aStore / Amazon

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Who Cares: Writing for Groups and People in Categories (Technique)

Targeting a known audience is a traditional marketing technique, history and culture comes in many forms.

Writing to a targeted audience, either a targeted group or a broad audience with targeted message is a fundamental marketing technique. It's a good starting point in content marketing creation (design and planning as well.) We all have our own interests, preferences and values. We share them with a few other people, sometimes not people close to us geographically. Talking and "listening" to people's conversations is a normal way to interact. If you tap into this simple behavior with a targeted group, tell them something they want to hear, you have a starting point in getting people to care. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What Are Your Odds in Getting a Job? Finding Customers?

Starting in a new field is advantageous with limits, Saint in Tiberius church, Israel © Ami Vider 2014
Content Marketing is a sub-sector of internet marketing like other new internet professions (affiliate, SEO, advertising, social media). New internet professions are a great opportunity to start a career or a new business. You can become proficient enough to show your skills in a new field faster than in an established one. You also have less competition from established professionals. But, and this is a big but... with a new profession it is hard to determine if you will succeed and will make a living out of it. There are a few interesting books and even courses which teach these new fields. Some of the successful experienced practitioners claim that with dedication and hard work you will do fine. Is this just the "marketing hype" before the real test? I met a few people, some even working in coffee shops behind the espresso machine, who wanted to "get into internet". Some took the courses or bought the books. Some finished some type of certificate. Many seem frustrated at the low entry position pay and some could not get a job after a few interviews. Some had only a few interviews and then asked for their money back from the "guru" who offered the course. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Lerning from the Right Book, Blog or Course

A quote from Mark 1 9-11: (even the "good book" may not be the "right" book for HTML or AdWords or even Buddha :-) "And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." In Hebrew and Greek. Taken at the Christian baptism site, Jordan river, Israel.
Have you heard about the "best book to learn...."? Or the course the will change your life (make you rich, happy and sexy in three months)? There are countless offers for "the best, fastest, for-sure-way, easiest, completely proven"... you get the point. Yet in reality, each book, method or technique works only for very few people. Even if it is proven by experience and the guru (master, expert) has been teaching it and using it with hundreds of people. What makes a book "good" for you? How will a blog move you along, day by day, so you can benefit? Even if you are skeptical, there are videos and courses which have changed people's lives. Otherwise, there wouldn't be so many good resources, comprehensive useful sites and successful new product marketers (supporters, advisors, trainers). Most of new internet's new professions are populated by self taught workers. There are many factors which will make a training book useful to each person. Some factors are easy to determine: technical level, amount of involvement required, writing style, end goal or result (does it fit the reader's need?), difficult or even impossible demands, prerequisites, physical or mental requirements... the list goes on and on. The simple fact is, most techniques do not work for simple reasons. Sometimes if you buy the book and try to make it work, you realize why you are not successful. Sometimes you can't achieve what is promised and you give up. Usually not knowing what went wrong. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Getting A Product Content Into Shape [OBSRV] Sticky situations

Businesses which really need content might not be in the best shape or look great!

If you are a freelancer or new to content marketing (and searching for a job), you will meet lots of different people. The world of content marketing covers an infinite number of domain areas and technical capabilities. Many of the people looking to hire you are looking to solve a problem. It could be a strategic problem like the image or impression the company projects. Some will need technical or business writing. Some will need convincing writing on a regular basis, not always blogs or social media. In general, the people who really need you will have a problem or will be in what we call "bad shape". Essentially you are the lawyer solving a sticky criminal situation or a physician dealing with a nasty infection. All domain experts solve real problems at times. The problems are not always nice. They are also not always solved for the people who have "taken care of themselves". Sick people usually are not the healthy athletes, diet eating, medicine taking, non-smokin' & drinkin' kind. So what, that's life. The people who really need you may not have their business in best shape. Yet these are the people you need to help. Don't complain, don't make faces or roll your eyes, do the job, do it well and get it over. Make the world a little better, it may make a difference to someone.   

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Charlie The Tuna for Content Marketing: "Sorry Charlie"

What would the famous Charlie the Tuna character say in the world of content marketing? Who and why would someone tell Charlie: "Sorry, Charlie. StarKist wants tuna that tastes good, not tuna with good taste." Actually, we see good taste content most of the time, beautiful designs, nice words and ideas, slick presentations and catchy writing... essentially pretty articles, graphics and videos. But, for the most part, we need to hunt for "... tuna that tastes good". Content that is useful, interesting, engaging, maybe even controversial or helpful. The type of content which will pass the Charlie the Tuna test. The internet is filled with "cool, hip, made in good taste" material. But that is not what attracts readers. What the "bad old voice of StarKist" says is pay attention to the quality of the real product... AND the message. You can sell some products based on a "hip, cool" image, but not certain ones like tuna. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Effective Content Marketing [SKIL] Who cares? How can you tell?

Tourists do not come to New York, London or Paris for the animals, they come to shop and see shows
When you get down to bottom line results, all the writing, editing, drawing, promoting and selling comes down to: who cares? What is all the effort yielding? Are you making sales? Are you informing or influencing people? Are people commenting, contributing, correcting or even criticizing? For the most part, most of the writing and graphics designed for the internet is not effective. In the marketing world, this is bad news. A big part of ineffective marketing is in the quality and relevance. Quality is not an easy problem to solve. For the most part, high quality marketing content is created by efforts from product developers, marketers, feedback from the market (real potential customers) and channels (reps, resellers, field sales). The internet gives us the benefit of reaching customers directly, this is what we can do where print and broadcast simply can not. We have the ability to evoke feedback quickly and directly. The difficulty does not lie simply in the writing and editing. It is a bigger problem of coordinating messages, testing relevancy and clarity, improving the content and eventually tracking it back to the customer's response. Closing the communication loop is what we need to do. If nobody cares and they don't understand, it's like talking to the wall.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How Hard Can It Be? [OBSRV] Coping with the learning curve

Mark Pilgrim in "Dive into HTML5" estimates 99% of web sites have HTML errors - can you cope with this?
One of the advantages freelance work affords me, is seeing a broad range of people. One clear observation recently is how people react to certain content marketing (i.e. editing, copy writing, graphic design) work. Sometimes I assume people new to the field will eventually learn. With learning and experience also comes confidence and maturity. Sometimes, the confidence show up as the ability to handle pressure, change and even failure. Handling difficult situations is the most valued quality in an experienced professional. Just ask a surgeon who opens up a chest and "suddenly" finds a "complication". Or a lawyer facing a new fact from a witness during a trial. Sounds a bit over the top? Yet this is what I see on a daily basis. It comes in small ways. Small coding mistakes (HTML Tags), language and actual product description mistakes, navigation mistakes (buttons that don't work), and finally, problems with large functions like plug-ins and JavaScript functions. The mistakes are not necessarily going to influence a reader's impression, most times they are not even visible. Yet, some people react in strange or extreme manner.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Strategic Content Professional [KNWLG] Become a strategic lynchpin

Is a content marketing specialist vital to the organization? Seth Godin's book explains why
Seth Godin's Linchpin is a great introduction to today's individual's strategic position. Godin tells the uninitiated (or inexperienced) worker of how in many companies there are a few "linchpin" contributors. He actually developed a unique original perspective on the idea of who is a vital "linchpin" worker. He suggests of a way to change how we work, making every worker irreplaceable by giving workers freedom to think and do creative work. This idea of giving each worker the ability to think for themselves and do the most they are able is not new. He suggests that our industrialization of white collar jobs made robots of workers. Essentially making most jobs routine, defined carefully to the point of simple tasks. He also suggests ways of looking at work and at management which are different from the traditional American corporate standard. I have seen this situation recently working as a freelancer on long projects (2 and 5 months) inside established companies. On the other hand, there are also great examples of companies which do not fit this mold. It seems more useful to today's content marketer to focus on where their work can be unique, productive and strategic.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Writing Strategies for Distracted Readers [SKIL] Traditional marketing approach

This famous "Man in the chair" advertisement from McGraw-Hill illustrate the problem salesman face

In the last post, the issue of distracted readers was introduced. It's not an idea which we talk about when writers and editors gather together. Most writers want to believe in their ability to get attention no matter what the situation. Yet in business, we need to be realistic (and effective.) It is simply a fact, not all readers are going to be paying full attention all the time. So what do we do to "make them read"? (or listen, watch?) Sounds like a line from an evil character in a bad B movie... Not really. It may seem silly to want to "make" anyone do anything on the internet. But we can still try to help more readers understand something.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Content Marketing In Demand [KNWLG] The next PPC, UI/UX, or HTML/CSS?

Michelangelo's Daniel with an early "content marketing" depiction... are we reliving history?
To find demand for Content Marketing, start talking with business and technical professionals. From ones who simply need a web site to support their marketing efforts, to ones building highly technical product and want to leave their content completely up to a marketing writer. Content Marketing is getting attention. Not too long ago focus was on social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. Just before social media a trend of blogging was all the rage. Before blogging, we saw simply a pleasing graphic design or informative product site in demand. Somewhere in parallel there were corporate trends in e-commerce (eBay, Amazon) and SEO/PPC (Google, AdWords) with strong emphasis on massive content writing and link building. Somewhere along the way there are less predominant phases of interest in affiliate marketing and advertising (especially in niche products). All these internet marketing trends rely on writing effective texts. Some need more quantity and some need more convincing or alluring copyrighting. But until recently, content played a minor role in the business of internet marketing. The position of the lowly writer, editor and copy optimizer seems to be changing for the better.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Exciting, Sexy, Alluring, Enticing [OBSRV] Stories get readers...

Playboy's first issue featured Marilyn Monroe "nude" and plenty of stories... some read them!

In the Content Creation business you sell stories and photos to business people. If you are skilled and proven in a small niche, business people will believe you can do the job. You are hired. Examples or references do not help much. Most people have not experienced writing that sells (exciting, alluring, sexy). Exciting people with a story is not only elusive, it does not work for everyone. A business person who reads your blog or a page on a competing site will not get it as an excited customer gets it. If your story is informative, most people who read will not understand all your key points. If the topic is complex or abstract you need to write in more detail or give more examples. This situation frustrates creative writers and photographers. Yet, when a story (or a picture, video) "works" it's magic. Essentially, a clearly written instruction page can stop the help lines from ringing. A sexy or exciting story or demo of a mobile app can go viral and suddenly you have a product that's selling. As if suddenly people noticed you were beautiful and until now you were "just skinny" or had "nice lines". Why stories excite, allure, entice and actually make us feel sexy is a question asked as long as man has been telling them. There are many theories and techniques used to tell stories which are used in the media and advertising industries. Some products actually depend on good Content Marketing. Traditionally these were not called Content Marketing, they were copywriters in advertising and script writers in media. In Hollywood and on Madison Avenue (the advertising center in New York) there are standard well developed techniques to develop "stories that sell". Yet Harry Potter and Red Storm Rising only comes once in a few decades and even Danielle Steel and Stephen King don't know how exactly it was done (they did not write these books, others did). If they did, they would do it themselves and beat the others. But nobody has been able to come up with a sure formula for great writing.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Definition [KNWLG]: What is Content Marketing? How does Content Marketing fit your business?

Gartner's Hype Cycle, Where is Content Marketing now?
Content Marketing is a new field in the world of internet marketing. As a new term, most domain experts in related fields, seem to think differently on what it means. The term itself, reflects the technical social media site owners. Social media sites essentially give us a framework to connect and contribute content. Their view is: if we build a friendly and easy to use "frame", the "content" will be "contributed" by the users. Facebook is an excellent example, the structure is provided by the site, the content is user contributed. Content Marketing does not rely on user contributed content. The method uses writing, graphics, video and linking (or quotes) to influence readers to take action. Content Marketing methods usually provide information and show examples of how products are used. Sites like Amazon are a great example where publishers and manufacturers create extensive amount of information on products. Amazon has been so successful using this technique, many people consider the site as a reliable source of information. In many product categories, not only books (i.e. electronics, photo equipment, white goods), the site has more information than even the original manufacturer's sites. Also, with deep product information in a product category, comparison shopping is easier then in almost any other site. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Jargon: Content Marketing A Technical Perspective Term

Make no mistake, content marketers, at least the ones in the business more than five years, don't like the term Content Marketing. The bloggers, editors, site owners, curators, publishers, and various other content creators, from photographers to video editors, don't like the back seat position new social media and mobile internet technocrats are putting them into. Simply put, the technologists seem to have come to the game late and are now playing by new rules. If you go back a few years, before the new social media and mobile internet bubbles started, content marketing was simply writing, editing, and gathering stories or pictures. Suddenly, the social group or mobile users came to the web like a flood and the old ways of slowly writing, photographing, and editing videos is just a small part of the brave new world. But in all fairness, there is no shame in the term and the old guard, which is only in this business a bit longer than a decade, should not be put off by the jargon.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Digital Content Marketing: It's Only Starting

Inside peek into the world of internet shops
Tony Hsieh's book about his experience at Zappos and a few meetings the last month came together somehow. Until now, it seems like the term "content marketing" and the idea of writing specific articles to influence buyers, was simply an extension of traditional marketing. Some see content marketing as an extension of other form of digital marketing: advertising, newsletters, affiliate, and SEO (plus other formats). But a few comments from marketing managers and Hsieh's book show a slightly different picture. The digital age plus changes in buying behavior are making content marketing not only useful but actually critical. Yet, most traditional marketers and new digital marketers seem unclear on the differences between content marketing is and  other forms of marketing. 
First about the Zappos book, the title is a hint to what to expect from Hsieh. In short, Hsieh took over Zappos CEO position to put the company into a strong position. His efforts were focused on, you guessed it: making the employees and the customers happy. Eventually the company, selling shoes (compared to Amazon selling books), was sold to Amazon for over a billion dollars. At the time, it was Amazon's largest acquisition. The Zappos story illustrate how Hseih clearly understood how a traditional business (selling shoes) needed to do certain things a little differently on the web. What is interesting about the Zappos story is how even recent history in the digital age is useful in trying to predict future developments. Essentially, the Zappos story comes from the "we can sell anything on the internet" that we sold in 'brick and mortar' shops era. The era was also called the dot-com bubble (or euphemistically dot-bomb / the internet bubble). Like most ideas in technology, what was good to do was also good to overdo. But it's nice to see that in all the cacophony of the early internet days, someone kept his head on his shoulders, and feet on the ground and built a real business. So kudos to Tony Hsieh.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Comitment, Resources, and Expectations: A Layered View

Just like toys for big boys, you need to set your desires and expectations to reflect your resources and commitment / there is no shortage of "wet dream" images to choose from! Harley Davidson seem to "get" the overblown expectation of most "big boys with toy fetish".
In my latest search for "serious new customers" I stumble on situations which seem strange. If I wasn't looking for paying work, this would be interesting (but it's actually frustrating). I get requests from people that simply don't make sense. The one which applies most to technologists and business managers is overblown expectations. Essentially, a product manager wants:
100 article blog in four weeks at a cost of $10 a piece. Each article is original writing with research and promotion wrapped around it. Articles are 500 to 850 words. If a series of articles can be cobbled together, in five to ten at a time, that would be preferable. (actual quote with editing for clarification) 
Apparently you can buy this kind of writing right off the internet from both "legit" and "not-so-legit" sources (i.e. plagiarized, state prisoners, general/non-domain-expert writers in India, etc.) The "unreasonableness" in this example seems to fall into three categories. Each by itself a problem. All three together is what I call ridiculous:
  1. Content creation should be free. Not free as in "free speech" but as "free beer". See open source discussions on the difference between "free speech" and "free beer" concept.
  2. Content creation should be "instant". Once you think about an idea, and you can articulate the details to a writer (graphic artist, audio editor, videographer), the articles should be available almost immediately. 
  3. You can create infinite amount of content, link it to infinite amount of references and sources, and get top Google page rank almost immediately (once you have that free and immediate content). This will result in thousands of "clicks" and great sales.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Learning from "The First 20 Hours" a Book About Starting

Can you learn a complicated (or simple) programming language in 20 hours? Josh Kaufman says YOU CAN
It may sound a little ridiculous, but we have seen these claims from all kind of books and "guru" trainers: "buy the book: 'Learn [fill in the blank] in 24 Hours', and you will be wealthy, healty, and SMART!" A quick search on Amazon for "learn 24 hours" gives the result: 
1,389 results for "learn 24 hours"
 It starts out with "the Bible" (yes you can learn this classic tomb), to programming a dozen languages and many more technology topics (SAP, SQL, Microsoft Excel and Office, etc.), all the way to piano and guitar, and finally, French, Spanish, and Chinese. So what's the problem with internet or content marketing? or copywriting and graphic design for the web? You could learn anything in 24 hours, do it in a week or two, get a blog or site up and going in a few more weeks, and be happy, healthy, and wealthy. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Are Branded (Luxury) Marketing Methods More Effective?

Seth Godin predicts the end of luxury brands as the digital age moves to content, agree?
In a post about marketing style, Seth Godin wrote a post on the effectiveness in the digital age. Essentially he notices how digital channels are making branding of luxury items different. Maybe even "worth less"!

The question is actually:
How are branded (luxury) marketing product's efforts more effective than (traditional) content marketing? 
The question is simple. It's been with us for hundreds years. Yet today we still see emphasis by business marketing using branding instead of content. Branding, or luxury marketing according to Godin has been the money machine of the last 50 years:
It's this selling of the logo, of Hermes or Chanel or Champagne that made the last fifty years of luxury production such an extraordinary opportunity.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

All Work and No Play: After the Design and AdWords

When first evaluating content creation, especially as an outsourced service, the process seems like "real work" / you are "getting it" (sarcastically saying) / Jean-Fran├žois Millet- TheGleaners
This month I started looking for new "serious" customers. "Serious" customers are ones which not only need my services, but also actually benefit immediately. This may mean getting business right away (i.e. at Tikal Networks), or getting attention or a unique advantage over competitors (i.e. SolidRun). The process is simple: I contact a CEO or marketing director, they tell me what they need, I pitch an idea and sometimes write a short proposal or sample. Then we are off to the races. If the CEO is not sure how unique content, targeted at his market will help, they will usually ask the "hard questions". Which means, answering about the same questions every time (after 7 years this is normal), and showing some examples. Either this works or it doesn't. If the initial screening process works, then comes the real shock: "oh this is real work! I tried this before and it has not really worked for me!" This may sound sarcastic, but believe me, it is not.