How To Create Marketing Content That Sells


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Find out how to make yourself perfectly clear by creating highly-effective, compelling content that will call your readers to action.

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How To Create Marketing Content That Sells

  1. 1. Amanda O’Donovan + 1 416 456 3859 How to Create Marketing Content that Sells | powerful | persuasive | communication |
  2. 2. Creating Compelling Content Communication involves the transfer of information between people. When the message remains intact, communication is highly effective. When the message is muddled, it will be ignored or misinterpreted. This guide will show you how to navigate the most common communication hurdles, and make yourself perfectly clear. 2 Contents ¨ Out-House or In-Source? either way, make sure you understand the process ¨ Targeting the Message guesswork is no substitute for research ¨ Copy that Resonates get emotional and show them you care ¨ Do I make Myself Clear? keep things simple ¨ Case Studies create a sense of community and demonstrate success ¨ Whitepapers establish thought leadership and share insights ¨ Web does the message change with the medium? ¨ 12 ways to Improve Your Communication takeaway tips for effective writing ¨ Food for Thought real-life copy horrors ¨ At the End of the Day steer clear of clichés ¨ Power Talk money-making words and phrases Amanda O’Donovan + 1 416 456 3859 | | © 2008 
  3. 3. Out-House or In House In-Source? Whether you do it yourself or engage the services of a writer, you need to understand the process involved. Discussion, interviews, research and source documents play an important role in producing clear, consistent, compelling messages. 3 ¨ A Balance of Time, Budget and Expertise Good communication takes time and costs money. It must also respect deadlines and budgets. Spend your time and money wisely, and be sure you know where to locate your source information. n What are my strengths? Play to your own and engage others for their expertise. n Can I afford the time? Spend your time wisely, where you make the most impact. n What are the hidden costs? Don’t miss valuable new business opportunities by taking on too many roles. n Who is the subject matter expert? Whether you’re collecting content from multiple contributors or providing the information yourself, consider bringing in an editor to give your message pace, interest and a common voice. ¨ A Collaborative Process When you outsource, you’re creating a collaborative project between yourself, the writer and the content providers. Discuss the purpose of the piece, its audience and key messages. If you’re coordinating content, ensure that each contribution supports your central message. n Research, write, test, edit and proof Discuss these stages with your writer and build in time to accommodate each one. n Outsourcing takes time Engaging a writer is more than a handoff. You’re in this together. n Editing isn’t a quick fix Editing an existing piece can often take as long as creating it from scratch. Remember that an outside contributor needs to understand your business, your audience and the purpose of your message. n End results reflect briefing quality The better you brief, the sharper the results. Make sure that you’re clear about the message you want to convey and can direct the writer to the people and the data that will support it. Amanda O’Donovan + 1 416 456 3859 | | © 2008 
  4. 4. Targeting the Message If you don’t know who you’re talking to, and what’s on their mind, you will be wasting your time, energy, money and message. Guesswork is no substitute for research. 4 ¨ Get to Know the People you Want to Reach n Ask your peers. n Survey the market. n Speak to your employees, partners, suppliers and clients. n Visit websites, chat forums, seminars, tradeshows. ¨ Who are They, and What are They Thinking? Unless you understand your audience, you can’t begin to know where there’s a need for your products or services. When you aim for the right target, your message will hit home, instead of the trash. As a result, you’ll be able to continue an intelligent ‘conversation’ with your prospects and clients. n Where are they from? Don’t go global if your market is local. n What are their responsibilities? Make sure you’re talking to the decision-maker. maker. n What are their goals? Look to the future and see if you’re both heading in the same direction. n Can they describe the pain? Before you can heal it, you have to feel it – think problems, not products. n What do they fear, and what do they hope for? Tap into fears and aspirations, so you can align your products and services with emotional drivers. Amanda O’Donovan + 1 416 456 3859 | | © 2008 
  5. 5. Copy That Resonates Get emotional…because most buying decisions aren’t entirely logical. Your copy needs to connect with your audience in a way that encourages action. Think about healing the pain, not flaunting your features. 5 ¨ Show Them you Care n Ask questions When you create a conversation, you suggest you’re looking for a long long-term relationship. n Empathize with the pain And show them that other people feel it too (case studies). n Uncover the passion Identify a collective passion and demonstrate that you share it. People like to buy when there’s a common connection. n Describe a brighter future If you can demonstrate how tomorrow will be better, your audience is more likely to share your optimism. n Explain what’s different or better Be crystal clear about why your offering stands out from the crowd. n Highlight your generosity when something’s FREE Human nature loves something for nothing. Shout about it, but exercise caution around Spam Filters. ¨ It’s not all About you n They’re not passionate about product features Passion and emotion go hand in hand. Only a select few get excited about product features. That’s usually a conversation for later in the sales cycle, or deeper into your website. n What can your clients expect from you? How fast do you deliver? Can you offer advice and support? n Will it be cheaper, easier, quicker, less painful? Whatever you are offering, it’s always relative to something else. Be clear about the advantages of picking your product. Amanda O’Donovan + 1 416 456 3859 | | © 2008 
  6. 6. Do I Make Myself Clear? Good communication is about clarity. Too often we try to be clever but appear obscure. Complex, abstract sentences littered with acronyms make it look like you’re hiding something. Keep things simple, without being simplistic, and your message will come across loud and clear. 6 ¨ Know what you want to say Plan before you start to write. Why are you writing and what action do you want the reader to take? ¨ Be economical Remove anything that doesn’t add information: Replace… “Dear Valued Customer. We would like to aid you in the discovery of a solution. To assist us in this process, please let us know what difficulties have been experienced by your company”. With…“We’d like to help you. Please describe your problem.” “We’d ¨ Write as if you’re talking to your reader If you wouldn’t say it face-to-face, don’t say it at all. Remember, it’s a conversation. face, ¨ Avoid jargon and empty phrases Ongoing, hands-on, leading-edge, mission-critical, core competencies, groundbreaking, global basis, taking critical, ownership. Overused jargon and phrases become meaningless. (We’re all guilty)! ¨ Spell out acronyms Don’t assume your reader understands them, so offer the full version the first time it appears in your document. ¨ Don’t be passive These sentences contain more words , are impersonal and convey less information: Replace…“An email was sent to all employees.” With… “Rebecca sent all employees an email.” ¨ Stay active by using verbs If your copy contains lots of words ending in ‘-ion’, you’re using too many nouns. Verbs are more dynamic, ion’, powerful and specific: Replace… “The responsibility for the delegation of this sales training implementation lies with Andrew Dancovic.” With…“Andrew Dancovic will ask Simon Truscott to implement the sales training.” “Andrew ¨ Get personal Don’t be afraid to refer to your company as “we” and address your audience as “you”. It shows you stand behind what you say, and value your customer as an individual. Replace…“The company invites its clients to download a free whitepaper from the website.” “The With… “We invite you to visit our website to download your FREE copy of our whitepaper.” Amanda O’Donovan + 1 416 456 3859 | | © 2008 
  7. 7. Case Studies A case study brings your marketing messages to life by using real examples of clients who already benefit from using your products or services. The reader should identify with the people and situations your story describes, make the connection between your expertise and his/her problem, and be inspired to take action. 7 n Confirm your goals If your success story is going to steer the reader in the direction of your products and services, you must be clear about its purpose. What strengths do you want to promote? What action do you want the reader to take? n Do your homework Before you conduct the client interview, examine the story from as many angles as possible by talking to people in your organization. Their insight and experience may take you in a different direction. n Steer the interview Prepare notes that will keep both you and your subject on track during the interview. Remember your goals, and bring the conversation back to base when it wanders. n Ask open questions Some people will talk too much and you’ll need to distil the most valuable information later. Others will be busy or distracted and you may need to feed them suggestions. For best results, ask questions they can’t answer with a simple “yes” or “no.” n Write as if you’re telling a story: n Introduce the characters n Outline the problem n Summarize your response n Underline the benefits n Describe the future Amanda O’Donovan + 1 416 456 3859 | | © 2008 
  8. 8. Whitepapers Whitepapers are an effective tool for collecting leads, establishing thought leadership, demonstrating your understanding of the marketplace and closing sales. Many companies also use them as a fulfillment piece. Whitepapers should focus on the needs of readers, contain key educational content and attract attention with an enticing title. Typical content might include: 8 n Executive summary Despite your hard work, some people will never read the whole of your document. Make it easy for them to absorb your key messages. n Market drivers and challenges Describe what forces and hurdles are shaping the business environment you’re describing. The reader may not yet have acknowledged or understood the lay of the landscape. n Historical overview Fill in the background by explaining how the marketplace got where it is today. n Models for a successful outcome Describe the types of products or services that respond to the problems the reader is facing. This is your opportunity to compare, contrast and position competitive offerings. n The anatomy of an ideal solution Although some whitepapers confine themselves to highlighting significant trends and technologies, many now also include product recommendations. Use this final section to convince your readers of the benefits of your product or service. Depending on your audience, you may choose to combine the talents of a subject matter expert and an editor, or do your own research, drawing from a variety of different sources. n Do the research This may be the toughest and most time-consuming part of your job. The reader is looking for an education. Make consuming sure you get your facts straight. n Consult the experts If your subject matter is highly technical and not yet widely discussed, consider engaging an expert to draft your document. n Create an outline and seek approval Don’t leave it to the last page to find out if you’re on the right track. n Include 3rd party validation People will be more inclined to believe you if they hear it from someone else too. n Use screenshots, diagrams and tables Big blocks of copy send readers to sleep. Don’t let your document run too long, and keep your readers turning the pages by making good use of graphics to illustrate your key points. Amanda O’Donovan + 1 416 456 3859 | | © 2008 
  9. 9. Web The message doesn’t change with the medium, but the method and speed of delivery does. Your audience must consume a consistent message, so online communications and printed materials should share a common voice. Print collateral should drive readers to your online content, where they can explore information in greater depth, according to need. 9 ¨ Websites Web content must be brief, relevant, layered and constantly refreshed n Content is critical (Search Engines see words, not graphics). n Site visitors don’t like to scroll and concentration spans are short – get to the point. n Use attention-seeking headlines. n Refresh content frequently. n Use bullets, headlines and subheads so that site visitors can scan. n Provide teasers with links to more. ¨ Optimization Learn to be flexible if you want to be found n It’s a compromise: search spiders and humans read differently. n Incorporate keywords and phrases as you write. n Bite-sized portions are more easily digested. sized n Use bullets. n Add headings. Amanda O’Donovan + 1 416 456 3859 | | © 2008 
  10. 10. 12 Ways to Improve Your Communication 10 Rules are made to be broken. Unconventional content may attract more attention. However, before you can break the rules you need to understand the guidelines. 1. Use short words, sentences and paragraphs 2. Picture your readers and make them feel important. 3. Use active, powerful, simple language and plenty of verbs. 4. Avoid clichés. 5. Add headings and subheadings. 6. Break up copy chunks with bullets. 7. Embrace white space. 8. Make good use of graphics. 9. Talk about benefits before features. 10. Develop concrete images, not abstract concepts. 11. Get a second opinion. 12. Proof from print, not the screen (but don’t waste paper). Amanda O’Donovan + 1 416 456 3859 | | © 2008 
  11. 11. Food for Thought Here are some examples of real-life copy horrors, taken from the Campaign for Plain English website life, followed by suggestions for improvement. , 11 Before High-quality learning environments are a necessary precondition for facilitation and enhancement of the quality ongoing learning process. After… To learn properly, children need good schools. Before If there are any points on which you require explanation or further particulars we shall be glad to furnish such additional details as may be required by telephone. After … If you have any questions, please call. Before It is important that you shall read the notes, advice and information detailed opposite then complete the form overleaf (all sections) prior to its immediate return by way of the envelope provided. After… Please read the notes opposite before you fill in the form, then send it back to us as soon as possible in the envelope provided. Before Your enquiry about the use of the entrance area at the library for the purpose of displaying posters and leaflets, gives rise to the question of the provenance and authoritativeness of the material to be displayed. Posters and leaflets issued by the Central Office of Information and other authoritative bodies are usually displayed in libraries, but items of a disputatious or polemic kind, whilst not necessarily excluded, are considered individually. After… Thank you for your letter asking for permission to put up posters in the library. Before we can give you an answer we will need to see a copy of the posters to make sure they won't offend anyone. Amanda O’Donovan + 1 416 456 3859 | | © 2008 
  12. 12. At The End of The Day 12 The Campaign for Plain English once conducted a survey which revealed “At the end of the day” as the most irritating phrase in the English language. Second place in the vote was shared by “At this moment in time” and the constant use of “like” as if it were a form of punctuation. “With all due respect” came fourth. Overused phrases are a barrier to communication. quot;When readers or listeners come across these tired expressions, they start tuning out and completely miss the message...quot; I’d also like to nominate some of the following: mission-critical going forward basis (e.g. “on a global basis”) ongoing leading-edge bottom line core competencies on time and on budget solutions seamless team player bandwidth value-added compliance best of breed paradigm metrics downsizing stakeholders low-hanging fruit critical path synergies customer centric on the same page groundbreaking industry standard Amanda O’Donovan + 1 416 456 3859 | | © 2008 
  13. 13. Power Talk Some words are more powerful than others. Used responsibly, they can add impact to your communication and encourage your readers to take action. 13 Direct response pioneer John Caples found that the following 10 words appeared frequently in the greatest money-making headlines. “You” and “Your” were by far the most common, demonstrating the making importance of creating a personal connection with your audience: q You q How q Who q Now q Want q Your q New q Money q People q Why Use dynamic, powerful words to get a response from your readers readers:* Announcing Latest Advanced Amazing Exclusive Rare Easy Proven Guaranteed Practical Acclaimed Versatile Tested Reliable Popular Lifetime Quick Profitable Immediately Successful Reduced (Price) Lowest (Price) Discount (Price) Absolutely Complete Free Suddenly Now Introducing Offer Improvement Amazing Easy Remarkable Startling Challenge Hurry Compare Yours Free Free Report Just Arrived New Method Latest Findings Just Published How To Get How To Keep How To Avoid Mistakes To Avoid Seven Ways To Award Winning Amanda O’Donovan + 1 416 456 3859 | | © 2008 
  14. 14. Resources 14 ¨ Jill Whalen: Certain-Keyword-Density/Writing-to to-a-Certain-Keyword-Density.html ¨ Plain English Campaign: ¨ Clichés: ¨ *Increasing Readability: Power Words, Rich Harshaw: Amanda O’Donovan + 1 416 456 3859 | | © 2008