Is Your Company’s Content Cursed?

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 at 12:33 PM | Category: Content marketing, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Tech, Writing 2 comments

Hank Stroll, one of my first clients and a dear friend, would occasionally reply to my email with a chuckle telling me I’m doing what his wife does. He explained that his wife and I sometimes had a tendency to talk about something and he’d have no clue what we’re talking about. Like he entered the middle of a conversation.

“Talk to me like I don’t know anything,” he’d write.

I fell victim to the curse of knowledge. And it’s everywhere. Maybe even in your company’s content. It could be the website or content marketing stuff.

It’s more common than you think. An email newsletter columnist submitted an article about companies that made the “best of” list. Each contained a short overview of the company’s business.

Whew, boy. They all spoke the same language: marketing-speak.

I visited the companies’ websites for more information to help me rewrite them to stick with just the facts. It wasn’t surprising to see the overviews came from the website — mostly the Home or About pages. (Good thing making this “best of” list didn’t require effective content, eh?) It also didn’t surprise me that most of the content didn’t clearly communicate what they do for clients.

They all suffer from the same disease I did.

The curse of knowledge.

I believe the phrase first appeared in the October 1989 issue of The Journal of Political Economy. Here’s how authors Colin Camerer, George Lowenstein and Martin Weber of “The curse of knowledge in economic settings: An experimental analysis.” described it.

The curse of knowledge makes personal expertise seem more widely shared than it is, making it difficult for people to convey their expertise to others and reducing the apparent need (from the perspective of the better-informed individual) for such a transfer of knowledge.

They studied the impact of the curse of knowledge from an economic point of view. Chip Heath and Dan Health explained it from a business point of view in “Made to Stick.” I bet you’ve seen it or lived it.

Many sensible strategies fail to drive action because executives formulate them in sweeping, general language. “Achieving customer delight!” “Becoming the most efficient manufacturer!” “Unlocking shareholder value!” One explanation for executives’ love affair with vague strategy statements relates to a phenomenon called the curse of knowledge. Top executives have had years of immersion in the logic and conventions of business, so when they speak abstractly, they are simply summarizing the wealth of concrete data in their heads. But frontline employees, who aren’t privy to the underlying meaning, hear only opaque phrases. As a result, the strategies being touted don’t stick.

In other words, the people who wrote the content for these companies were stuck in their heads. It makes it harder to separate their knowledge from the knowledge — or lack thereof — of the people visiting their website. They knew what their company did. They forgot to consider what their target audience knows or didn’t know.

This wasn’t a simple problem of using jargon and abbreviations. It was a problem of explaining what they do to someone who had never heard of the company. All of these were business-to-business professional services companies. (Noticed I skipped using B2B or BtoB?)

Although I work with B2B clients, not everyone reading this knows what it means. Yes, it’s common to me. Nonetheless, I still remember when I read it for the first time — and I’d like to think I read a decent amount of business articles — I didn’t know what it meant. Not just the abbreviation, but also what it means to be a B2B company.

Another example. A fan of a client’s product advised not using certain terms to describe the client’s technical app for consumers. What he didn’t realize is that most of the client’s target audience know, need and use those terms. If we use the app fan’s suggested terms, people will never understand what the app does. And they’d never find the company because they wouldn’t use those search terms.

Simple test to see if your content suffers from the curse of knowledge:

Have a family member or a friend read it.

Yes, even if they’re not your target audience. They can tell you if it makes sense or not.

Thanks to Hank, I learned early on to think about what the reader may or may not know. That doesn’t mean I’m 100 percent cured of this disease. I don’t think I’ll ever be. It’s impossible to escape my own head. (Dagnabbit.)

What do you think of the bolded text? Or do you prefer headings? Personally, I prefer the latter. However, some folks say they prefer bolded sentences and phrases.

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A Content Marketing Fail That Doesn’t Have to Happen

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 at 9:16 AM | Category: Content marketing, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog 3 comments

As we planned to move back to Texas and buy our first home, Paul (rockin’ better half) and I decided to start fresh. We sold most of the furniture we had at our place in Washington, D.C. Although our new home was barren for a while, one of the first things we shopped for was a bedroom set.

I always liked the one my parents had that came with shelves and a built-in reading light. We found something similar, but excitement turned to disappointment when the furniture arrived. The set was fine as it was what we expected.

It was the color that was wrong. Since the floor sample was dark brown wood (the color of our D.C. furniture and we were darn tired of it!), we had to rely on a list to find out the other available wood colors and we chose a milk wash. I figured it’d be natural wood with a mix of white and blonde wood colors. Instead, the set had artificial-looking milk wash paint. We kept the set because it had everything except the right color. We searched all over the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex before making our decision and didn’t want to look again.

With businesses planning to increase content marketing efforts, they need a plan to ensure they deliver the right content to the right people at the right time.

Content Marketing Fail

A marketing company put me on its mailing list after I downloaded a free ebook or something. No surprise. The kicker was the email I received from the company a couple of months later.

Subject line: “Next Tuesday or Thursday.”

I see that you’ve demonstrated recent interest in our [product]. In order to help you discover how [company name] can benefit you, I’d like to setup a 15-minute call to go over your current marketing environment.

I can then make specific recommendations as to how [company] can drive [benefit].

Would you be available next Tuesday at 10am PST or next Thursday at 1pm PST? If not, is there another time that works best for you?

I was shocked. Really. This email was asking too much too soon. I knew I hadn’t taken the right actions to arrive at this point in the company’s sales cycle.

The company lost my trust and respect. I won’t recommend its products. I return to the beginning of the sales cycle since the company has to regain my trust. While marketing automation can be powerful, this company clearly didn’t map the process.

Four Common Content Marketing Fails

Here are some content marketing fails that can be avoided:

  1. Serving up the wrong content at the wrong time.
  2. Creating headlines and subject lines promising one thing and delivering something else.
  3. Publishing content that leaves readers thinking: So what? What was the point of that? What did I gain from this? Thanks for wasting time I don’t have.
  4. Using a photo with a headline that doesn’t match what appears when people click through to the landing page.

Bryan Eisenberg shares great examples of broken marketing. Like he says, this is basic stuff that can be avoided. Before creating and publishing any content, ask yourself if it’s relevant and matches expectations. What can you do to set clear expectations? The furniture store could’ve done that by providing small samples of the wood.

And yes, we still have the bedroom set.

Share a time when you got something different from what you expected. What other ways do companies fail to match expectations in content marketing? Thanks for posting your thoughts in comments and sharing this article.

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Content Marketing Taken Over by Zombies

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013 at 4:32 PM | Category: Business, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 5 comments

Newspaper Zombie 221x300 Content Marketing Taken Over by ZombiesZombies are in. I think its popularity started with PopCap Games’ “Plants vs. Zombies,” which took up many hours of what little free time I had. Now, I wasn’t the likely candidate to be a fan of the game because I’m so not a fan of horror. Yet PopCap created a cute and fun game.

Yes, I said cute in referring to a game with brain-eating creatures. C’mon. It has a dancing zombie with backup dancers. Admit it. That’s cute.

Zombies Everywhere

That’s the extent of my interest in zombies. I will not read “World War Z.” I will not view its movie. And I will not check out “The Walking Dead” no matter how many folks rave about it. I didn’t even want to check out “Under the Dome” knowing its author was Stephen King. (I read the reviews that said it wasn’t horror. Instead of the horror thing, I feared being left hanging. Sure ‘nough, it wasn’t horror and they friggin’ left us hanging!)

Anyhoo.

“But, Meryl! I don’t like horror either and I love the show,” friends said.

Thank goodness I have a trusty husband in Paul. I sent him on a dangerous mission: Watch “The Walking Dead” alone and report back.

He did. The man knows me better than I do. (Mostly.) Paul advised against watching it and explained why. He was right. Me no likey.

Like the popularity of “The Walking Dead,” marketers have jumped into content marketing in growing numbers like the multiplying zombies in “World War Z.”

Missing: Content Marketing Brains … If found, please contact your local marketer

Based on evidence of the quality of content — or lack thereof — out there … some marketers let the content marketing trend guide them rather than their brains. (Maybe zombies got to them.)  Like anything that catches on, folks hop on without giving a thought whether it’s the right thing, or doing any planning.

That’s happening with content marketing.

And a lot of content marketing is crap. (Please excuse my rare cussin’. This still calls for it.) Not only is it crap, but also it’s delivered to the wrong folks, at the wrong time, in the wrong place or all of the above.

Or they’re not doing true content marketing. They’re selling. Just look at these stats Steve Olenski found and shared in The Catastrophic Social Media Content Marketing Mistake Marketers Are Making.

Econsultancy Main Objectives for Paid Digital Media Sept20131 Content Marketing Taken Over by Zombies

Here’s his explanation why this is catastrophic:

It means that marketers are putting more emphasis on selling than they are at establishing relationships with consumers via branding.

It means that marketers would rather try and sell you something than say tell you a story.

It means that marketers are only in “it” to increase their bottom line.

What Content Marketing Really Is

Per the last bullet — Olenski knows the whole point is to make money for the business. He explains:

When I am asked for my definition of content marketing, I usually include the phrase “guns blazing” as in “you cannot go into a relationship and maintain a relationship with a consumer guns blazing. You have to engage, relate to, share relevant content with your audience and yes integrate your ‘guns’ AKA your product, into your overall content marketing strategy.”

It cannot be sell, sell, sell at every single turn.

And Michael Brenner makes these points about the future of content marketing:

Quantity content WITH Quality to support the growing information needs of our customers.

Brands will resemble publishers and assemble newsrooms and hire or train journalists who can tell stories and contribute to major publications.

Sponsored stories. Brands will continue to create more quality sponsored content that is buyer-centric and that removes the brand from the story. (Emphasis mine.)

Content length will continue downward as our real-time, mobile world seeks smaller, more “snackable” and more “shareable” content.

Good quality is always a must. But the rest of it (quantity, what to provide, etc.) depends on target market *needs*. Brenner reaffirms what Olenski said. I applaud his last point about content length. I don’t care how great a story someone tells. I rarely read a 2,000-word story. (Not counting books, of course.) I disagree with folks who say that a person should use as many words as needed to tell a story. Some publications can get away with it — and that’s because they know their audience and deliver what they crave.

Even though a lot of content is crap, there’s still a lot of it out there and some of it valuable. I’d rather have a buffet of content in small portions than eat one dish and get bored with it.

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This Content Marketing Hazard Can Hurt Your Company’s Credibility

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 at 9:40 AM | Category: Business, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 4 comments
grape jelly geode This Content Marketing Hazard Can Hurt Your Companys Credibility

Ginormous “grape jelly” geode with amethyst crystals

My husband Paul and I finally took our sons to the much-lauded Perot Museum of Science and Nature. Lane, the new high schooler, wasn’t thrilled about going. (“Why did I have to come?” Grumble, grumble.) He’d rather stay home and play video games. His younger brother Zachary, the bookish one, couldn’t wait.

I didn’t have high hopes that Lane would find an exhibit he’d like. You know teens. They make up their minds they don’t want to do something and stick with it. The three of us went our merry way checking out the interactive exhibits with Lane tagging along. At the end of the day, Paul reported the gems and minerals (read: rocks) exhibit captivated our teen son. He’s always been fascinated with rocks. Every time he’d go to the museum with Grandma, he’d come home with a couple of rocks. (We also let him buy one — much, much smaller than the 5 1/2-foot one in the photo. — more like five centimeters.)

You have to applaud the museum curators. Unlike many businesses, museums have a broad target audience as people of all ages and backgrounds visit. They serve single adults, married couples with no kids, seniors. The whole gamut. Yet they curate exhibits to ensure visitors have at least one that grips them. The curators pulled off a biggie in finding one for the pickiest, disinterested teen.

Danger! Watch Out for the Crap Content Avalanche

Sharp content curators are like museum curators. They think of their audience when they curate and select resources. We may not be creating content from scratch, but it takes as much time and effort panning for in the massive content mine since content marketing became the hottest thing. Content marketing has been around for a long time. It didn’t have a fancy name until now. Props to Hank Stroll, one of my first clients, for introducing me to the secret of sharing valuable — not promotional — content in 2001. (Not a typo.)

Folks realize that content marketing works when done right (they forget about the “when done right” part), so everyone does it and most without creating a strategy. That’s why we’re flooded with content that provides zero, zilch, zippo value.

Because of this, most of the time when we click an interesting link, we hit crap. (Sorry for cussing — it’s the best word.) The biggest danger to content marketing is the load of crap content.

Insanity! Retweeting Blind

Dan Zarella explains part of the problem in New Data Indicates Twitter Users Don’t Always Click the Links They Retweet. He says that 16 percent of the tweets with links resulted in more retweets than clicks. In English: folks retweeted a tweet with a link without checking out the link! Yikes! These folks share unchecked links, and some could lead to tasteless or spammy content. (It has happened enough that I encountered malware.)

Why retweet without checking the link first? No one can judge content based on the painstakingly crafted titles or deceptive descriptions accompanying the links. Good social media citizens don’t waste people’s time with lousy resources.

Stop! Nix the Content Assembly Line

So what can we do about it?

Easy!

Stop. Creating. Crap. Content.

Stop spewing article after article, report after report, white paper after white paper like an automaton.

Isn’t your inbox flooded with email offers? You know the free e-book, free report, free webinar,  free here, free there, free everywhere. Free don’t mean a thing if the content ain’t got that swing.

I bet you’ve downloaded a lot of those complimentary offers and opened few. I have. They collect e-dust until it comes time to do a little file cleaning. Then I go Cyberman all over them and delete, delete, delete them. (Yes, I’m a “Doctor Who” fan.) The company producing the content also loses credibility.

Many well-known (and somehow respected) websites generate content with slick titles that mesmerize you. Yes, we writers all have off days. Me included. Nonetheless, these websites did it too often and onto my “don’t visit list” they went. Fool me once, I’ll give you a couple more chances. Fool me six-ish times, kiss my clicks and eyeballs goodbye.

Help! How Do We Build Great Content?

Think of the content process like a journey not the destination. A leisurely route not a shortcut. A marathon not a sprint.

Creating content that’s worth reading is only half of the success formula. Doug Kessler did a bloody fabulous job with the Six Principles of Great Content Brands. This rounds out the rest of the content success formula.

6 Ways to Build a Great Content Brand (the short version):

  1. Be the buyer. Know your prospect inside out (with clothes on).
  2. Be authoritative. Because beneficial and fascinating beat fluff, unless it contains marshmallows.
  3. Be strategic. Create a content strategy so you deliver the right content, to the right folks in the right place at the right time.
  4. Be prolific. Tap great writers and designers. (My fave, of course.)
  5. Be passionate. Great content is contagious when you care. (This post … yes?)
  6. Be hard on yourself. Rewrite, nix, exterminate and delete until you produce hot piping content goodness.

Content oughta be a great virus so that when we click links, they lead us to tasty content worth gobbling down. Meanwhile, I shall keep on curating through the mountain of crap for the diamonds worth sharing in the museum of social media. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find some winners for those finicky Lanes.

What do you think of content marketing? What does it take to succeed?

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Why Relevancy Matters in Content Marketing

Thursday, July 11th, 2013 at 11:38 AM | Category: Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog 1 comment

Like most of you, I rarely pay attention to commercials. (What about during the Super Bowl? Nah. Not too interested.) I zip through them. (Thank you, DVR!) If I can’t skip the commercials, I use the time to catch up on reading or play Fairway Solitaire (darn you, Gutsy McDivot!) on my phone. But then I caught a woman talking with her hands. Stop. Rewind. Play. As a deaf person, I couldn’t help but be interested in what Mary had to say.

This speaks volumes about relevancy, or lack thereof. As you watch the video, think about what type of company could be behind it. (The video has subtitles, but you can jump to the script.)

What did you think when you found out the company? Watching this made me think about bullying and how deaf folks want to be viewed as a person like everyone else. Maybe it was a public service announcement or an ad for a nonprofit organization.

It took three views before I could remember the company behind the ad. First time, I couldn’t recall. Second time, right type of business, but not the name. Third time, I wrote it down.

Mary said that people who are deaf want to have friends and be treated with respect. Agreed. And then what? It had no closure, no real point. How was this relevant to viewers and the advertiser’s business? Buy insurance, get friends and respect?

Relevance isn’t just about the audience. There needs to be some connection between the content and the business. This video showed how the lack of relevancy made it harder to remember the company.

Granted, the company attempted to tell a compelling story … but the story didn’t go anywhere, showed no connection to the business and failed to be relevant to the audience.

This video reiterates the importance for marketers and advertisers to create content that’s valuable and relevant to their business and, most importantly, to their target market. An Ascend2 “Email Marketing Strategy Outlook Report” survey says that most effective tactic to achieve email marketing objectives is “creating relevant and compelling content.” And yet it’s also the most difficult tactic to execute.

Why does it matter? When something isn’t relevant, it won’t connect with the audience and be memorable. It also affects a company’s reputation. Content marketing is rife with examples of irrelevancy.

What did you think of the ad? Can you recall a time when you came across something that was not relevant to you? What other ways do companies fail to be relevant? Please let me know your thoughts in comments. Love hearing from y’all!

Video script

My name is Mary and this is my aha moment.

I think we spend too much time fingerpointing and saying, “Oh, that’s their problem.” It’s just so awful.

Deaf people are just like people who can hear. They want a family, they want friends, they want the opportunity to go out and experience various things and they want respect.

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The Trouble with Tribble-ish Content Marketing

Thursday, June 6th, 2013 at 8:53 AM | Category: Content marketing, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Social Media, Writing 3 comments

star trek kirk tribbles 300x221 The Trouble with Tribble ish Content MarketingBack in 2001, I connected with a fellow from InternetViZ and interviewed him about email marketing. A few months later, a client closed his business. It was one of the primary sources of my writing income. That taught me the importance of having a variety of clients instead of one or two that make up the bulk of your income.

Discovering content marketing

I came to a crossroads in my writing career where I had to decide whether to get more business or let it wither away and be a corporate woman for life. Not wanting to give up, I started writing an email asking people if they needed writing support to help their business.

While writing this (I still remember it as if it happened yesterday. And goodness knows I’ve written many emails.), my stomach knotted and I debated whether to do this. Finally, after re-reading the message many times, I hit “Send.” (Good thing Gmail and its “undo” feature didn’t exist or it may not have made it.)

Gulp.

The fellow responded and connected me with his business partner, Hank Stroll of InternetViZ. I’ve worked with Hank ever since. (He’s in Minn. and me in Texas. We met in person in 2007 and it was like old times. Still is.)

Little did I know he would launch my career in content marketing long before this fancy name came about. He figured it out — before most people did — that companies could better connect with clients and prospects through email newsletters and valuable content instead of marketing their stuff.

The content marketing secret’s out

Now every marketer is in on the secret and trying to churn content. (A lot of content is crap.) Multiplying like the “Star Trek” Tribbles. Even as a writer for more than 10 years, I get stumped for fresh ideas. How many articles have you seen that give you ideas for content? Zillions.

I blog less often than I should. However, I’d rather not blog than recycle something that others have said many times, many ways. Like “Green Eggs and Ham” — these articles have been delivered on a boat, with a goat, in the rain, on a train. OK, more like in a blog, on a SlideShare, in a video, in a tweet.

Finding a fresh take on popular content topics

So how do you provide a fresh take on a popular topic you need to cover? Yes, there’s a catch. It means reaching a smaller audience.

The secret: Write about the topic with a specific focus.

Let’s say you need to write about content marketing. Here’s how you’d get specific:

  • 7 Ways B2B professional services companies can use content marketing.
  • How content marketing boosts your luxury car dealership.
  • Content marketing lessons from a information technology research firm.
  • Is content marketing worth it for the oil and gas industry? Yes!
  • Team up marketing automation software with content marketing.
  • 5 ways to promote your tech support services with content marketing without sounding like an ad.

You get the idea. True, not many people will seek articles on oil and gas and content marketing. The magic comes in feeding search engines by having the keywords in the headline and link, such as http://www.rockingB2Bprofessionalservices.com/blog/7-ways-b2b-professional-services-companies-use-content-marketing.html (This is a fake link. Any resemblance to real links, living or rotted, is purely coincidental.)

It may not mean much traffic for the article. (This is where social media rocks. Link to the article from social media and email newsletters.)

This link  boosts keyword power for “b2b professional services” especially if the company’s other content uses those keywords in other blog posts and page headlines. While few may search for “b2b professional services content marketing,” “b2b professional services” in the headline and link pump the site’s keyword muscle.

This narrow focus content approach …

  1. Lets you produce fresh content for your website. (Search engines <3 that.)
  2. Strengthens keyword power for your site.
  3. Allows you to give away your expertise for free — which builds credibility and trust.

“But, Meryl. Doesn’t adding keywords like this come across as phony and smart search engines will catch on to such tricks?”

As a writer, I’m more sensitive to keyword fakery in web content. You probably have lots of stories you can tell about your business. Turn your story into an example and those keywords will fit naturally. Don’t force it. Just write conversationally. Edit and tweak. Repeat. (Not too many times, though!)

Watch self-mentions

One more suggestion: Skip mentioning your company, product or service in these articles.

Competitors and fans of competitors won’t link to your article. In searching for articles on niche topics for clients, most of the good ones mention the company, product or service. While a competitor or its fans may not want to link at all, they may be more willing to share because it’s important to them to be a trusted resource. (Great article on this: Why You Should Link to Your Competitors.) When an article promotes something, then that’s a little much.

How do you find content ideas that have been rehashed many times?

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Connect with Clients and Prospects with a Well-Designed Email Newsletter

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 at 3:38 PM | Category: Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog 1 comment
colors Connect with Clients and Prospects with a Well Designed Email Newsletter

Image from sxc.hu user mmagallan

A 2011 MerchantCircle.com survey of over 8,000 US local business owners found email marketing cited by 35.8% as a “Top three most effective marketing or advertising method.” Likewise, the 9th Annual Merchant Survey (2010) conducted by The E-tailing Group asked merchants to list which initiatives they would be using to improve website performance. 79% chose “send more targeted email” as the top answer. No other marketing tool gives you direct interaction with clients in a platform that incorporates graphic design, valuable content, web links, and incentives like an email newsletter does.

Done right, email marketing can have a strong, positive impact on your business. Here are the strategies to ensure your email newsletter is as effective as possible.

Share great content. This is the bread and butter of effective email marketing because interesting, appealing, and humorous content compels your clients and prospects to read your e-newsletter and visit links. It takes time to produce good content, so don’t wait to pull it together at the last minute. Create a project folder for your newsletter so that you can add a new picture, feature story, or content idea whenever ideas come to you you.

Headlines and top stories don’t have to be related to your business. In fact, fun anecdotes, inspirational quotes, product reviews, pro-tips, and even editorial copy is more likely to engage your readers initially and keep them on the page. You can sell your product or service later, but try to make the first impression and subject line as intriguing as possible. Consider capitalizing key words, mentioning deals, or using friendly copy in the subject line to lure readers to open your email.

Many businesses will recycle content week after week for e-newsletters. Be wary of this, as sending emails too frequently with stale information or too many graphics will quickly lead to a rush of unsubscribes. If you must re-use content, take the time to paraphrase or rewrite your content so that it stays fresh.

Engage readers by asking for their help. This can be as simple as voting in an online poll, filling out a survey, or asking for product reviews or testimonials. You’ll e amazed how quickly your readers will offer up their time when prompted. Reader reviews and testimonials are invaluable for new businesses, and also make for great copy in subsequent newsletters. Getting readers to interact with your newsletter is the best way to make sure they open it every time.

Remember to provide links. One of the biggest assets of email marketing is the ability to dispatch web traffic. Offer links back to your website, specifically to new products or services, or to valuable areas of your site. This is your opportunity to directly stimulate web traffic. Include links to events, social media pages, and other sites if they will return the favor for you.

Sign up for other email newsletters. Any newsletter designer or graphic artist will tell you to always do your homework before designing. Sign up for competitors’ newsletters. Read them every week. Notice what works and what doesn’t. Check out graphic design styles, determine what you like, and then integrate that into your design. Pay attention to email marketing trends and consider how you can use them to your advantage.

Check your statistics from previous newsletters. Most email newsletter providers have reports and stats to allow you to see how many impressions and clicks your email received. This is important information. You can find out which headlines and links got more clicks, and apply that intelligence to upcoming emails. You may be surprised to see that a fun fact or product review got more attention than a coupon or featured deal.

Make sure you seek lots of feedback before pressing “send.” The preview button is there for a reason! Send a test email to associates, friends, and business partners to get their feedback on your design — then apply them. Your email is a reflection of your business, so make sure it’s just right. Avoid typos and grammatical errors costs and verify all data is correct to avoid ever sending a “corrections” blast.

AnitaBrady Connect with Clients and Prospects with a Well Designed Email NewsletterIf you take the time to create powerful and valuable newsletters, email marketing can be a winning tool for your business. When your clients and prospects look forward to your emails, your newsletter is a lot more likely to get the impressions you want, and stay out of the trash folder.

About the author: Industry veteran Anita Brady is the President of 123Print.com, a provider of high quality customizable items like business cards, letterhead and other materials for small businesses and solo practitioners.

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Is Content Finally Getting Respect?

Thursday, December 29th, 2011 at 9:27 AM | Category: Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Social Media 1 comment

pharaoh dma Is Content Finally Getting Respect?After a successful four-city tour, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs returned for three-city encore tour. The Dallas Museum of Art was one of those stops. I received an email from my cousins in Austins who planned to come to town for the exhibition. We set it up, reserved the tickets and had a memorable experience. (Yes, I remember my sons complaining. This cropped photo had my family, but only my daughter and husband cooperated.)

It had been over eight years since I last visited the museum for the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition. When I finally visited Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth for the first time, it took a traveling exhibit to get me there.

Notice a pattern here? I visited the museums when there was fresh, temporary and interesting content.

Like my never visiting a museum for its static exhibits, how often do you visit a company’s static website? What connects you with a company? Fresh, informative content.

Content Marketing

I found this old post on undervaluing content. In reading it, I think attitudes toward content have finally changed and it has a name: content marketing. Truth is, content marketing has been around for a long time, it just didn’t have a fancy name.

Content marketing involves creating content to engage customers and prospects, to earn their trust you and to get them to take action. You have to keep it coming or else customers forget about your company.

Blogging. That’s content marketing. Emails. Yep. Webinars. That, too. Tweets, Facebook updates and LinkedIn statuses. Yep, yep, yep. It includes newsletters, white papers, special reports, articles, podcasts and videos.

And the cool thing is that any of the content available online attracts search engines. Customers seek information. They need answers. Those answers can be found in content.

Marketing in Disguise

You may be thrown by the use of “marketing.” Content marketing isn’t focused on promoting a company’s products and services. If you constantly sell to them, they won’t come back for more. Content needs to offer value, otherwise how can you earn prospects’ trust? We also buy from people we like. Content helps customers get to know you. As you keep delivering useful content, customers drop another objection that blocks the sale.

Someone asked me if I knew of any way to automate original content. That’s one thing technology can’t do. Even if it could, would it share stories? Make it interesting? Add humor? Content automation sounds like dry content that will tell you everything about a topic without personality.

You don’t need to create content from scratch every time. Turn the contents of your white paper into a video, a blog post, a LinkedIn status update. I bet you can find a great sentence in there that would make a nice tweet.

Companies have it easier today. Instead of trying to reel people in to their websites, they go where they are in social media.

What do you rely on for content marketing? How do you connect with customers and prospects?

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