Platitudes Won’t Change Their Attitude

Platitudes are words or phrases that have become so commonplace they lack any significance, meaning, or power. These are some of the trending platitudes in today’s marketplace.

  • Robust – unless you are discussing the blend of coffee you just purchased from Caribou, no one knows what you mean by your “robust idea to gain market share.”
  • Holistic – are we talking about a well-rounded business plan or about acupuncture and herbal remedies?
  • Granular – this is how to describe the grains of sand on your favorite beach, not to explain how the level of detail in your proposal.
  • Optimize – it can be hard to get away from this term if you work in digital marketing, since it’s part of the phrase “search engine optimization.” Consider some alternatives like enhance, sharpen, and refine to liven up your lingo.
  • Leverage – we get it, you want to sound smart by using big words. Just say “use” and make everyone’s life easier by getting to the point.
    • If you’ve never heard George Carlin’s bit on “shell shock” and how our language is devolving over time, watch this: https://youtu.be/vuEQixrBKCc.
george carlin
“In the first World War, that condition was called… Shell Shock.”

Whether you are working on a new website post, putting together a direct mail piece, or scripting your next advertisement, avoid these overused terms and use plain language to most effectively get your message across.

Sources

Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Company Blog

Most businesses today understand the need for content marketing. Running a company blog is one of the easiest ways to get your message out to the world and boost your SEO. Many companies outsource this function to a third party in order to focus on their core competencies. Whether you have outside help for your company blog, or you have an internal employee managing here, there are five major pitfalls many bloggers fall in to which hinder the impact of the effort.

This article is so on-point and well-cited with perfect examples, I am just going to share it with you verbatim. Credit to Jodi Harris of the Content Marketing Institute.

Full article here: http://bit.ly/1pF55iM

Problem 1: You aren’t publishing on a consistent schedule

Great blog content should be like an eagerly anticipated gift you offer to your readers – they look forward to every new delivery and are happy to visit your site to retrieve your content as soon as it is available. But what happens when they arrive and the gift they were expecting hasn’t shown up? If you can’t keep the content engines churning or fail to deliver on the expectations you set with your blog, those readers will walk away disappointed – and may think twice about returning.

Warning signs: Consistency issues typically result from one of these two underlying problems:

  • Lack of editorial infrastructure: You haven’t set a workable schedule for creating and publishing your content or established the necessary workflow that would govern your process.
  • Lack of resources: You need more writers or more creative ideas; or you are running into productivity problems that are keeping your team from being able to bring your ideas to fruition.

Potential solutions:

  • Develop an editorial calendar: Establishing a schedule of topics you will cover and the timeline for doing so can help you set realistic expectations and keep your content creation in line with your marketing goals. These editorial calendar essentials will help get you started.
  • Brainstorm ideas to fill your content calendar: Brainstorming techniques, like this super-simple sticky-note approach, can help you break out of any creative slumps that might be derailing your content production,
  • Enlist the help of your team members for content creation: Your executives, team members, and even colleagues outside of the marketing department can be motivated to help increase your content coffers. Use these tips to make content creation a benefit – not a burden – for your fellow employees.

 

Problem 2: Your blog content isn’t unique or distinct

For your content to stand out among the competition, it needs to offer distinctive value – providing information your readers can’t get anywhere else, serving a segment of your audience no one else is addressing, or delivering on promises your brand is uniquely qualified to make.

Warning signs: If you aren’t giving your audience a compelling reason to choose your content over everything else they could be spending time with, your blog will never reach its full marketing potential. Here are some sure signs your content is going to fade into the background:

  • You don’t know what makes your brand special: You need to identify the specific ways your business is different than everyone else’s before you can create content that communicates with a signature tone, voice, or style.
  • You are targeting too broad an audience: As CMI founder Joe Pulizzi often says, if your content is meant for everybody, it won’t benefit anybody.

Potential solutions:

  • Craft your editorial mission statement: This sets the tone for all your content creation efforts by defining your unique perspective on your industry and outlining the value proposition your blog content will offer.
  • Find a new niche: If you don’t believe you can be the leading information provider in your chosen content niche, you haven’t drilled down deeply enough to find the right angle – for your blog or any other content your business offers. Struggling to find your footing? Try following Joe’s advice for creating a content tilt.
  • Get creative with your approach: Sometimes the power of a blog isn’t rooted in what you say but rather in how you say it. Look for opportunities to take your blog readers down an unexpected path, approach topics from a unique angle, or explore special interests that your brand and its fans may have in common. Check out these75 examples for a little inspiration on taking content in a novel direction.

Best practice example: Saddleback Leather

saddleback-leather-blog-story

Problem 3: Your blog is all about you – not your audience and their needs

Warning signs: Ever meet someone at a party who goes on and on about himself, without showing any interest in the people he’s talking to? If your brand is “that guy,” your readers will eventually grow tired of not being heard and look for any excuse to leave the conversation – for good.

Potential solutions:

  • Highlight ways readers can get involved in your brand, and recognize them for their efforts: Don’t just say you are interested in your readers – prove that you value their participation and feedback by responding to their comments, creating opportunities for them to contribute their ideas, and rewarding them for helping you spread the word about your business.
  • Demonstrate your understanding of their needs by addressing common pain points and providing relief: Create content with tangible value such as tips, templates, and toolkits; answer your customers’ questions; or give your audience access to other real-world solutions that will enable them to accomplish their tasks more quickly and more effectively, with your brand at the top of their minds.

Best practice example: Clean My Space

clean my space blog

Problem 4: Your content has a short shelf life or limited reach

Content can be the gift that keeps on giving – for your brand, as well as for the consumers who love it. But for this to happen, you need to know how to squeeze as much value as you can from every piece of content you create and get it into the hands of as many interested readers as possible.

Warning signs: There are a few key reasons why your blog content might be withering on the vine instead of spreading its seeds far and wide:

  • Your aren’t producing evergreen content: Trend- or news-focused content is great for illustrating your brand’s insights; but this type of content typically comes with a built-in expiration date, cutting off your potential for long-tail engagement.
  • You aren’t making it clear you want readers to speak on your brand’s behalf: If you aren’t making it as easy as possible for readers to share your content, you are making it harder for your influence to spread.
  • You publish, then move on: Content marketing isn’t for those lazy, “set-it-and-forget-it” types of businesses. It takes hard work before, during, and after you publish to make sure your content works hard to bring you success.

Potential solutions:

  • Use content curation techniques to refresh older posts: In addition to creating content on evergreen topics that have long-lasting relevance, you can also give your aging content a new lease on life through content curation. Try updating popular posts with more contemporary advice, linking to newer sources of information, including outside perspectives on the topic, or adding fresh visuals – like infographics or videos – to liven up the discussion. Then, republish the post, making sure to acknowledge – and link to – the original.
  • Enable the sharing behaviors you seek: Featuring sharing buttons, requests for comments, and calls to action in your blog posts signal to readers that you would like them to share their brand love, while helping you channel their assistance in the specific directions you desire.
  • Promote your content: Social media and email marketing are both must-have techniques for spreading the word about the content you’ve published. But if you want to extend your blog’s life span and expand its reach beyond your circle of influence, consider supporting your posts with paid promotional techniques like native advertising, promoted posts, and search ads.

Best practice example: The Buffer Blog

buffer social curation experiment

In late 2015, Buffer decided to eschew creating new blog posts for one month in favor of repurposing and refreshing content from its archives. Though some of its efforts were more successful than others, the experiment provided some invaluable insights on how to increase the payoff of every blog post.

Problem 5: You aren’t using your blog to build subscribers

Let’s face it: For your blog to be effective, it needs to help you achieve your business goals, not just boost your brand’s ego and pad your writers’ personal portfolios. Increasing subscriptions is a solid, measurable step in that direction given that the awareness and interest the blog generates now can be nurtured into long-term brand engagement and loyalty over time.

Warning signs: Why aren’t your blog readers signing up for more? Perhaps your content is getting caught up in one of these likely traps:

  • You aren’t directing readers down the path you want them to follow: It took your hard work to bring guests to your door – why would you just let them wander around aimlessly once they’ve arrived?
  • You aren’t making a compelling case for subscription: Sometimes readers need a little convincing to help them decide that your content is worth raising their hand for.
  • Your offerings are all-or-nothing: While a one-size-fits-all subscription might satisfy some enthusiastic brand fans, it could be a big turn-off to casual readers, or those who are already inundated with unread emails in their inboxes.

Potential solutions:

  • Include a call to action that directs site visitors to take the next step: Be clear as to what you want them to do and highlight the benefits they’ll receive in return. But remember, your ask doesn’t need to follow the same format every time. Considerthese alternatives to the traditional text-based end-of-post callout.
  • Offer an incentive to sweeten the deal: Give subscribers access to exclusive content, insider discounts, or other members-only benefits in exchange for their permission to connect with them more directly. You’ll be surprised at how much more willing readers may be to share their personal info when they feel they are getting something tangible in return.
  • Enable subscribers to customize the communications they receive: Just because a reader doesn’t want to hear from you every day, doesn’t mean she might not appreciate the opportunity to receive a monthly message, or hear about specific types of offers. By making your terms of engagement flexible and giving readers the power of choice, you’ll make the experience more comfortable, satisfying, and mutually beneficial.

Best practice example: Copyblogger

copyblogger-member-offers

In Joe’s most recent post on subscription goals, he mentions how Copyblogger Media founder Brian Clark leveraged a strong and loyal base of more than 200,000 targeted email subscribers to transform his humble blog into one of the fastest SaaS companies on the planet. Today, Copyblogger continues to grow that fan base by offering exclusive content resources to members who sign up via email.

Conclusion

Blogging may have low barriers to entry, but that doesn’t mean it’s an effortless path to content marketing effectiveness. Fortunately, a few small blogging hacks and helpers like the ones above can make a big difference in your brand’s potential for attracting, impacting, and activating your audience more successfully.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Infomercials are to 1984 what Long Form Advertising is to 2015

In the 80’s and 90’s, infomercials were the king of long-form advertising. The ThighMaster, the George Foreman Grill, Bowflex, and the unforgettable Richard Simmons all leveraged this novel (at the time) TV advertising strategy to stand out from the traditional :30 commercial. And it worked! Did you know the Total Gym exercise machine has achieved over $1 billion in sales!? See more of the most successful products advertised by infomercial here.

What is it about infomercials that worked? Rohit Bhargava, CEO of Influential Marketing Group, boils it down to five key points:

  1. They provide a backstory for the product and the company behind it.
  2. They demonstrate how to use the product and how it performs while being used.
  3. They incorporate long testimonials from users of the product.
  4. They include a specific offer. This offer typically includes a product bundle, increasing the perceived value of the offer.
  5. They give a strong reason to act now. “Call within the next fifteen minutes and we’ll double your discount. AND we’ll throw in a shiny add-on accessory for FREE!”

Now ask yourself, “When was the last time I sat and watched an entire infomercial?” Odds are you don’t remember the last time, if you ever have at all.

Now ask yourself, “When was the last time I let a video auto-play in my Facebook News Feed?” Odds are you’ve watched one in the last week, if not today! (This study by Business Insider is an incredibly insightful look at the data behind native Facebook video and how it is taking over YouTube for branded videos. I’ll be diving deeper into this in a later post.)

Long-form advertising has overtaken the outdated infomercial as a new way to reach consumers. The definition of long-form advertising varies greatly, but generally speaking we’re talking about a video ad that exceeds the :30 spot, or written content expanding beyond a 1,000 word count. It’s a way to differentiate your brand by breaking out of the confines of traditional media to deliver a powerful message, even if that message isn’t “call now” or “buy this.”

These are three examples of long-form video advertising I find to be incredibly compelling and visually striking:

Not only do these ads add a layer of depth to their respective brands beyond what any :30 commercial could do, the AT&T and the Nature Valley videos practically double as public service announcements!

In a society with increasingly short attention spans, it seems counter-intuitive that a longer ad will resonate with consumers. How can these mini-movies be effective advertisements when most of us spend less than 15 seconds on every website we visit?

Josh Steimle, a contributing writer for Forbes.com, takes an in-depth look into how long-form advertising is effective in his article, “Why long form content marketing works, and why it doesn’t.” There are some great case studies in here, looking at real life examples of long-form campaigns and how they outperformed previous traditional strategies.

Tips for crafting your next long-form content piece:

  • As tempting as it is, don’t sell! Tell a story, something you genuinely find interesting. You’d be surprised how many of your prospects have similar interests to you.
  • Take time on the imagery and aesthetics of the piece. It’s going to take longer to make a longer-form piece of marketing. Don’t let that scare you – it will pay off in the long run.
  • Don’t be afraid to give a “secret” away for free. Consumers crave transparency, and offering tips or advice today (even if they may be part of your “secret sauce”) will be remembered by your audience and they will come back to you in the end. I’ve shared before about Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO, where an SEO company is literally giving way their fundamental best practices for free. While this may help a few small businesses get started with SEO on their own, it much more importantly positions Moz as the thought leader in SEO. Over 1,000,000 hits to this page proves it.

Here is one last long-form piece that stuck with me from the first time I saw it shared on Facebook in 2012: Nike’s #MakeItCount video made by independent filmmaker Casey Neistat. He was hired by Nike with this simple mission: make a film about what it means to “make it count.” 14,773,800 views and counting. I think Nike got its money’s worth.

make it count