you’ve written a book or two, you’ve got hundreds of pages of notes conveniently published for your convenience. Use advice from your books, coupled with current events or recent experiences, to create fresh, engaging blog posts.

Develop an editorial calendar.

You should post to your blog at least once a week. To keep that goal, you need a schedule. You probably schedule appointments for oil changes or hair cuts, so why not schedule writing time? Your calendar can be as detailed as deciding on topics in advance or as general as just deciding on the day and time a post will go out each week. Get someone to help you stay accountable to your calendar, and you’ll have even more success.

Get ahead.

A counter-intuitive strategy to saving time is to write several blog posts all at once and schedule them for the future. It saves more time to get in the writing mindset once and write five posts than to find time to write on five different occasions.

Get help.

If blogging is truly part of your strategy to reach your goals, then it would be worthwhile to invest in a writing coach or professional writer. A coach will hold you accountable to schedules and topics, while a writer will consult with you and write excellent posts that meets your goals. (Might I mention that Zoo in a Jungle Marketing provides such services?)

I’ve developed these tips after years of making and breaking writing commitments to myself and my business– and seeing many others do the same. If you have any tips of your own for keeping your blog regular, I’d love to read them in the comments.