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Make Your Message Bounce With a Game of Verbal Tennis

Posted in ad copy, ads, branding, buzz, communication, conversation, copy, copywriting, corgibytes, creativity, entrepreneur, marketing, new media, pr, pr 2.0, Public relations, sales, small business, social media, writing on February 6th, 2008 by andrea – 4 Comments

tennis_racket.jpgI’m currently reading Geoff Livingston’s New Media Primer Now Is Gone (a great read for anyone seeking practical advice on how to use new media in a marketing strategy). In the introduction, Brian Solis makes a point that really got me thinking.

“Conversations are driving the new social economy…Messages are not conversations. This is where most companies and PR people fall down. People just don’t communicate that way…Markets are not comprised of audiences…This is about speaking with, not “to” or “at” people.”

I couldn’t agree more and it got me thinking – what’s the difference between a message and a conversation?

Obviously, a message is one-way communication and a conversation is not. Rather, a conversation is like verbal tennis where words and ideas bounce back and forth between both parties.

Think of it this way…

A “message” is like playing shotput. You put all your effort into forcing information forward. It’s not about having the ball returned, instead it’s about pushing as hard and far as you can. The problem with verbal shot put is that there’s little room for feedback or interaction with your customers, which increases the risk of a missed message.

Shotput is not about being accurate, it’s about using your energy to blast your message far and long. While this strategy used to work when the landscape was less competitive, the goal of communication in this new paradigm is to make your message bounce.

How to do this?

1. Statements vs. Questions - A simple way to encourage conversation is by asking a question instead of a making a statement.

Example:
Shotput: You’ll save money and time with Product X
Tennis: What would you do with an extra 30 minutes a day? Use Product X, find out, and then tell us about it!

2. Yes/No vs. Open-Ended - The type of question also determines the game you’re playing. Yes/No questions solicit short and boring responses. While traditional sales training encourages the use of questions that “will always result in a yes,” I believe consumers are smart enough to pick up on this sales tactic and quickly pack up their attention and leave when they sense its use. Opting for honest and conversational open-ended questions is a successful strategy.

Example:
Shotput: Are you looking to save money and time? Then buy Product X.
Tennis: What would you do with an extra 30 minutes a day? Use Product X, find out, and then tell us what you did! (Imagine coupling this with a prize to entice customers to submit stories)

3. Go beyond WWWWW&H - Questions aren’t the only way to get the ball bouncing. Using “feeling” verbs is a great way to encourage your customer’s imagination. Try peppering your copy with words like “imagine” or “discover” and allow your reader’s mind to soar.

Example:
Shotput: Product X will make you feel 10 years younger.
Tennis: Remember how you felt when you were 10 years younger? Imagine feeling that way again. Product X can help.

Ready to return the serve? Just write a comment below. :)

Related Links

Why Great Copy Is a Conversation, Not a Soliloquy – Dan O’Sullivan

Beware of Self Congratulatory Web Copy – Laura Bergells

Ad Copy That Attempts to Say Everything – Sometimes Says Nothing – Marc Davison

The ABC’s of Marketing Terms

Posted in advertising, branding, business, business terms, corgibytes, marketing, marketing basics, new media, phrases, pr, Public relations, sales, small business, viral marketing, word of mouth, work, writing on June 14th, 2007 by andrea – Be the first to comment

abc-blocks.jpgIn the marketing world, everyone has their own personal definitions for the various terms we run into – and I’m no different.

Here are my interpretations of various words you may run across:

Advertising – Any activity that either 1) introduces your product/service to people who have no idea who you are, or 2) reminds people who know who you are that you still exist. Also known as the Pick-Up Line.

Branding – The art and science of making an impression.

Customer – A purchaser who you try to get to 1) purchase from you again, and 2) tell their friends to purchase from you.

Dissatisfaction - The result of not meeting expectations because you either 1) overpromised during the sale and couldn’t deliver or 2) you didn’t listen to the client’s needs or 3) a situational snafu occurred and you didn’t make up for it.

Experience – The perception the customer forms while purchasing or using your product/service. Remember: Your customer’s perception is your reality.

Focus Group – A potentially unreliable way to gather information about your product/service that is better than having no data at all. Due to group psychology it’s difficult to get objective feedback. Instead, listen to and reward your clients who complain.

Guerrilla Marketing - A term originally coined by Jay Conrad Levinson that has come to mean a cheap, generally unconventional marketing technique that yields a high return on your investment (so, duh – this should be part of your campaign too!)

Headline – A pithy phrase whose purpose is to call attention to the rest of the article and have people keep reading. In reality – we are all so busy nowadays that your headline may be the only thing that is actually read.

Idea – A solution to a problem. Although they may be wacky, quirky, outrageous, abnormal or otherwise off-the-wall the goal is to be effective, not cute or crazy.

Jargon – Words specific to an industry that ignorant people use to try to make themselves seem smarter. Little do they know that using jargon in their marketing copy is a sure-fire way to confuse the heck out of their customers.

Knowledge – Complete understanding of a subject which results in the belief that everyone knows/feels what you do. Smart companies try not to be too knowledgable.

Logo – A graphic image that represents your company. Note: a logo alone is not a brand (see branding)

Marketing – A series of activities executed on a continuing basis whose goal is turning people who have no idea who you are into people who may consider purchasing from you when the time is right.

New Media – The latest craze that “all the cool marketers are doing.” Come on – there’s no pressure. Just try a blog. I swear you’ll like it. Not your style, maybe a social networking site? Uploaded video? Podcast? RSS? We’ve got a ton of new ways to get your message out now that high-speed internet is available to the masses.

Opinion – The way someone looks at the world based on their individual experiences and belief systems. Like bellybuttons (or other parts of the human anatomy) everyone’s got one and we seldom think about how it got there. In terms of marketing – it’s a good practice to listen to opinions so you can continue to improve and exceed your customer’s expectations.

Prospect – Someone who is vaguely familiar with your product or service and you are engaging in the marketing process. Also known as your date.

Quality – One way to compete – the other is price. To be effective – you can’t do both.

Referral – A sale that occurs as a result of word of mouth. Due to the high conversion rate (chance of becoming a client) it’s a smart strategy to get clients to spread the good word.

Sales – The process of turning a prospect into a paying client. First you must propose by asking for the sale, then you enter into a formal agreement where you are partners – for better or worse. Also known as the marriage.

Tactics – Techniques for turning strangers into paying clients.

Unique Selling Proposition (USP) - A statement that showcases how you stand out from your competitors. A critical component to a successful marketing strategy.

Value - The ratio between price and quality. Different for every individual at every single transaction. Sometimes, people are willing to pay more for higher quality. Other times, price is what matters.

Word of Mouth (WOM) – Exceeding customer’s expectations to the point where they run and tell all of their friends how wonderful you are.

Xenophobia – Fear of strangers. Probably a fear that marketers don’t have. (Come on, it’s an “X” – I’m scrounging here.)

You – The prominent pronoun in marketing copy. If you see “I” – it’s time for a re-write.

Zealot - A customer who is so enthused about your product or service that they voluntarily sell it to everyone they can. Smart companies work hard to keep zealots zealous.

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Andrea Morris is the Chief Idea Officer of Write Ideas Marketing and specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com

Annoying Business Buzzwords and Phrases

Posted in ad copy, ads, advertising, annyoing phrases, blog, blogging, blogs, branding, business, business terms, buzz, buzzwords, copy, copywriting, corgibytes, customer service, entrepreneur, funny, marketing, pr, Public relations, sales, slogans, small business, taglines, Uncategorized, web copy, work, writing on May 18th, 2007 by andrea – 12 Comments

annoyed-woman.jpgWhen I hear one of these phrases, a part of me cringes. Are people still talking like this? Are they listening to what they’re saying?

“We offer excellent customer service” – OK, what else do you do. Excellent customer service is standard nowadays. This phrase does NOTHING to set you apart. Plus, “excellent” is such a vague term with little metric value (see post on boastful superlatives).

“We are never too busy for your referrals.” - I would hope not – your chances of closing the deal on a referral are much higher than a cold-call. Who in their right mind would be “too busy?” Are you attempting to solicit your current clients to send you referrals with this message? If so, you might want to try mentioning how your service will be different. Maybe something like, “We treat your referrals like family.”

“This is a ‘turnkey’ solution.” - Enough of the buzzwords. They are fads. They get old. They do not make you seem smarter. Check out Scott Ginsberg’s blog for more annoying buzzwords .

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Andrea Morris is a marketing coach who specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com

Word of Mouth Advertising: Give ‘Em Something to Talk About

Posted in advertising, business, corgibytes, customer service, entrepreneur, life, management, marketing, pr, sales, small business, stand out, target market, techniques, Uncategorized, viral marketing, word of mouth, work on April 27th, 2007 by andrea – 1 Comment

Something to talk aboutEarlier this week I awoke to find my car vandalized. In the middle of the night someone smashed the windshield, stole my stereo and broke the steering column.

Stressed and frustrated I called my insurance company, GEICO. I was dreading the conversation, expecting to speak with a callous insurance agent that couldn’t care less about my situation. Although I had never before filed a claim with GEICO, I developed a preconceived expectation based on the hundreds of customer service reps I’ve been on the phone with over the years.

To my surprise, the GEICO agent (I wish I remembered her name!!!) went above and beyond.

“Ms. Morris” she said, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been with GEICO for over 7 years. Thank you for being a dedicated customer. I know you might be worried about how this will effect your premium. This is covered under the comprehensive portion of your policy and since it’s a not-at-fault claim, your premiums won’t increase. I’d be glad to help you find a body shop in your area and arrange for you to drive a rental car while your car is being worked on.”

Wow. Thank you for talking to me like I’m an actual human being and not just a number. You exceeded my expectations and now I am telling my friends.

The lesson? People will talk if you give them something to talk about.

If you meet my expectations and nothing more – I have no story.

If you are terrible and don’t meet my expectations – I will bash you.

If you are stellar and exceed my expectations – I will praise you. This is the key to Viral Marketing.

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Andrea Morris is a marketing coach who specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com

The Secret to Spectacular Writing

Posted in ad copy, ads, advertising, blog, blogging, blogs, book, books, business, copy, copywriting, corgibytes, entrepreneur, life, marketing, personal, pr, promotions, sales, slogans, small business, taglines, techniques, Uncategorized, web copy, work, writing on April 19th, 2007 by andrea – 4 Comments

Idea PaintingMany of us search for the perfect words to help sell our product or service. We tweak the recipe until we have a proprietary blend of personality and professionalism. The words jump off the page and the reader feels connected. That is great writing.

I’ve discovered a secret during my career as a copywriter and marketing coach. Toning ideas down is a heck of a lot easier than jazzing them up.

My first few projects started from a logical point of view. I wrote and edited at the same time as most people do. The words were acceptable, but they lacked that certain je-ne-sais-quoi. It needed some sparkle – but adding sparkle to swill isn’t easy.

One day I decided to give my thinking a makeover. I set a goal to find all the outrageous ideas lurking in the far corners of my brain and get them out of my head and onto my computer screen.

I decorated a piece of card stock with silly symbols and the words “JUST THINK” and covered my computer screen. Somehow the paper removed the tiny editor that sat somewhere in my head trashing ideas before they even got to the screen. Since I couldn’t see my work, all my crazy ideas (not just the logical ones) made the journey from my brain, through my fingers and onto the computer.

The result? I discovered many of the ideas that normally wouldn’t have made the cut were more effective than the so-called logical ideas. With a little tweaking and toning down I had writing that worked. The process also saved me time and was fun to boot.

So the next time you’re experiencing writer’s block try covering your screen and opening your mind. Then sit back and watch your ideas blossom.

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Andrea Morris is a marketing coach who specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com

Writing Copy that Sells – Read How You Want to Write

Posted in ad copy, ads, advertising, blog, branding, business, copy, corgibytes, entrepreneur, life, management, marketing, mistakes, pr, promotions, sales, small business, web copy, work, writing on March 27th, 2007 by andrea – 6 Comments

In today’s world of SEO & meta tags writing online copy can be an intimidating undertaking. Eastonweb’s blog has an insightful interview with Lisa Manyon as she shares her tips and tricks for writing website copy that sells. You can view the post by clicking here.

In my experience, people write like what they read. Many of my clients are insurance companies, associations and technical firms. In the initial interview we analyze why their current marketing material isn’t working. I generally hear something along the lines of “we know it’s bad but we just don’t know how to fix it.”

At this point I assure them that the “blahness” of their current copy isn’t their fault. They’re simply writing like what they’re reading. With so much marketing swill in these industries (especially with the dreaded tri-fold brochures) how could they be expected to write any differently?

If you want your copy to be effective you can either:

  1. hire a copywriter who specializes in promotional copy (insert shameless plug here) or you can
  2. start reading the work of lots of expert copywriters.

I read Lorrie Morgan-Ferraro’s Red Hot Copy almost daily and appreciate her conversational style.

Joe Robson tends to have a more to-the-point style and his website www.adcopywriting.com offers some helpful tutorials.

And if you are working with a copywriter for the web, at least ask about SEO (search engine optimization). At this point it’s almost a requirement to understand the basics of how to weave in keywords to help improve your search results.

Happy marketing.

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Andrea Morris is a marketing coach who specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com

The Pick-up Line, The Date & The Marriage – Understanding the Difference between Marketing, Advertising & Sales

Posted in ads, advertising, branding, business, copy, corgibytes, entrepreneur, life, marketing, pr, promotions, sales, small business, work, writing on March 22nd, 2007 by andrea – 3 Comments

Wedding Cake Topper - Sales is like a MarriageAsk 100 marketing professionals about what they “do” and you’ll get 100 different answers. Compound advertising & sales professionals and you end up with a big nebulous cloud of ambiguity.

In my post 101 Ways to Market Your Small Business, I make a reference to the difference between marketing, advertising & sales. Many people have asked me to expound – so here it is.

Imagine you’re a single person and you’re looking to meet that special someone. You go to your local pub since you know that there are many other eligible singles that you could get to know. The process of dating is very similar to the process of converting a cold lead into a client.

In the pub you order your favorite beverage. You notice that an eligible single next to you has done the same. You ask a pithy question to get their attention. If all goes well, you’ll begin to engage them in a conversation. This is advertising – the goal is to get someone’s attention and engage them to learn more about your product. It’s the pick-up line. If you are asking for the sale at this point it can be perceived that your pick-up line is to the effect of “Will you marry me?” In this age of consumer-driven marketing it’s important to allow your potential clients to come to the conclusion that they chose you on their own. Nobody likes to be “sold.”

Keeping with the metaphor – you’ve engaged in a conversation and now you’re ready to date. Chances are you will have to go on several dates before you feel comfortable enough to make a commitment. This is marketing – a series of activities that leads to the sale. On the dates you’ll probably:

  • Go to different places and do different activities. Your marketing mix should include diverse activities as well – grassroots/guerrilla marketing, traditional media, Public Relations, direct-mail, web & pay-per-click….the list goes on and on.
  • Ask for another date. Your marketing materials must contain a call to action – how do you want your “date” to see you again? Make sure they have your pertinent information – phone number and website is a must.
  • Be yourself. By demonstrating your true value you’re ensuring a mutually beneficial relationship where you’ll both be rewarded.

So after a few (probably many) dates you’re both ready to seal the deal and make a commitment. This is the sales process. Asking for the sale is like the proposal – it’s a critical question to ask if you want to progress to the next stage of the relationship. I once had a friend who dated a great guy for eight years and then left because he never asked her to marry him. Don’t let your prospects walk away because you didn’t ask the question. Many sales people rely on tactics to close the sale and I simply don’t believe in them – if you put your time and effort into your marketing the sale should come easy. (When’s the last time you saw a marriage proposal that had an alternative close? “So would you like to get married on April 18th or 21st?”)

If you start “dating” your prospects you will find that you form more genuine relationships and customer loyalty. From that you can start to see the added benefits of referrals and word-of-mouth advertising which is ultimately what you want. Above all, be yourself and have fun in the process. Happy marketing.

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Andrea Morris is a marketing coach who specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com