What I Have Learned About Marketing

•August 1, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Marketing has a bad reputation with consumers. The reasons are compelling too. Marketing is typically overdone, over-promoted, over the top, and underwhelming. You display your product under a bright light and hope that someone has a momentary lapse of judgement and falls for the pitch. It’s often deflating for the customer, as they realize that it looks better on the screen than it does in real life and so they chalk it up to experience until the next time they buy something.

But lets take a look from the sellers side. We have a product we think is great, it works for a variety of people in a variety of situations, and it is a great value. We made it, and designed it with great care, targeting the right demographic. Now it is up to marketing to promote it and put our best foot forward. Marketing does analysis, looks for ways to increase the profitability, and bring this product to the publics attention. They are motivated by sales, the more the better they do, so what do they do? They make the product shine, present it’s best features, and do their best to show people how everyone wins when they buy their product. They are making a living on the cutting edge of marketing, and they are good at it. Sales are going through the roof. Their experience and savvy have resulted in profits and accolades, and so they are motivated to do more and better selling.

The truth is that we all have our own opinion of the value of a product after we buy. Some like it, some don’t, the reasons are varied, and don’t really matter, you can’t please everyone.

Now what if you play nice and tell the good with the bad in regard to your product? Your sales plummet. Fewer complaints from customers, but you can’t compete with the companies that polish their image. So if you can’t beat them, you join them. Voila, we have survivors that play the game, and losers that tried to be honest.

So long as money is the motivator, marketing will be the order of the day. We can however embrace the concept. We can realize as a consumer what the game is, and walk cautiously, and then as sellers we continue to out-flank our competitors. That is what we are doing, and that is what we have to accept. When we become sellers instead of buyers, we will see how this works and realize that it is a necessity of survival. So now that we have decided that we will have to sell, and that the system in place is the one that we will need to use, here are some top-selling links to products to help with marketing. These e-books and digital products have been hand selected, and like any of you trying to start a business, there has to be a way to monetize it, so this provides you access to solid information and the convenience of digital information:

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Why offer this? If you are in business, you will need some strategy to sell. It is not enough to wish for success. Until you are visible you will not sell. That is what I have learned about marketing.

The times they are a changin’

•April 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Can you believe how time changes everything? Your well laid plans become history, and your visions evaporate. Still we go on and fight the daily fight and find new sources of hope. The past is the training ground for what can be accomplished later. so it is with the path I am leading. For months, becoming a copywriter was a goal that influenced my energies, and it is still intriguing, but I have learned along the way, as always. Specifically, that writing ads is part of most things “business”. Who writes ads for recreation?

We sell ourselves as employees, we sell items on the internet to someone who wants it more than us, we sell our charm to those we meet. Writing ad copy is just another form of the same, and so as time has progressed, so has the direction I am seeking. The bottom line is always selling. How do you do it?

Sales always has its roots in presenting the best and not focusing on drawbacks. That is the problem isn’t it? If you presented the good with the bad, would you sell anything? Imagine telling your girlfriend “Well, I snore, I excel at math, I like ketchup with my bologna, I have a rash, I will love you for about two years and then it’s about time to move on, my taste in art is child like, I have lots of money, but it is tied up until my parents die, the friends I have are lost in their careers, and I have followed them down the same ugly path? But, hey! Let’s get married!!! I think not. So instead we get polished versions of the good side and hope to impress and sell what we are peddling.

Building Trust

Buyers want the truth, sellers want to present their finest up front. Is this deceptive? I’m sure that you can appreciate that both sides are fighting for survival, and that both sides have a valid point as to why they cannot change their approach. For instance, why am I writing this blog? If I tell you the truth, will you tell me the truth? Okay, so we are both stuck with our justifications for our side and indeed, we are justified, at least as much as anyone else.

How does this relate to my title, well, truth be told, I am using ad copy in a new way. I am training others to sell. (Hence, the times (for me) are a changin’) The ability to understand and persuade is highly useful for the trainer. Can you influence others if you do not understand their perspective? Not hardly. The big part of selling is listening. Deep listening, the kind of listening that makes you forget who you are. There is no distraction of thought from your worries, there is no pressure from your surroundings, there is no fear and guilt clouding your thinking. The other person exists only. Your best nature comes out in this state, your problem solving is in high gear and the buyer, or speaker is captivated by the fact that in that moment, they are king. That is selling, because you are not pushing, or seeking your own interests, you are solving someone elses problems with no thought for yourself. That can be tangibly felt by most people, and builds immediate trust. Branding is there for this reason. The emphasis in branding your product and your reputation is there because a solid brand builds trust. This was also the glue that existed between merchants and buyers during the age of shop owners that weren’t franchisers, or chain store managers. That’s what is great about social networking, that is what is great about having friends to get opinions from. The bottom line is trust. That is not changing.

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Imperfect is In?

•June 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Recently I read that consumers are looking for items that are less than perfect. Here is the link to that article.  http://www.talentzoo.com/news.php/Imperfect-Is-the-New-Perfect-in-Packaging-Trends-/?articleID=7677

I have to wonder if advertising is scrambling to find it’s way in a world of consumers that have long ago caught on that advertising is long on accolades, and short on delivery. The expectation that there is fine print, and customer non-service after the sale is not news, it has become the expectation. So now I am reading an article that tells me that consumers want imperfection in their products to make them feel “human”. This seems to be too convoluted to really be more than a passing thought. Consumers know exactly what they need and want. When they need it, they look for it. If they want it based on an ad, they check it out first. If they still want it, they will buy. It has less and less to do with clever or well crafted advertising. It is about integrity, and trust. A company’s reputation stands on it’s own. Do they give good customer service, then they will be recommended by the consumers friends. No more hype, no more subliminal enticements. Consumers know or can find out about critical purchases. All advertisers can do at this point is present benefits and help consumers find them. Is that so hard?

Executing a Plan, or Planning an Execution?

•June 4, 2010 • 1 Comment

Execution. What needs to happen to get this show on the road? One of the roadblocks has always been execution. When you make a choice there is a point of commitment that seems to loom before you and holds you captive. Every doubt and fear grips you and you wonder if you are a sham, or arrogant to assume you can do what you have set out to do. This topic has been nicely covered in the forum I participate in, and with information from copyblogger, (the website) and in my research into this formidable stumbling block. But this is not the place to discuss it. My point today is to outline what I am doing, and how the process is going.

First, I have secured the basics, a website, this blog, and learning some social networking, SEO marketing, and of course how to write ad copy. Just writing regularly is helpful. What has been brought out to me in this effort is that there are a variety of ways to approach the copywriting world, and I have to be specific about what direction I am going. Blogging is not what I set out to do, but I find that it is a way to put my skills to the test, and to have something of value to refer to if the need arises. In order to be specific, I need to know and understand all the different nuances of  B2B and B2C writing, business communications, print ads, content publishing for the web, direct mail, catalog writing, newsletters, working for PR firms, radio ads, slogan writing, branding, flyers, etc. Which is really my best avenue for writing? Who is my target demographic?

Being new means trial and error. My first inclination is to go and work for an ad agency, because they provide an entry point and a place to cut my teeth. With a few “bottom of the barrel” assignments I will at least have something to post in a portfolio that has been published. Finding an agency that is willing to hire or apprentice someone like myself is the trick though  isn’t it? This is where the execution part comes in. Sticking your neck out, and handing someone the axe. That is where I am now, I need to write out my questions, call the creatives at the agencies and go for an informational interview to ask the basics;

  • What do you look for in a new copywriter?
  • What do you think of my spec ads?
  • Do you, or do you know of, an agency that apprentices new writers?
  • What do you consider to be necessities to hire a writer?
  • What is the best course of entry into this field?
  • What do you feel the long term prospects are for copywriting?

Having a nice, brief one on one with a creative director would be a nice edition to my networking efforts. Still, what is the plan? What do I want to write for an agency? What am I best suited to do? Will an agency make that determination if I have the good fortune to be hired, or apprenticed? I picture contacting clients, and studying their products and customers, and then using a combination of creativity, good communication and research to come up with copy that resonates with their market. Sounds simple enough….

So that is the plan, I make contact with agencies, ask questions, follow leads, get hired, and write. That is not all though, I am already thinking ahead on this, and I would like to extend my reach to being an ad executive, or to be a creative director myself. Freelancing is not off the map either. The critical step for now is getting some ads in print and developing a portfolio. You mean I need to stick my neck out??? Yeeesh. Do I know what I am asking of myself?

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“Honesty is Such a Lonely Word”

•May 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

As I explore the world of copywriting, the adage that “content is king” seems to be holding up well. I am finding my own actions reflect the pursuit of good content. As I learn, I am looking for good advice, and my criteria for finding it is; that it must make sense to me, no matter who the source is. I can only evaluate material based on my own sensibilities, whether I am spot-on or out in deep left field. In a world of untruths, what else would be sensible?

Even so, as I begin to look at my occupation of choice, there are so many voices that tell me that I am going wrong, or that I am looking for gold in all the wrong places. What voice do I listen to? It is comforting to hear the warm support of family and friends, but there is a known obligation to be supportive of those you care about. Even when they are sincere and well thought out, those voices are not the same as peer review. Better yet is; unsolicited praise from people that know your craft and have done well with it  themselves. 

If your favorite entertainer took the time out from their day to tell you that you were obviously a fine actor, that would have great meaning to you, particularly if this was your area of desired employment. This sort of unfettered validation speaks volumes to your soul, and you relish it for a long time. It’s as if you have gone on a long trip and have just found out how much you miss your home.

Sincerity is the missing element in so much of what we experience day to day, so that even a taste of it, no matter how small, can inspire us to keep going. I can certainly do more of this myself for the benefit of others.

On to what I have learned since the last entry….. I have learned to ask for help from a good source. I have found some of them on-line and they need to be shared. First, the world of forums is such a great resource, and should be used by anyone trying to make headway in this world. My forum of choice has been through LinkedIn, under the group: Copy advertising copywriting. Here I have found a great group of people willing to share their thoughts without holding back on their true opinions. Soon after joining the group I asked a basic question that a starting copywriter mght ask (should I look for employment as a freelancer first, or with an agency?) and got several responses! Now having been through this before, I know that it is amazing how often you can get responses across the globe this way, but it hasn’t lost it’s appeal as a tool for insight. If you haven’t tried this, do yourself a favor. It’s validating.

Another source is the world of blogging. Here too, people are willing to share their insights and give you solid information and only ask that you consider some of the links that are strewn across their pages. One in particular that I would like to mention, and add a link for, is copyblogger. Lots of content, good advice, and the information just keeps coming in. Here’s the link: http://www.copyblogger.com/ 

If you explore just these two sources you can get a good foothold on where the business of copywriting is going, and advice for the newbie. I’ll leave it at that for today. 

Title quoted from “honesty” words and lyrics, Billy Joel

The Copywriting Jungle

•May 24, 2010 • Leave a Comment

There is a distinct reason to write on the internet, we could all use help to learn something we don’t know. The problem is that the amount of information available is staggering. I could link my way to oblivion, and have the opinions of all other copywriters, and still not know the truth. I imagine that there is no “truth”, just opinions. Determining what might be useful is the issue. Just when you think you have found something new, you can attache the word “scam” to your Google search and find out why you shouldn’t follow the advice you just spent hours gleaning. The truth is elusive! Truth in advertising is even more so. If you track down each avenue towards a product you will eventually be bewildered by the profuse means that exist to get you to pull out your credit card.

I’m sitting here typing, for similar purposes. At some point I want someone to pull out their credit card and use my services. (Yep, that’s my link on this page just waiting for you to click on it and call me) That is the nature of selling. Whatever works. The facts are that if you need something, you will buy it. Why you choose my product over someone else is based on a thousand factors, all of which you will take into consideration, consciously or subconsciously, and then you will buy. As a copywriter I want to present you with direct, clear information, and need to recognize that I am selling to just a small target group– the people that need what I am selling. The problem with my product is; that I’m selling “selling”. The product is selling products. To make matters worse, I don’t have ten years of experience to fall back on. The good news is that no one else had it either when they started.

With that being said, I am finding a copywriting jungle out there, new terms, new means to sell your writing, the intertwining of ad copy and blogging, facts and fiction about how to promote websites, new jargon, endless reviews and questionable content. This is a world of specialization rather than generalities. I need to find a niche and work it consistently. It is difficult to even make sense of it to those I am closest to. “What is it you are actually doing???” is the question I am sure they are asking.

I am writing advertising for businesses. I am learning how to influence consumers to buy. My best tool at the moment is curiosity, and determination to earn a living from my neck up instead of from my neck down. It’s time consuming, and it’s like being dropped in a jungle blindfolded and finding your way out. That is the nature of any venture, and so it is not a complaint, just a statement. Trust in your own abilities is the challenge. I can’t allow others to pull me off course. They have found their own way, and this is mine.

The Big Picture, for Newbies

•May 21, 2010 • Leave a Comment

There are those that like to dive into the details and then put together the big picture from all the pieces. I”m not one of them. If I know where I’m going then the details make more sense, and I enjoy the logic  of it all.

In an effort to do that, I want to present some basic information. Before diving into what SEO copywriting is, you need to understand that you are typing on an end point for a network of other computers. If you are reading this blog, you have connected to a server, or ISP (internet service provider) that allows you to connect to others on the web. Some of those others are webmasters, who typically maintain websites. They are connected to the web through an ISP as well, but the web site is stored on their computers and you reference information from their computer through your ISP. This is not always the case. In my case, my website is maintained by Google, which stores the information on their computer, and I access it using a password. They provide a template that I can manipulate and that becomes my website. You are accessing Googles computers and viewing what I have allowed you to see. I decide what is visible to you.

Now there are trillions of websites just like this, and so the problem becomes, how do I get found? If you have found this website today, as I am posting it, you probably have an inside scoop that it exists, because at this point there is little to direct you here without some pieces being put in place. First of all, the information needs to be recognized by a variety of others by me placing links back to this website from other better known websites. (Links are places you click that send you to a new web page) This means that if you click on a link in someone elses website and you are directed to this one, then you will be able to find me. Once you are here, you can find me again by saving the link in your favorites collection, or by bookmarking the website, or by subscribing to the website and getting email messages whenever I post something new.

If enough people do this, my website eventually will gather momentum and search engines like Google will see the traffic and begin to rank my website. (this is a long ways off for now) If I have sufficient suitable keywords in my writing, and my links are from a variety of sources, and those sources have many links to them, I begin to develop a network that search engines will recognize, and my ranking will increase. Keywords are words that people typically use to search for the topic that my website is about. If they want to learn more, they will type words that pop into their heads that bring up websites on a search engine that contain information they are seeking.

SEO means search engine optimization, and the idea is that if you design your website properly, with good keywords, and good links, you will become more visible on the web. When all of this developed, there were some enterprising sorts that devised means to artificially get superior ranking. As search engines saw these trends they began to use more and more sophisticated means to sort out who was legitimately well ranked, and who was just trying to fool the programs keeping track of all these websites. That means in 2010, it has become quite difficult to get ranked by trickery anymore. The article I placed in yesterday’s blog with a link explains this quite well. If this blog is to do well at all, it seems that I will just have to provide good information and be consistent. This is quite a challenge for me, being a newbie myself.

The other reality that I must contend with is that I have to weigh the value of my time on creating this nifty website, against making some real money. For the meantime I need to focus on lining up some copywriting work, and let this page and my business webpage be a place for getting contact information, and make a brief sales pitch. That would be sufficient for now. If I place some good information here over time it may develop into a good source of leads for my work, but for now it is a starting point that has to take second chair to finding paying customers.

Lastly, writing a blog is not what I set out to do, it is going to be a sideline for now, that helps me stay on course. That is the big picture for now. Still, having some of these elements in place gives me greater legitimacy that will be a resource even while I am pounding the pavement.