Confidence vs. Angst: What Your Website Content Says About You

Website Content

There I was, driving down the street when I saw it: A sign that said, Eager to Close!! Seller Will Pay All Closing Costs!!

(Yes, the explanation marks were included on the damn sign.)

At the time, I was in the housing market. That sign was meant to attract people like me. It didn’t work.

My reaction to the sign was disgust – not excitement.

What was the agent thinking? Did she really think we’d pay listing price on that home? Not. A. Chance. We’d negotiate the hell out of that house… if we even took the time to look at it. And at that moment, I kept driving.

The palpable angst, fear, and desperation in the real estate agent’s message sent me running for the hills – not running toward the sale.

Does your website content make you look just as desperate?

It’s no secret that the real estate industry is filled with hungry agents who want to close their next home so that they can make a buck. As an entrepreneur, I respect the need to sell something. But the approach you take matters. It could get prospective buyers driving by – or it could get them in the door.

There are two ways you can approach a potential customer.

The first is the desperate way (see the example above.)

It’s the biggest turn off and the most gut-wrenching, cringeworthy approach.

Here’s another, less obvious, example of obvious desperation from a real estate agent during our house hunt.

While at an open house, the listing agent started chatting us up. My husband and I were the only ones in the house at the time, but she claimed that there was a lot of interest in the house. As we kept the conversation flowing, the truth came out. She was eager for us to place an offer on the house because it had been on the market for 120+ days.

Having an Air of Confidence in Marketing

The second approach is more refined. It’s also the approach that won our real estate agents the contract.

We’ve known our real estate agents for years. They’re a married couple who just enjoy getting out of the house and helping people look at homes. The interest they have in their job is palpable. They want to help.

When we bought our first house, this was the team of agents that helped us make the purchase. My husband met them while he was out on his own looking at houses. They saw him peering into the window of an empty for house for sale and stopped to ask him if he needed some help. He did and they handed him their business card.

This approach is helpful.

They saw someone who was clearly interested in buying a house and in need of help. They offered their expertise.

The approach was also gentle.

They never once made us feel like we had to buy immediately. Instead, they asked us what we wanted and then hit the ground running to help us find it. It was a win-win.

Which Approach Are You Taking?

I’ve won my fair share of sales contests. I’ve grown my own business selling my services without the help of an outside sales force. I get the need to sell, sell, sell.

I have also sat on the other side of a hard sale and felt how uncomfortable it can get. It’s awful. It doesn’t make the seller feel good (or at least it shouldn’t.) It doesn’t make the person being sold to feel good. It’s a lose-lose.

The world is cluttered with noise both online and offline. People are constantly trying to get your attention on television, the radio, road signs, social media, search engine results, and with flashy, ridiculous, embarrassing banner ads.

You need to stand out! But the way you stand out matters. Are you using desperation to get found? Or are you offering helpful, valuable website content to hit home with your marketing message?

One makes you sound like a teenager at an Ed Sheeran concert…

… the other makes you sound like an easy-going professional who is so confident in what she has to offer, she doesn’t have to beg, plead, and hound you to sign a contract.

How to Find Blog Topic Ideas

Blog Topic Ideas

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” ~ John le Carre

Have you ever had that terrifying feeling of staring at a blank screen knowing you had to fill the white space in front of you with words?

Me too.

No matter how seasoned of a writer you are, panic will sometimes set in when you know it’s your turn to publish a blog post.

One of the most common objections to content marketing that I hear from small business owners is, “I don’t really need a blog. What will I write about?”

Not knowing what to write about isn’t an excuse to avoid blogging. If you’re using that as a reason to get out of publishing your next post, you’re missing out on:

  • Serious SEO benefit.
  • The opportunity to position your business as an authority.
  • A sales tool to make your website work harder for your business.

You’re smart. You know that blogging is probably one of the best ways to build your website online. Now, it’s time to get out of your head so you can power through the fear of the blank white screen.

Here are seven tips to help you come up with some powerful blog topic ideas for your business.

1. Keep a Notebook Handy

This tip won’t help you now, but it will help you quite a bit down the road.

Hot blog topics rarely hit you when you’re sitting in front of your computer trying to figure out what to write. They pop into your mind when you’re at a restaurant, talking to a customer, walking the dog, or at 3 a.m. when you can’t sleep. When that great idea for a post pops into your mind, do a brain dump ASAP!

Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll remember that post tomorrow (especially if it’s 3 a.m.) Write. It. Down.

This is the trick used by most professional bloggers. I know some bloggers who carry a physical pad of paper and pen around to write down blog topics. I know others who use apps on their smartphones, such as Evernote or Draft. Me? I use an app to record ideas because I know with confidence that I can pull it up when I need it the most.

No matter what your preferred method, get the idea out of your head and in print.

2. Go to Amazon

Probably one of the best ways I’ve heard of for finding blog topics came from the folks at Fizzle (full disclosure: that’s a referral link if you’re interested in joining me in this online community.)

Chase mentioned once on a podcast that he often looks at Amazon book reviews for topics in his field for inspiration. He doesn’t look at what the four and five star reviews say – those people are already happy with the book and supposedly already had all their questions answered. Instead, he looks at the three-star reviews.

The three star reviews are the moneymakers. These are the people who are hungry for more information about your topic. They want more information. If you’re trying to establish your business or personal brand as an authority, this is your opportunity to be the person to give that information.

3. Find Inspiration From Others

Plagiarism is not okay, but getting inspired by other businesses and bloggers that you admire is acceptable.

Get out of your head and into someone else’s mind for a little while. Explore another blog, read posts by other people, check out the types of topics they’re talking about. As you do, jot down your ideas for how you can expand on a concept or make it your own.

Bonus tip: Read the comments like you read the Amazon reviews for an added dose of inspiration.

4. Check Twitter or Facebook

Before you read any further, let me clarify: I am not condoning a random glance through your newsfeed! You’ll get sucked in by memes and food porn and then all hope is lost.

Look at Twitter or Facebook with a hyper targeted goal in mind – to read the newsfeed of reporters, journalists or bloggers.

These people are also looking for story ideas and will often ask questions of their viewers and request tips. Look at what they’re asking about and then answer their need on your blog. This is a fast, easy, and super effective way of establishing your business as an authority.

5. Current Events

You can also watch the news. What’s happening in your field? Is there an exciting story that just broke? Answer it with a blog post and give your take on things.

6. Ask a Machine for Blog Topics

When all else fails, ask a machine. HubSpot, one of the leaders in the content marketing space, has built a blog topic generator that does the creative thinking for you. Just enter a few words (preferably nouns) and let the robots go to work pulling up ideas for your next post.

The idea with the machine generated blog topics isn’t to create another boring blog. It’s to help you feel inspired to find your voice and make a bland topic your own. Remember that as you start pulling up topics and doing the research to form your next post.

7. Host Your Personal Brainstorming Session

Enough reading about how to come up with the next great idea for your blog. It’s time to get to work.

Here’s your homework for the day:

    • Get away from your desk. You won’t find much inspiration there. Work from somewhere else. If you can, go outside!
    • Turn your phone on silent and close your email and Facebook. You don’t need any distractions when you’re trying to be creative.
    • Set a timer for 30 minutes. If you’re using your phone, it should still alert you even if it’s set to “silent.”

Now it’s time to put the pen to the paper and start writing about your business.

Don’t worry about coming up with a blog topic. Just write with emotion.

  • Why are you so passionate about your industry?
  • What is your customer’s biggest fear?
  • Why do you love what you do so much?
  • What made you start your business?
  • How did you choose this path?
  • What makes you an expert in your field?
  • What questions are you asked most often?
  • Why are people fascinated by you?

As you begin to answer these questions and get your mind flowing with the intricacies of your field, you’ll see a few trends start to emerge. Dig deeper into each of these trends and start coming up with solid ideas for future posts. By the end of a half hour, you’ll have a handful of blog topic ideas to get you started.

What’s Your Best Tip?

There isn’t a shortage of ideas for finding the best blog topic. Every person does their research a little bit differently. How do you find blog topic ideas? Share in the comments. I’d love to hear!

Your Marketing Benchmarks

marketing benchmarks

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (and sometimes Saturday) I get up before the crack of dawn and drive a few miles to my local Crossfit gym. It’s not your standard gym. It’s in a garage. We run in the dark, we grunt, we whine, we throw a ton of weight around, and we cheer each other on until the end of each brutal workout.

It might sound miserable to some but it’s my “me-time” and I love it.

Crossfit isn’t a new type of workout to me. I’ve done it for about four years. This is the fourth gym I’ve tried and I’m hooked. The biggest reason why? She holds quarterly “benchmark” weeks (read: hell week in a box) where we test our strength, take note of our progress, and push our limits.

I’ve never had this type of push in any other gym. Before, it was all about showing up and powering through each WOD (workout of the day for you non-Crossfit speakers) and getting things done one workout at a time.

THIS is different. THIS is measurable. I can actually see the payoff from my workout. The ROI if you want to put a business buzzword to it.

A few months ago, I was “only” able to deadlift 155 pounds for my one-rep max. Last week? I reached 210 pounds for the first time. I have struggled for so long to crack the 200 pound mark and this past benchmark week, I exceeded my own expectations. It was an empowering moment… and yes, I might have squealed with delight over this personal accomplishment.

Benchmark week is my chance to see how my hard work and investments have paid off over the last three months.

When was the last time you tested your benchmarks?

You’ve undoubtedly heard the saying, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.” It’s bullshit.

Personal live and professions overlap all the time. There are loads of lessons that you can take from your personal life and apply to your professional world to achieve bigger, better, faster, stronger results.

Benchmark week is one example of this.

I make no qualms about being a “word nerd.” In fact, I say it with a bit of shy pride. But numbers get me equally excited. They show results. They mean money. And they mean big wins both in and out of the gym.

Numbers mean a lot for your business.

One of the best books I’ve read lately about writing is, “Everybody Writes” by Ann Handley. In her book, she talks about the importance of developing “pathological empathy.” To connect with your reader, you must have an intimate relationship with what he or she is experiencing on the other side of the page.

  • How does your writing improve your reader’s life?
  • How does your marketing give your customer peace of mind?
  • How does your product help your customers sleep better at night?

These are big concerns that need addressing. With strong messaging, you can tap into the emotions of your target market and show your audience the type of empathy they’re looking for. Without it, you’re just spinning your wheels and blasting worthless blog posts out into the world. No one reads those and they do nothing to inspire more customers to buy from your business.

Your analytics pave a clarifying path to show you where your marketing meets your customer – or more importantly, where it falls short.

Analytics to Watch

Any monkey can pull up Google manifested numbers on a screen. It takes smarts and human savvy to sort through those analytics and flesh out the meaning behind the numbers.

Knowing what numbers to pull out from your analytics is half the battle. Knowing what marketing benchmarks you should use in your company’s “benchmark week” is important so you don’t focus on the wrong thing (vanity metrics suck.)

Here are some of the top analytics your business needs to know to see how well your marketing is performing:

1. Website Traffic Patterns

The first thing you probably think of when you hear the word “traffic” is how many visitors your page sees in a day, week, or month. That only tells one part of the story.

Look a little closer to see what type of traffic you have.

  • How many repeat visitors arrive on your page vs. new visitors?
  • Where do those visitors come from? Referrals, search engines or social media?
  • When do those people leave?
  • What is your bounce rate?

Understanding the flow of traffic on your website will give you a better glimpse into where you’re gaining new eyeballs and losing your hot prospects.

2. Behaviors

You have the traffic, but now what? How are people engaging with your material on your website?

Time spent on your website matters. The more time people spend reading your content, the more chances you have to convert your audience into paying customers.

Sign ups matter. Is your content getting your audience excited enough to subscribe to your newsletter? If not, you might need to beef up your content marketing efforts. If it is, you’re doing something right – do more of it.

3. Technology

We live in a world surrounded by screens. Your customer’s smartphone, tablet, laptop, and television all display enticing (or sometimes less than enticing) advertisements. Knowing what type of screen your customers is using to access your website and content is telling. If you’re a local car wash and you see a lot of people accessing your website through their mobile device, you know that people are probably looking for you when they’re on the go. On the other hand, if you own a flooring company and your customers are accessing your content from a laptop, you know that they’re doing their due diligence before stepping foot in your store or buying from you.

Take that with a grain of salt.

Sometimes, people see your commercial on television and then pick up the smartphone that’s sitting next to them to look up your business. They’re not on the road. They’re not on the go. They’re at home.

Although it’s not an exact science, the numbers at least start the story of how your customers are finding you.

Takeaways

Without hosting your own “benchmark week” in your business, you’re losing a lot of clarity about your marketing. It’s hard to know what’s working. It’s hard to know what’s failing you. It’s hard to improve in a way that’ll keep bringing you bigger and better results.

Need help with this? I offer a monthly benchmark service for businesses to show what’s happening on their website and offer recommendations for where they can improve. If you’re interested in seeing your company’s progress and get actionable tips for online marketing improvement, let’s talk.

Finding Your Blogging Voice

Finding your blogging voice

This is probably the only time I’ll ever encourage you to fight.

But before you pull out your gloves and put on that oh-so-sexy UFC uniform that you’ve had stashed away in your closet for God only knows what reason, I have a confession to make: I’m probably one of the most sensitive people you’ll meet.

And it’s not a good thing.

I might not always seem like a sensitive soul on the surface but it’s true. Give me one wrong look and I’ll worry about what it meant for days.

With that obnoxious hyper-sensitivity in mind, you can imagine how much of a struggle it was for me to start blogging and putting my thoughts, ideas, opinions out onto the interwebz.

What will people think?

What will people say?

What if people *gasp* don’t like me?

It’s a scary (read: terrifying) feeling to open your soul to be judged by the masses.

In fact, it’s so scary that most people avoid it all together.

The fear of putting yourself on the line is one that business owners like you know well. You’ve done it already so I know you have the courage to start exposing your thoughts and opinions too. But there’s just one problem.

If you’re shaking in your boots while you hit the “Publish” button on your blog, chances are you’re not going to sound too authentic. Chances are, your blog is going to sound more like it was written by a robot than a human.

Enter: The Fight

I promised you a fight and here it is!

If you’re like many bloggers, when you sit down at the keyboard your thoughts are on your audience.

You think, and think, and think about what your audience wants to hear.

  • Are you giving them what they’re looking for?
  • Are you positioning your audience as the hero of your story?
  • Are you delivering the right information to help them through every stage of the sales process?

Coming up with content for your blog is hard enough. When you finally find that perfect topic, how do you write in a way that serves your audience AND stays true to you?

As Sally Hogshead said in a recent blog post, “Are you focusing so much on the other person (your customer, your client, your manager) that you’re losing your you-ness?”

If you’re cringing right about now because of how familiar that sounds, don’t worry. It’s happened to the best of us.

Breaking Past the Scary Side of Creativity

Writing doesn’t have to be scary. Staring at a blank, white page on the screen in front of you doesn’t have to fill you with anxiety.

It also doesn’t have to turn you into a people-pleasing robot.

After searching for years, reading other people’s blogs and trying to find that magic tip to help me break fast this fear and embrace my voice, I discovered one thing that helped. Just one. Fighting.

The Three Step Process to Finding Your Fight

If you could change the world tomorrow in any way, what would that look like to you?

I’m not trying to get you to conjure up your inner beauty queen and talk about creating world peace or saving all the puppies – even though that’d be nice – I am trying to get you to think a little bit about purpose. That purpose – or fight, if you will – comes from inside of YOU.

Here’s how to find your fight.

1. Define WHAT You’re Fighting For

My fight is to change the way business owners approach their marketing writing.

It frustrates me to see business owners toss up a “free” website with self-centered copywriting filling the headlines and paragraphs just so that they have a placeholder online.

Note: I put “free” in quotes because even though you’re not paying out of pocket for a website on Wix or GoDaddy, you’re paying big time in opportunity cost.

Words matter. They matter so freakin’ much that I put it on EVERY SINGLE PAGE of my website. It’s my fight. It’s the concept that I can speak to with absolute 100% certainty and passion because I believe it in my core.

What’s your fight? What’s your purpose online?

It’s a deep question but it’s one that deserves a healthy amount of thought.

2. Define WHO You’re Fighting For

The people you’re fighting for matter just as much (if not more) than your big picture purpose.

You can’t write a blog post to the masses and expect it to sound like your authentic self. Narrowing your focus and writing as if you’re speaking to the ONE person in this world whom you help will make your writing significantly stronger.

Right now, I have my perfect client in mind. I’m not thinking about writing to my mom or my husband because neither of them need this information. I’m writing this to the person who I know can benefit the most from this fight.

The person may or may not be real (although in my case, he is), as long as you have a person with a face, a name, and a story.

Who is your person? Who are you fighting the good fight for?

3. CONVERSE!

Let’s face it. Keeping your thoughts, ideas, and passions locked up inside of you isn’t healthy. It’s not healthy for you, your business, or the people you’re working so hard to help.

With your fight and your person in mind, it’s time to start the conversation.

This is where your blogging voice comes through.

Spark conversation with the person you’re fighting so hard to help. Talk about things that get you heated, passionate, and excited.

Let your thoughts pour out on paper.

Don’t edit as you write. Instead, follow Ernest Hemingway’s advice: Write Drunk. Edit Sober.

And, whatever you do, DON’T pull a Pete Carroll and overthink every play, phrase, and word.

Just write what’s on your heart. Write in a way that makes your excitement for your reader’s success so palpable that he has no option but to get sucked into listening to your story.

The Takeaway

FIGHT FOR WHAT AND WHO MATTERS TO YOU.

Your voice will come out naturally through your passion, excitement, and undying belief in what you’re saying.

Go ahead and give it a try. Then share your non-robotic blog post with me in the comments below. I’d love to read it (truly!)

2015 Content Marketing Trends

The Importance of a Content Marketing Strategy

I’ve got news for you, business owner:

You can’t make a touchdown if you don’t know how to run down the field.

Like it or not, marketing requires strategy. That strategy requires smart usage of words. And it’s those words that make you money.

The problem is, most business owners tend to opt for all-talk and little preparation.

Need proof? Check out the 2015 content marketing trends recently published by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, and sponsored by the New Rainmaker Platform (which this site is published on.)

Only 35% of B2B marketers have a DOCUMENTED content marketing strategy.

And that’s more than the only 27% of B2C marketers with a DOCUMENTED content marketing strategy.

To be fair, 48% of B2B marketers say they have a strategy but just haven’t documented. The remaining 17% who don’t have a strategy or aren’t publish their content on a hope and a prayer that it’ll bring in new leads, new business, and more sales.

Does that sound like you?

It’s okay if it did, but it’s not okay if you continue to let your marketing take on a life of its own.

The Superbowl is this weekend. I am willing to wager a bet that Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, and each of their respective teammates have a strategy of how they’re going to get the football past the competition and into the end zone.

For your content marketing to work, you need to have that same mindset.

There’s a lot of noise online these days.

Open up Facebook and check out your newsfeed. Overwhelming? Probably. It’s a noisy world out there.

74% of B2B small businesses and 69% of B2C businesses are creating more content in 2015 than ever before. 

Among both B2B and B2C businesses, the most popular content created looks like this:

  1. Social Media Content
  2. eNewsletters
  3. Articles on Your Website/Blogs

Written content is preferred over in-person events, print, videos, photos, and presentations. 

There’s good reason for this. It works.

But it only works if you have a solid strategy in place that’ll help you cut through the noise and make your message resonate with your target audience.

The report offers more proof to back up that statement.

Companies with a documented strategy are over 2x more effective at documenting the ROI of content marketing.

One of the biggest struggles companies face in investing in website content is the lack of numbers to back the money being spent. Knowing what works and what doesn’t

How do you create a written content marketing strategy that effectively generates more leads and bolts your business past the competition?

In the report, the Content Marketing Institute outlines a few key metrics to monitor.

  • How often is your competition producing content? Are you producing enough?
  • What type of content are other companies finding most effective? Are you actively pursuing those same types of content?
  • How much money are other companies investing in their content marketing? Are you investing enough?

You already have the answers to some of these questions (see above or get the details in the report).

The point is this: Producing content without a smart approach will deliver mediocre results at best. Producing content with a documented, smart strategy will get you to the type of traffic, quality leads, and sales that you can brag about to your other business owner buddies.

And THAT is worth your investment EVERY TIME.

100 Words That Instantly Add Sizzle to Your Sales Copy

Let’s play a word association game. What would you say if I asked you to describe a salesman in one word?

If you’re like most people the words sleazy, slimeball, moneymaker, or pushy come to mind.

Salesmen don’t have a great reputation. Yet as an entrepreneur, you’re forced to operate as one on a daily basis.

  • Every time someone asks you what you do for a living, you’re selling her on the idea of your business.
  • Every time you meet someone who should use what you have to offer, you’re selling her your goods (or services).
  • Every time you talk to someone, you’re selling her on your smarts and status within your industry… because you never know who she might refer to your business!

Yep, like it or not, you’re a salesman.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing, unless you’re lumped into the stereotypical type of salesman that comes to mind (see above for a reminder on why that’s a bad thing).

The problem is, sleazy sales work. They’ve worked for decades and they continue to work. To find a healthy balance between falling into the trap of becoming the type of salesman that makes people avoid eye contact with you when you walk in the room, you need to watch your words.

Watch Your Sales Words

The way you communicate on your website, in your sales emails, and in person says a lot about you. It shows how you operate and how much you believe in what you sell.

Although you never (seriously… NEVER) want to fall into the trap of becoming a sleazeball, there are a few lessons you can take from the playbooks of the top salesmen in controversial industries.

Why controversial? Because they spark the biggest reaction among their customers.

For you to make a strong name for yourself and bring in the big bucks, you can’t run from controversy. You need to use words that give your copy feeling and stir up emotion in your readers. To do that effectively, here are 100 words that are safe enough to use without looking sleazy, but spicy enough to make you look enticing.

Help ‘em visualize what it’s like to work with you

Using experiential words, you make people instantly envision themselves in an experience when buying from you.

  • Apocalypse
  • Armageddon
  • Bloodbath
  • Bloodcurdling
  • Uncensored
  • Thrilling
  • Tantalizing
  • Famous
  • Notorious
  • Behind-the-scenes
  • Red-carpet
  • Fantasize

Push the boundaries

There are certain words that sound innocent enough given the context, but they still trigger a heightened emotion when people hear them. Push the boundaries and use these words to conjure up excitement.

  • Spicy
  • Crave
  • Enticing
  • Sinful
  • Scandalous
  • Provocative
  • Steamy
  • Spine-tingling
  • Blissful
  • Mind-blowing
  • Sexy
  • Moaning
  • Tantalizing

Tap into their fears

Fear-mongering works. Everyone is afraid of something. When you know what that something is, use these words to harness the fear and turn it into a sale.

  • Frightening
  • Terrifying
  • Prison
  • Beat
  • Assault
  • Crazy
  • Danger
  • Blundering
  • Jeopardy
  • Invasion
  • Dumb
  • High-risk
  • Perilous
  • Invisible
  • Demon
  • Chilling
  • Forbidding
  • Menacing

Make ‘em feel amazing

Nothing gets more people excited than feeling like they’re doing something right. Excite your reader and make them feel warm and fuzzy using these words.

  • Sensational
  • Delightful
  • Courageous
  • Charming
  • Breathtaking
  • Beautiful
  • Stunning
  • Gorgeous
  • Dazzling
  • Magnificent
  • Brilliant
  • Intense
  • Unworldly
  • Divine
  • Godly

Indulge in their anger

Misery loves company. When your customer is angry, fed-up and sick of dealing with something, indulge them by joining along with their frustrations using these words.

  • Abuse
  • Arrogant
  • Bullshit
  • Revolting
  • Disgusting
  • Repulsive
  • Smug
  • Superior
  • Ruthless
  • Stuck up
  • Obnoxious
  • Frenzy
  • Boorish
  • Turmoil
  • Rage

Show ‘em the goods

What do people want more than anything in the world? Money, love, fame, and fortune. Give them what they crave with these words.

  • Free
  • Skyrocket
  • Soar
  • Jackpot
  • Winning
  • Explosion
  • Dollar bills
  • Luxury
  • Lavish
  • Rich
  • Abundant
  • Gift
  • Bonanza

Give them peace of mind

When all is said and done, nothing is more enticing than a restful night of sleep knowing that you are in good hands. Your customers want to feel safe with you. Show them they can trust you with these words.

  • Moneyback
  • Refund
  • Lifetime
  • Proven
  • Verified
  • Certified
  • Secure
  • Fail-safe
  • Social proof
  • Best-selling
  • Top-seller
  • Most requested
  • Guaranteed
  • Surefire

That’s it! Interchange any of these words with some of your boring, wornout sales copy and watch your conversions soar!

What other words would you add to this list?

The Future of Advertising

Imagine this: The season finale of your favorite reality show is on tonight. You’re glued to the TV waiting to know who gets [kicked off the island/publicly shamed out of a proposal from “the one”/sent packing from the house].

You’ve popped your popcorn, uncorked your favorite bottle of wine, and you’re perched ready to tune into all the action when… Your cable box decides to call it quits.

All that anticipation goes out the window. Instead, you’re feeling fury, rage, and heartbreak. Finding out what happened the next day on Facebook just isn’t the same!

At that moment, you unlock your phone, pull up your web browser and type in “cable companies in Vail” (or whatever city you live in).

You expect to find a company that you can reach out to first thing in the morning to replace your cable box so you can kick your current service provider to the curb. Instead, you see an article called, “What to do When Your Cable Goes Out.”

Sounds interesting, so you click on it. You quickly get a few good tips on how to restore your cable box. While you’re reading, you notice that the competing cable company in your area sponsored the article! You’re so blown away by how they saved your night (and sanity) that you immediately decide to make a call and switch from your no-good, loser provider to the one that actually helped you solve your problem when you needed it the most.

That is Native Advertising.

And it just seduced you into buying.

People these days (like you and me) are blind to print ads, website ads, and commercials. We are so conditioned to scroll past banners on webpages that we don’t even realize we’re doing it. We open up a magazine and go to the images of celebrities carrying their oh-so-adorable babies through the city streets. We press fast forward through television commercials. And when that’s not even an option, we hit MUTE.

Traditional advertising is becoming less and less effective.

But that’s no surprise. Content marketers have touted the demise of traditional advertising for a while now. That’s why blogging has become so popular. That’s why people write guest posts on other websites. That’s why social media is such an effective platform.

(NOTE: Social media is ONLY effective when companies use it in the right way. Relentless selling and pushing product is NOT effective on social media.)

Native advertising is the marriage of content marketing and traditional advertising.
In its most basic form, native advertising is when a business sponsors an article in a publication.

It takes helpful articles and valuable content and uses it to promote your business to an existing audience.

It’s not pushy. It’s not in-your-face. It’s pure value-based marketing.

Introducing My Latest Project

If you’ve stuck with me for some time now, you’ve probably noticed that things have been a little quieter than usual around here. That’s because I’ve started a new project to provide native advertising to local businesses in my area.

It’s called Get Vail AZ.

A little over a year ago I joined my local Chamber of Commerce. Full disclosure: I did so hoping to get offline some social interaction in my day. I work alone and things can sometimes get a little lonely.

Since my motivation to join was not fueled by trying to drum up more business (although that has been a nice side effect) I didn’t go to networking events with the sole intent of pushing my content marketing services. Instead, I did what all introverts do best. I listened.

I heard the needs of business owners. People wanted to reach Vail homeowners but weren’t quite sure how. They advertised in our local newspaper that gets distributed monthly to about 17,000 households in our area. They had a website but didn’t know much about it. They laughed at the idea of social media marketing but were fascinated by how they could make it work.

Bottom line – they were hungry for a new way to reach people and see a greater return on their advertising dollars.

I bet that sounds familiar to you. Smart business owners across the country feel the same way.

So I created a hyperlocal website specific to my area. As someone who’s always been a little bit fascinated by the journalism world, I was excited to dip my feet in this area. But instead of creating a news site, I created a lifestyle website to tap into what’s happening in my small (but quickly growing) town of Vail, Arizona.

What does this have to do with you and your business?

Native advertising opportunities are available all over the Internet. If you’re looking for a more effective way to market your business online (and not be obnoxious), find the right audience and snag your piece of real estate on that well-established website.

Sure, there’s a small fee, but it’s minimal compared to how much print advertising costs. It’s also way more effective.

By sponsoring a helpful, valuable, informative article on a website, you create instant trust with the people you want to reach. You offer a solution to the problem your audience is experiencing. In turn, you bolster your brand’s image while creating a loyal fan base.

In marketing, it’s not about you. It’s all about HELPING the people you serve. When you can make someone’s life a little bit better, everyone wins. Your company profits and your customers run away raving about how awesome you are to their friends and family… who in turn just might buy from you.

Content Marketing Lessons Learned From the Ice Bucket Challenge

Nominations are in and you’re up next! Your Facebook friend chose you to complete the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Now, you have 24 hours to dump ice-cold water over your head, donate to the ALS association, or BOTH.

It’s a phenomenon hitting social media. Everyone from celebrities and former presidents to bloggers and children has participated.

Have you?

Content Marketing Lessons From the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

I have to admit. I wasn’t always on board with this idea. Although it is clearly a phenomenon, part of me thought it was a ridiculous idea. I live in Arizona! Water here is as precious as gold. What good can come of dumping good, clean water over my head? And apparently, I wasn’t alone in this thought.

After a few weeks of standing strong opposed to the challenge, I was nominated.

My childhood friend who had no way of knowing that I was against the idea of wasting water put me in the hot seat. Never being one to turn down a challenge, I did some research.

As of August 20, 2014, the ALS Association raised $31.5 million in donations from the Ice Bucket Challenge
People who didn’t know much about the disease (if anything at all) are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of ALS.
It encourages charitable giving beyond the ALS.
This is user-generated content at its finest.

There is enough money being raised to matter. The attention drawn to the disease and the need to support charitable organizations is impressive.

As an entrepreneur, you want to make a difference too. It’s why you got into business – to fulfill a need. Although your product or service may not touch lives in the same way a charity can, there are still ways that you can make a splash (pun intended) with your user-generated content marketing.

Even if you just get a drop in the bucket (another pun!) of the same success as the ALS Association, you’ll still get more eyes on your content. Here’s what it takes:

Make it Meaningful

No matter what charity benefits from participation in the ice bucket challenge, it touches the nominee on a few different levels.

It makes her proud to donate to a worthy cause.
It allows her to share her experience with others.
It gets her involved with her social community beyond cat gifs and food porn pics.
Most people would not participate if there weren’t something meaningful behind the trend. To get your core audience involved, your content has to matter on some level.

Harness the Power of Video

People on social media love having an opportunity to get more likes, comments, and shares. It’s the nature of the platform. Video in particular personalizes the sharing experience. Getting in front of the camera to talk about a specific idea or cause adds a unique energy to the content.

Offer that same appeal using the power of video content. Encourage your audience to take a video of some kind. Get them in front of the camera sharing thoughts and ideas with you. It’ll break down barriers and immediately get them and their followers more engaged with what you offer and stand for.

Follow the K.I.S.S. Rule

The K.I.S.S. rule is, “Keep It Simple Stupid.” The harder you make it to create content, the less likely it is that your audience will participate.

With just a smartphone (which most people own these days) and a bucket of ice, you accomplish the mission. There isn’t a lot of thought or preparation that has to go into it. Better yet, the mission doesn’t require more than one person to complete.

Keeping your content as simple as possible to create eliminates excuses not to participate.

Keep It Enjoyable

Let’s be honest. Watching people shiver in shock at having a bucket of ice dumped over their head is entertaining. What’s even more entertaining are the ice bucket challenge fails… but I digress.

Fun-loving challenges are exciting to participate in and even more exciting to watch. Your audience is more likely to want to become a part of your content the more fun it is to watch.

Encourage Sharing

Once you’ve successfully dumped ice cold water over your head, you get to throw your friends under the bus. It’s the CHALLENGE part of the challenge.

Nominations are part of the fun and it forces participants to spread the love. Without this core element, the challenge would never have sparked the level of viral excitement it has.

Give people a reason to share your content. Without encouraging sharing, your audience will be far less likely to spread the love.

Have you participated in the ice bucket challenge?
In spite of my disappointment in the amount of water wasted, I participated using less water than some. I donated and then bribed my husband to take the video while I dumped the water over my head. It wasn’t bad (especially because I did it right after a very difficult workout). Visit my Facebook page to watch my overreaction to the cold.

Then, let me hear your experience! Did you participate, have fun, nominate others to take the challenge, donate? Tell me about it.

How to Keep Bad Headlines From Ruining Your Reputation on Social Media

Tell me if this sounds like you.

It’s Friday afternoon and you’re bored at work. You’re scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed to “try to find some inspiration.” You promise, it’ll only take a second. An hour later you’re still on Facebook liking a few cat GIFs, watching some video of a woman screaming as she flies through the air on an amusement park ride, and you realize… you have just wasted hours of your time.

Nothing on social media was inspirational. Nor was it worth the time you spent there.

And therein lies the problem.

Social media marketing fails because your headlines suck.
Those marketers who just tried to capture your attention and get you to their site? They failed. They did nothing to get you excited, make you feel inspired, or even give you another website, blog, article, or post to waste your time with. FAIL!

People are judgmental. Your social media followers? They’re even more judgmental. And they have every right to be. They’re letting you into their space and their private news feed. They don’t want to see your crappy headlines and irrelevant promotional posts.

But that’s the first thing that pops up in front of them. When scrolling through a newsfeed, the first thing that they see is an image and your headline. This is your one and only chance to capture their attention and get them to click through to your blog.

It all starts with your headline.

If you want more clicks, shares and likes, you’ve got to start creating better headlines. Plain and simple. I’ll help…

Here are the four basic components of any great headline.

1. There has to be a sense of urgency.

First, you need to give your reader a real reason to tune in to your article. Writing a headline that inspires a feeling of ‘I need the answer to how to do that right now’ or ‘That’s a question I’ve been dying to know the answer to, I have to know!’ will get your articles opened up more times than a boring headline with no urgency behind it.


2. You have to give a crystal clear reason why the person should click to read your stuff.

Your headline is stuffed between an image of a dog playing with a million tennis balls and a quiz to find out how Redneck a person is. It might not sound like stiff competition, but when you think about the real reason your fans and followers are on social media… it is. Your headline has to beat those other pieces out. To do that, you have to describe why you should win that battle. When you give someone a reason to click, chances are they will tune in.

3. 
Get a little bit CRAZY!

You’re unique. Embrace that! Don’t be afraid to put a little personality in your headlines. This is especially true of blog posts and eBooks. Give your audience something fun and unique to look at to encourage them to dig further into your content.

4. 
Follow through.

Is there anything worse than clicking a headline and then finding the content beneath it sucks? Rhetorical question… I know there are many worse things in life, but you get my point. 
You did the work to get the person to your website, now make them fall in love with you. Give them what they expected and then some. Blow their minds with content that’s helpful, interesting, and totally worth not taking that quiz on Facebook.

A great headline shows the reason behind your article, the specific value, your unique perspective and that there is something useful to follow.

Headline Templates You Can Steal

To help you get started writing better headlines, here is something helpful. If you ever get stuck and need a little bit of headline inspiration, try one of these basic templates. Fill it in with your details and voice and you will be good to go.

Ever Wanted ______? Here’s How You Can Get It!
Stop [emotion] About [problem] Once and For All
Quick Tricks to [solve a specific issue]
Be Proud of Your [product or service]
Are You Making These Mistakes In/With [topic you will be discussing]?
X Easy Ways to Get [something desirable]
They Said I Couldn’t _________, But Then I Did This…

Headlines are tricky, but with a little practice (and a bit of testing), you can attract more readers from social media and stick in the minds of your target audience. What is the most compelling headline you’ve seen lately?

Are You Guilty of This Copywriting Pet Peeve?

There are a lot of things that annoy me.

People who chew so loudly I can hear them on the other side of the restaurant.

  • Arrogance in any style or form.
  • Air conditioning blasting through the vents so hard that it makes you put a sweater on when it’s 110 degrees outside.
  • People saying “but it’s a dry heat” and thinking that it makes that big of a difference – 115 degrees is 115 degrees!
  • Ignorance about what’s happening in the world (would it kill you to watch the news every now and then?).
  • People who drive below the speed limit thinking that they’re making the world a better, safer place. They’re not!
  • Door-to-door salesmen. Sorry, I know you have a job to do but you set my dog off on a wild barking spree every time you ring my doorbell!

When it comes to copywriting, I’m no different. I hate seeing the word “we” splattered all over websites. And I hate boring, dry, lifeless sales copy (as if that’s going to get anyone excited to buy from you? Please!)

But there’s one new copywriting trend that’s gaining popularity among some writers and it’s irritating the hell out of me… Now, more and more copywriters are trying to mimic other successful copywriters and it’s just not working!

Stop Trying So Damn Hard!

There are a handful of copywriter pioneers who made it cute to use provocative language, cuss, and paint lewd pictures as a way of driving sales. Then there are the people who copied them…

It doesn’t work for everyone, and it SHOULDN’T work for everyone!

Just like you can see right through that creepy, voyeuristic look some used-car salesmen give you when you put your big toe on their lot, you can see through fake, disingenuous sales copy.

I get it. I will be the first to admit that when I hit a block in my writing, I look at what others are doing online for inspiration. But when I find that inspiration, I close all the windows, open a word document or good old-fashioned notebook (because yes, I’m that old-school – can you really beat putting pen to paper sometimes?) and write.

I write from my heart. I write without distraction. And I write thinking only of the person who will eventually lay eyes on the text I’m putting out there.

Psych 101

Not to toot my own horn but… I have an uncanny ability to read other people. I used to want to be a psychologist before I realized that if I wanted to make the kind of money I want to make, I’d have to spend the majority of my life in school and then the rest of my life paying back debts. I love business, so copywriting seemed like the natural fit.

Now, I use this bizarre passion for getting to know and understanding other people to help. I help buyers find the businesses they want to work with. I help small business owners make more money by looking as amazing as the product they sell. And I help myself earn a flexible living that affords me the ability to buy a good bottle of wine now and then.

What I don’t do is try to be someone I’m not.

And you shouldn’t either!

Because as soon as you start trying to be someone your not, or start using words you wouldn’t normally use in your conversation with your best friend, the world will know… and they will cringe…. and then they will sprint away from your business faster than you can say, “but wait, there’s more!”

Stop it. Just stop it.

Be who you are. Own the values you stand for (or don’t stand for). Embrace your uniqueness and then find the sides of you that will make your buyers fall head over heels in love with you so much so that you will earn the kind of loyalty you so desire.

Because really… what’s better than showing off your true colors, letting the world see you in all your glory and then making them adore you as you delight them with your wit, grace, humor and brains.

What’s your number one copywriting pet peeve? Let me hear it in the comments.