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How to Create Influence with Your Writing

Jon Morrow via Twitter

Jon Morrow via Twitter

Marketing Podcast with Jon Morrow

The bar for content that gets shared, clicked and moved on is much higher today than it used to be.

In order to stand out, you must move beyond simple blog posts to content that includes severe depth, original data, stunning design or moving drama.

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Jon Morrow, one of the original CoppyBlogger writers, former associate editor of CopyBlogger and founder of Smart Blogger. We’ll discuss content marketing, writing, and discovering creative voice through thought.

The four D’s are part of what Jon shares as his secret to creating great contend and the most important of these is drama.

If you want to influence someone make them feel something.

My favorite tip from the interview is how Jon gets himself in the exact state that he wants the reader to feel – the target emotion – before he sits down to write a dramatic post.

Questions I ask Jon:

  • How does someone go from Real Estate to blogging?
  • What are the 4 Ds you much use to make your content superior?
  • How do you get a blog up and running?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How a disability has helped focus Jon’s life on what matters
  • Why you should focus on an emotion you want your customers to feel rather than a topic when starting a blog post
  • What you should focus on more than traffic stats.

Visit Jon’s site at www.smartblogger.com

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by FreshBooks, small business accounting software for non-accountants. Freshbooks is offering a free month of unrestricted access just for Duct Tape Marketing podcast listeners. You don’t even need a credit card to register. To get your free month, go to freshbooks.com/ducttape and enter DuctTape in the “How Did You Hear About Us?” section.

4 How to Know What the Heck You Should Write About On Your Company Blog

photo credit: mac image via photopin (license)

photo credit: mac image via photopin (license)

I’m guessing the goal of your company blog, like anything you spend effort working on, is to boost your business, brand awareness, and sales.

Which all sounds very nice in theory, until you get into WordPress, click on “Add Post”, find yourself starting at the blank editor screen not knowing what the heck to write about.

A company update? A new feature you’ve added to your product? Something you’ve been musing on lately? A tutorial on how to use your product? A case study? A new testimonial a happy client just sent in so you can prove that your product really is the best?

How to Rationally Decide What to Write: Reader Intent + Traditional SEO

To help yourself decide, think about the backend and functional purposes your blog serves for your website.

It’s a place where you write. Lots of words. And search engines are going to crawl those pages to find out what your website is about so they can know who they should show you to in their searches.

So, though you might send out your blog updates to your current email list, a big purpose of your blog is to fulfill the information discovery need… and to do it better than your competitors. (Which may or may not be very difficult, depending on your nice.)

So if organic traffic and new customers are what you’re after (which I think is the case for most DTM readers), it only makes sense that you’ll write about the topics your target audience is searching Google to find more information about.

You may already know what keywords your audience is searching with, especially if you’ve got a particularly robust PPC campaign. But even if you don’t, a few hours or less of research will give you a handful of keywords that’ll be a great place to start. (This quick start guide will take you less than an hour.)

How Reader Intent + Traditional SEO Tie Into Better Overall SEO

Rand Fishkin has a presentation called SEO in a Two Algorithm World where he talks about why these two elements are so crucial to a good content (read: company blogging) strategy.

Word-based SEO is the traditional kind where the words you use on pages and in your meta descriptions tell the search engines what your post and your website is about. This is one algorithm search engines track for reader benefit and relevancy.

The other algorithm is on-page SEO or the data the search engine gets from how people interact with your site once they click through. Do they bounce quickly? Scroll all the way to the bottom slowly? Click to another page on your website?

This second algorithm is about engagement. Which is why it’s so important to write about what people want to know… because if you give that to them, they’re much more likely to stick around and interact with you more—boosting both your sales and your SEO scores.

Generating Title Ideas That’ll Get the Results You’re After

With your list of keywords in hand (sounds cheesy), all you need is a few resources to help you take those keywords from representations of broad topics into blog post titles that your targets will see and want to read immediately.

Four of my favorite resources to recommend include:

1. Huballin

This is a free, online software in beta that helps you narrow down potential blog post titles based on the topic you enter and keywords you select that are popularly associated with it.

For example, if I enter the topic “yoga” and select the “cure” smart tag it suggests, I get a whole list of quality titles I can write on like:

 

  • Can Yoga Cure Astigmatism?
  • How to Cure Sinusitis Through Yoga
  • Can Yoga Cure Lower Back Pain?

Pure gold, if you ask me.

huballin

2. Digital Marketer’s Headline Swipe File

The idea of a headline swipe file is to have something to refer to for ideas when your brain isn’t working or you just don’t want to do the thinking yourself.

The headlines in this swipe file are focused specifically around getting more attention on social media, which can be incredibly useful if you use social media as an effort to reach your target market.

For example, here’s one of their headlines for you to personalize & “swipe”:

“How [impressive number] Got [desired result] in [time period]”

Hint: That “desired result” is more than likely going to be one of your keywords.

3. 101 Headline Formulas

This document (along with the one from Digital Marketer) is based around the idea that  effectiveness in a headline can be boiled down to a few core formulas that you can plug information directly into, rather than them being subjective pieces of art.

And they’re not wrong.

With headline formulas like “How to [blank] Even if [blank]” or “Don’t Screw Up Your [blank]! 8 Most Common Mistakes”, it’s easy to plug your keywords in and get content that’s the perfect storm of everything you’re after: SEO-friendly, useful, and sharable.

4. HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator

This tool by HubSpot is pretty straightforward: enter three nouns on your keyword list and get a week’s worth of useful blog topics in return. (For the most part, it isn’t perfect.)

Inspired by this post, I entered business blog, SEO, and content marketing. These were the results I got:

hubspot

Not bad, eh?

Write & Schedule Your First Post

After you know what keywords you want to target and have picked out your first title, write your first post and publish it.

It probably won’t be perfect (especially if you’re new to blogging), but don’t let that worry you. The important thing is that you get started with content that will be found by search engines and useful to your target audience.

 

 

Chelsea_HeadshotChelsea Baldwin is the founder of Copy Power, where she helps companies maximize their online sales and marketing funnels via content that stands out from the crowd and turns readers into devotees. Her ebook offers a five-step DIY guide for non-writers to maximize the impact of their on-site sales copy.

1 How to Strike the Right Content Balance for Maximum Reach

BrodyDorlandArticleImage

photo credit: Shutterstock

Every marketer knows the name HubSpot. Thanks to its blog posts, webinars, e-books, video content, and social media, HubSpot has established itself as a go-to resource in the industry. The company’s success serves as a case study in how to leverage content to grow a company.

Audiences today have unprecedented control over what they consume. They can customize their media experiences, and they have little tolerance for irrelevant content. Marketers must not only be creative in what they present to audiences, but also in how they deliver it.

HubSpot accommodates all of its readers by producing high-quality content across several platforms. At DivvyHQ, we also market to marketers, so we know the importance of diversity. An interesting mix of information and delivery methods attracts new customers, retains current clients, and educates your community.

Striking the right content balance comes down to knowing your audience. Any two customers might have radically different interests and ways of interacting with your brand. Once you know the individuals in your community, you can create a content strategy that resonates with each of them.

Great Strategies Begin With Infrastructure

Content isn’t worth much until you understand your audience. Before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), develop buyer personas based on your market research. These customer profiles should dictate every aspect of your strategy.

Don’t write a single line of content until you’ve built the right infrastructure. Let the following principles guide your content planning:

  • Sustainability: Before starting a company blog, video series, and monthly webinars all at once, ask whether you have the manpower to follow through on all three. If you’re a small company with a one-person marketing shop, you may want to stick to weekly blog posts or a quarterly webinar for now. Sustainable quality trumps one-off quantity.
  • Frequency: Establish a publishing schedule, and stick to it. Put out valuable content on a consistent basis so your audience comes to rely on your insights.
  • Experimentation: Small teams often have ideas for five marketing channels and the resources for one. Start with the strategy most likely to resonate, and test others as your capabilities grow. By incorporating new tactics slowly, you maximize your results while maintaining quality and frequency.  

Variety Is the Spice of Content

Once you set a publishing schedule, build variety into your publishing platforms and the content itself. Here are the three key areas in which you want to diversify your approach:

 

  • Your Mission: Each content channel may serve a different purpose. Maybe you’re using email to promote a product, a blog post to educate, and a tweet to entertain. Whatever the end goal, the content and tone should reflect each channel’s mission.

 

  • The Format: Know whether your audience favors long-form articles or videos — or both. Let your research guide the types of content you produce to ensure you’re reaching your entire community with the format they’ll love.

 

  • The Channel: Identify which delivery vehicles stand the best chance of reaching your audience. Do your top prospects frequent Twitter or Pinterest? Are they more likely to act on an email or a video ad?  Marketers have access to countless media platforms, so experiment with a mix of channels, and document which ones best engage your target market.

People expect brands to create content that speaks to them on the platforms they prefer. You strike the right balance by knowing your audience and learning how best to communicate with them. The more adaptable you are as a marketer, the more likely you are to connect meaningfully with audiences on behalf of your company.

 

Brody-DorlandBrody Dorland is the co-founder of DivvyHQ, the ultimate content planning and production workflow tool for high-volume teams.

5 Planning Your 2016 Content Marketing Calendar

2016 content calendarThere are only a few weeks left in 2015, and that means it’s time to start planning your marketing calendar for 2016.  Actually, that time was about three months ago, but we both know that you’re probably just now getting around to it.  Hey, no worries—we’re all busy small business owners here, so we’re not going to judge you if you’re running a little behind.  If fact, I’d like to give you a bit of a head start on your marketing plan for 2016 by helping you map out your content marketing plan for next year.

Below, I’ve provided twelve ideas for blog posts that can be applied to any business—that’s one blog post for each month.  After writing each blog post (or having a copywriter write it for you), read it or summarize it while standing in front of a camera—use teleprompter software from freetelepromptersoftware.com to help you.  Upload the video to YouTube and/or a video podcast on iTunes.  Then, copy and paste at least a portion of the blog post into your email newsletter template, and send that to your list once a month.  

Do that, and you’ll have 36 pieces of nice educational content about your business by the end of 2016 that will bring you traffic and leads well into the following year and beyond.  Are you ready?  Let’s get started:

January: Share your goals for 2016

Most people spend some time around the New Year at least thinking about setting some goals for things they’d like to accomplish during the year.  Some people even end up actually setting those goals.  By “setting goals” I mean putting in writing exactly what you intend to accomplish and when you intend to accomplish it by.  People who do this are far more likely to accomplish those goals.  

If you set goals for your business in 2016, why not publicly share them with your customers on your blog in January?  People respect businesses that are constantly seeking to improve and grow.  Yes, there is a danger that if you end up not accomplishing goals that you shared publicly, people might be aware of your failure.  Who cares?  People will still appreciate the fact that you’re even trying, and they’ll trust you more for being authentic.  

February: Interview an employee

Help your customers get to know your staff a little better by featuring one of your best employees on your blog.  Interview them about their job, using some or all of the following questions:

  • How long have you worked here?
  • What do you like most about your job?
  • Share a story about a time you really helped a customer solve a problem.
  • What do you like to do in your spare time?  

To make this really powerful, do the interview on video and use the transcript for the blog post.  If you don’t have any employees, interview a vendor instead.  This will help your customers become more comfortable with your team, which will make them trust you more.  You never know when that trust might come in handy.

March: Do a “top 10” or “roundup” style blog post

This is a blog post where you make a list of great resources your customers might be interested in.  For example, a CPA could post a list of the top ten personal finance blogs or top ten budget apps for smartphones.  These types of posts tend to generate lots of backlinks, especially if you contact all the sites you link to in the post and let them know they’ve been featured on your blog.  

April: Answer a “Should Ask Question”

A “should ask question” is one that your customers should ask about your products or services, but don’t know enough about what you do to even know to ask those questions.  These types of questions really position you as an expert in your niche and demonstrate how smart you are to potential customers.

May:  Answer a “Frequently Asked Question”

While “should ask questions” make great content, the problem is that not a lot of people will be searching for answers to these types of questions on Google.  That’s where frequently asked questions come in handy.  Check your “sent email” folder to see what types of questions you and your staff answer over and over again.  Pick one topic, and write an 800—1,000-word blog post about it.  These tend to show up in search results, especially if you get a few quality backlinks to the post.  

June: Do a seasonal post

June marks the beginning of summer, which in the U.S. is a time of transition for many people and businesses.  Schools close for the summer, colleges shift to different schedules, some seasonal business wind up for their busy season and others wind down for a few months (think ski resorts).  Many families get ready to take their annual vacation.  Just about any business can find a way to relate their products or services to one of these transitions.  Use this for June’s blog post.

July: Interview one of your customers or strategic partners

Everyone loves seeing their name in the paper, even if it’s just your paper (aka, blog).  Invite one of your best customers to be interviewed for a feature on your blog and in your email newsletter.  Ask them questions like:

  • How long have you been our customer?
  • What do you like best about what we do?
  • How have our products or services benefitted you?
  • What tips can you offer other customers to help them get the most from our product or service?

For some businesses (divorce attorneys, counselors, etc.) this might not be appropriate due to privacy concerns.  In that case, interview a strategic partner instead of a customer—it will work just as well.

August: Publish an infographic

Infographics are all the rage these days, and if you can create one that helps people in your industry support their position on a topic—especially if that topic is somewhat controversial—it could get a lot of shares and links.  There will be a cost of time and money involved here to develop the infographic, but if done well, it will be more than worth it.

September: Invite a strategic partner to write a guest post

After working hard on your blog for eight months, it’s time to take a month off.  Let someone else create some nice content for your website by inviting a strategic partner to write a guest post for your blog.  Make sure they know you will promote their post on social media and in your email newsletter.  Also, make sure they understand the SEO value of writing a guest post—just send them a link to an article that explains guest blogging to them.  

October: Write a case study about a successful project you’ve completed this year

Hopefully, by this point in the year, you have a least one major success story under your belt for 2016.  Write a case study about it, including what life was like for your customer before they found you, what you did to help them, and how life was better for them afterward.  Include numbers and data to support your case study if possible.  This might just be the most valuable blog post you write this year because you can use it in your lead conversion process for a long time to come.

November: Write a post about the holidays

Yeah, I know, writing a blog post that somehow relates your products and services to the end-of-year holiday season is cliché, but let’s face it—this time of year, it’s probably what you and your customers are going to be thinking about half the time anyway.  You might as well acknowledge that and use it to create some content for your blog.

December: Do a year-in-review post

Remember that blog post you wrote in January about your goals for 2016?  Do a post updating your progress regarding those goals, along with anything else your business accomplished during the year.  If it was a bad year, focus on some of the challenges you had to overcome.  If it was a good year, highlight your achievements.  

In either case, spending some time thinking about everything you managed to do during the course of an entire year is a valuable exercise.  Chances are you’ll be shocked at how much you accomplished.  If you had told me at the beginning of 2015 that by the end of the year I would become a best-selling author, be named to a list of the top 100 business bloggers of the year, and be the president of a brand new BNI chapter, I wouldn’t have believed you—but I accomplished all those things and more.  

If you stick to the content marketing plan I outlined above for an entire year, I’ll bet that by the time you write your year-in-review post for 2016, you’ll have some pretty impressive accomplishments to discuss as well.  

5 7 Activities That Don’t Scale but Will Win You Customers

11.16

Photo Credit:www.launchsolid.com

Starting a business is hard work and early on you will need to hustle to find your first customers. There is no need to stress right away about what marketing channels will scale because you won’t know which options work best. And even when you do find out what will scale, it’s often the activities that don’t scale that will continue to provide the best ROI.

1. Attend an Industry Conference

For example, if your business is building websites for construction companies, you need to find out the most popular conferences. A quick Google search shows these conferences would be a good bet to attend: Construction Super Conference or the International Conference on Transportation. For your first few conferences, going as an attendee is recommended so you can scope them out and determine if it makes sense for you to come back as a vendor (and possibly rent a booth). Spend time walking the aisles, and I love hanging out by the lunch area, if you sit down at the right table and strike up a good conversation you can make a critical connection.

2. Organize a Q&A with Industry Experts

Create a list of 6-10 questions and reach out to industry experts to see if they want to participate. Package up the responses in a PDF, include bios and photos and make sure to give everyone a copy. Blog about the responses and encourage participants to get the word out. Since you are appealing to the vanity of the experts, it’s very easy to drum up interest, don’t be afraid to ask!

3. Sponsor Relevant Meetup Events

Meetup events all over the world are going on and they are often just a handful of people. If you target relevant Meetup groups and offer to sponsor their next event, you will find a lot of takers. Sometimes money to buy pizza is all you need to do and the organizer will add a special offer on their Meetup page and if you’re lucky and/or persuasive they will announce it at the event.

4. Solicit Individual and Personalized Feedback on Your Product or Service

Early on it’s a struggle to get even 5 or 10 people on board as customers. When you do get the first few customers reach out to each one of them with a personal email and thank them for trying you out. Ask for pointed feedback and if you can get them to spare 10 to 15 minutes on the phone that is fantastic as they will provide helpful insight about your product.

5. Attend Local Meetings/Events

Leverage your hometown or nearest big city to attend marketing groups and meetings. Chamber of Commerce meetings or local business groups are a great place to start. It’s not that you will necessarily find your ideal customer in your backyard, but once you start talking about your new company, your networking may uncover other opportunities. In addition, the people you meet may know other people that will help propel your business forward.

6. Target Tangentially Related Companies for Joint Marketing Efforts

If you own a stock photo site, it would make sense to contact web development companies as they often need stock photos when they are creating new websites. You could create a co-branded landing page that provides a discount to the web development companies if they want to have access to a special offer on your site. You could send their special offer to your email list (and vice versa) if you want to do additional joint marketing.

7. Create Handwritten Letters as a Relationship Builder

The old school approach can win you big points. If you take time to customize handwritten letter like this example here, you have a great shot at making a beneficial introduction. Do your homework and understand what the person likes and dislikes before writing the letter and make sure to send it to their place of business.

11.16 headshotChad Fisher is a co-founder of Content Runner, a marketplace for connecting users and freelance writers for the creation of unique written content. Friends of Duct Tape Marketing can create a free account and receive a $30 credit to try out the writers on Content Runner, click here to learn more!

From Confused to Expert Tracker: How to Use Metrics to Grow Your Business

New coaches and entrepreneurs are often freaked out by tracking and metrics, but it’s the best way to grow quickly. Here’s how to easily track your success.

When you start your business, you need to be super focused on engaging new, potential clients and generating revenue; so that you actually put money in the bank. Otherwise, you don’t have a business – just an expensive hobby.

If you’ve been putting off tracking your success, now is the to get started. If you don’t get a handle on this, it will only become more overwhelming as you take on more clients, grow your email list and sell more products and services. More importantly, that growth will not come as quickly if you aren’t tracking what works and what doesn’t.

So these are the three steps to go from total confusion about metrics to an expert tracker — and grow your business in the process.

Get Over the Intimidation Factor

Maybe you thought of yourself as bad at math in school, so you avoid numbers whenever you can. Well that won’t work any longer as an entrepreneur! Fortunately, it doesn’t have to.

Tracking your growth is a far cry from calculus. It’s time to reframe it in your mind, and for me, the best way to do that is to think about all the people I’m reaching and all the money I’m making. Focusing on the end results will help you accomplish the steps to get there.

Action step: Break apart what needs to be done into small pieces that you can tackle easily, perhaps one each day. They can be as simple as…

  • Set up your Google Analytics account for your website.
  • Check your email list sign ups this week, this month, and for the past three months.
  • Take a closer look at one thing that does not seem to be working and come up with a few possible causes as to why that might be the case.

Focus on Engagement

There are so many different factors to consider testing and measuring, and that’s often where new coaches and entrepreneurs get stuck.

So if you’re wondering if your time spent on Facebook or Instagram is worthwhile, track the level of engagement of fans and followers over time, rather than whether your latest post got as many Likes as you wanted.

The same goes for the launch of a new product. In this case, engagement means purchases, so focus on what’s making the most sales, even if that’s not what the experts say is supposed to work. Once you’re looking at your sales figures regularly, you’ll see the patterns in what’s working and what’s not.

Action Step: Start tracking your income daily or weekly. I track my income daily on a spreadsheet and it really makes you aware of all the money coming into your life. If I don’t do it I notice how quickly I fall back into a mindset of lack and I start to get stressed.

Track Your Content Too

Many coaches and entrepreneurs see blogging and content creation as totally separate from tracking results and income. This could not be further from the case. Writing for writing’s sake is great, but it’s not a business.

No more fly by the pants blogging. Focus on what your potential clients (notice that I did not say readers) would LOVE to read, and what helps them solve a problem. Your blog posts need to be super helpful or inspirational and share-worthy.

I try to really over-deliver valuable content with my blog posts. Each post is focused on a topic that helps new coaches grow their businesses, from how to choose your niche to how to make 10K per month.

Then I spend as much time and effort on promoting the content as I do writing it, so blog posts get plenty of shares on social media because they are helpful, and that means new subscribers joining my list all the time. As I track performance, I can see clearly which types of posts perform the best.

Action Step: Create an editorial calendar filled with blog posts that are so valuable to your potential clients that they just must work with you, and then spend half of your time promoting the content, tracking what promotion tools render the best results.

 

JN Miami 2Jessica Nazarali is a former Business Development Manager, who knew there had to be more to life than working in a job she didn’t love. Through starting a blog in 2011, Jessica began coaching women who were eager for their online businesses to succeed. Jessica is now an Online Business Expert for new entrepreneurs and specialises in helping them standout in their industries and find clients. Her advice has been featured in Cleo, Marie Claire, Sunday Style, Content Magazine and Madison and her book, Leaping from the Ladder. When she’s not coaching clients, you can find her unfurling her yoga mat, making banana smoothies and googling her next travel destination. Find out how you can create a coaching business that sets you free at www.jessicanazarali.com.

5 How to Overcome Writer's Block

Writer's Block

We’ve all been there: stuck with writer’s block on a tight deadline. It can completely derail your writing progress, and frustrate you to the point where you can’t get anything done. As a business owner, you don’t have time to sit around with writer’s block, and if your blog is well-read, the fear of disappointing your readers may add extra pressure.

I write a lot in my free time in addition to my usual blogging, so I’ve dealt with writer’s block a lot. Here are some of the best ways I have been able to break the bind and get back to creating great content.

Take a Break 

Sometimes when you’re having a hard time writing, the best thing to do is step away from the task at hand. Get your mind off your topic for a little bit and think about something else. If you are extremely busy, move on to the next task and complete it. If you can, though, I’d suggest clearing your mind entirely. Try taking a walk around your office or home, or if the weather is pleasant, head outside and take a deep breath.

When you get a real bad case of writer’s block, you may be over-thinking your project and how to get over it. Just step away and take a break, over-thinking and worrying about it will only prolong the block.

Once you get back to whatever you were writing, reread your work from the beginning. You’ll be amazed the direction in which your train of thought will take you.

Skip Around

If you find yourself hung up on writing a particular point in your post, try skipping ahead to a different point. Sometimes it can help you feel better to get words on paper instead of sitting idle and staring at the blank page. Think about the next point of your blog post, and skip ahead a bit. Once you complete that thought, maybe you can go back to the section that hung you up.

Write Something Else 

Like the athlete that tries to recover from a turned ankle by walking it off, sometimes the only way to get through writer’s block is to write. Close your main project and write something completely different. Writing a blog post? Try your hand at poetry. Working your way through a technical eBook? Write a children’s story or fiction piece.

Your new work doesn’t have to be good (No one will ever have to see it) but it just has to be different. Once when I was having a really tough time progressing, I decided to write a rap lyric. The lyric was horrendous, but when I went back to my main project, the words seemed to flow. Sometimes you have to just change the way you think before progressing.

Get Active

There are countless studies proving that exercise increases productivity. Exercise gets your blood pumping and gets more of your brain active. If you’ve been sitting over your computer reworking your sales copy for hours, studies show that your brain starts working at a lower efficiency. Working out will recharge your batteries, and help you work more effectively.

Can’t get sweaty or don’t have the time to work out? Go for a walk outside or, even better, up and down the stairs. Take 15 minutes and move around as much as possible in that time. If Yoga is your thing, you can even do a few poses. All you have to do is get out of your chair and your heart racing.

Have a Beer (no, seriously)

If all else fails, have a beer to help get creative. Alcohol in small amounts can help you relax and boost creativity. Be responsible, though. It may be pretty tough to get things done after a long happy hour.

It’s just a block, not the end of the world

Even the best writers get writer’s block occasionally. Relax, you’ll get through it. There are plenty of ways to recharge your creativity and finish your project, all you have to do is find what works best for you.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443.jpgAlex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

How to Improve Your Writing

Close-up of businessman fill the form.

Some people are natural writers. Most of us are not. Writing can be a struggle, and that struggle may prevent some business owners from creating the content that they need to successfully promote their businesses.

Everyone has at some point stared at a blank word document and wondered if they’re a good enough writer to create shareable content. But there are always ways to improve your writing. Some of these tips take time, others are quick fixes, but all of these tips will improve your content.

Improve Your Editing

Editing seems like a waste of time, I know. The post is written, why should I spend more time on it? Well, editing is not only a way for you to make sure your post is free of errors, but it is also a chance for you to identify your writing patterns and improve upon them. Maybe you’ll read through it one last time and see that there is something you could have said better, or something that isn’t quite clear. Recognizing this will help you avoid these mistakes in the future.

Here’s a 4 step method to editing that has never failed me:

  • Read through the post once for spelling and punctuation errors
  • Read through once more for sentence structure, clarity and grammar
  • Sleep on it. You’ll likely miss something if you’re looking at the same post too much at once.
  • Read through your content the next day, thinking about how to improve the post overall.

Also, adding grammar-check tools like Grammarly to your routine will make editing even easier.

Read, read, read

Imitation is the best form of flattery, and reading is the best way to see how others write. Don’t forget to read, whether it be for your job or just for fun. Those who read diverse works tend to be better writers.

When thinking about a new blog post, start by heading to a news aggregator like AllTop to find the top posts in your industry. You can even use a tool like Buzzsumo to find out what’s being shared the most. Read those posts to discover how other authors and business owners are writing about the subjects you want to cover.

You may also want to diversify what you read. Read the newspaper in the morning, or take some time to read a business development book like Got Your Attention? How to Create Intrigue and Connect with Anyone. Personally, I enjoy novels. Right now, I’m reading The Martian by Andy Weir. I particularly like the way Weir makes technical dialog and exposition feel light and fun. I’ll try to use some of his techniques in the future.

Practice Makes Perfect Writing

This is the biggest piece of advice I can give: writing is not a strictly natural skill. It can be learned and developed. Sure, it may come easier to some, but even those who are great at writing can always work and get better.

The same goes for you. You can be a better writer – it just takes practice. Don’t get discouraged. Keep creating content and practicing. Eventually, it will become a lot easier.

I’d suggest trying to write more than blog posts or content for your site. Try writing a poem or a short story. Don’t see yourself as the creative writing type? Take some time to write in a journal or type up one of your favorite memories from childhood. None of this has to be published (I’ve been “working on” a novel for about 5 years now, and it will probably never see the light of day) but it is valuable practice.

Write On! 

Some of us see writing as a monumental task. For others, it can be scary to face criticism for their writing. Writing and creating content doesn’t have to be stressful, just take some time and keep in mind that you can always get better. No one is a bad writer, and don’t tell yourself you are. Just get out there and get more experience. 

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

Converting Subpar Writers In to Content Champions

Content- there is no easy button.Consumers love content. It entices them visit company websites. It inspires them to share business insights. It gives them trust in the brand. And, ultimately, it encourages them to make a purchase.

Sixty percent of B2C marketers anticipate increasing their content marketing budget within 2015, according to Content Marketing Institute. While this statistic isn’t necessarily shocking, marketers are increasingly concerned about the lack of trained professionals to fulfill these needs.

The report went on the state that more than 40% of respondents were challenged with “lack of knowledge and training” and “finding trained content marketing professionals” to produce engaging, converting content.

In-house marketing teams and digital agencies can help employees develop into skilled writers by providing growth structure and educational opportunities. This will not only strengthen the content team but can further propel clients toward online success.

5 Techniques to Help Writers Succeed in the Digital Sphere

1. Start With an Assessment

When a new content marketer is hired, provide them with an evaluation to get a better idea of the individual’s capabilities. The evaluation should be based on your company’s specific content needs and can come in a variety of forms.

One evaluation option is to assign an initial writing exercise followed by an editorial review that will note necessary areas of improvement, organization skills, pace of writing, improper grammar use, etc. Another assessment could be as simple as creating a grammar and punctuation test.

Assessments, in conjunction with writing samples, will give the content strategists a baseline understanding of where the writer may experience difficulties. Additionally, asking the writer if there are any key areas they’d like to develop further can set the tone for growth.

2. Establish a Style Guide for Each Medium

Consumers on each medium are typically there for different reasons, and it’s important to convey those needs to new writers. Clearly outline the company’s tone and objectives for blogs, email content, each social network and other marketing mediums to guide content writing. A concise overview of each platform’s needs is important to establish expectations for writers. Check out MailChimp’s Voice & Tone for inspiration on creating a style guide for your company and/or clients.

Additionally, new writers should be briefed on which standard of writing the company follows. Many bloggers use AP Style, others prefer Chicago Style and some companies have created an alternative variant. This resource will help the writer make quick, informed decisions and ensures the company’s content is consistent.

content-calendar

3. Stay Organized

Setting up processes for content construction is imperative to develop successful writers. There are three distinct necessities for any organization tasked with content construction:

  •  An editorial flow chart clearly outlines the process for creating, editing and approving content.
  • Utilizing track changes in Microsoft Word ensures writers and editors are clear on what changes have been made to a document and allows individuals to leave comments.
  • Content calendars track what topics should be covered and when. They can also include notes on the progress of each piece (see image). This streamlines communication and keeps everyone informed on content marketing efforts happening throughout the team.

If new writers require extra assistance, working on outlines together before the writing process begins. This can proactively address potential errors before the writer even makes them.

4. Identify Quality Resources

Editors and content strategists are often well versed on valuable tools and resource that newer writers can benefit from. Share these with content teams; advocate that writers regularly read informative blogs and stay attuned to techniques that established content marketers use. While each writer will undoubtedly have her own diction, well-written blogs can provide valuable insights on potential style and structural improvements.

The Web also offers an array of paid instructional resources that can aid in the writer’s growth.
Some websites to reference:

5. Schedule Time to Write Daily

Every writer should work to figure out when they are the most productive and creative. After learning when that is, give writers daily assignments or allow free flow writing during that time. Writing is a skill improved with regular practice. Daily writing gives time for experimentation, growth and learning new techniques and formats.

Training writers to fulfill your organization’s content marketing needs will help them feel professional fulfilled and grow with your business. It can take time and patients from an experienced editor or content strategist, but will have a lasting, positive impact on your company and clients’ online presence.

Jennifer ClineJennifer Cline is the Digital Account Lead at Element5, a Michigan-based web design, development, and marketing agency. With a background in Journalism, Jennifer enjoys working closely with content writers and companies to produce quality writing that not only informs, but also converts. Element5 helps companies achieve online success and is committed to crafting a better Web. For more article like this, visit Element5’s blog. @Element5Digital

1 How To Succeed At Content Marketing On A Small Budget

Here’s great news for your small business: You can succeed at content marketing without spending a fortune. In fact, you may be able to out-content market much larger competitors with much larger budgets. In this article, we’ll review a simple, focused approach to creating a content marketing campaign that is affordable and effective.

shutterstock_95024107Why You Will Succeed: Quality Trumps Quantity

Large companies sometimes turn content marketing into link building campaigns for SEO — putting the emphasis on the number of links, and hence the number of articles published. But whether for Google or people, high-quality content achieves the best results.

Small-business owners understand their business inside-out and know how to talk to customers and prospects. Thus, they are in a position to write highly authoritative and useful content — content that high-profile, influential websites and blogs in their niche are eager to publish. Such content holds several important benefits for small businesses:

  1. Improving brand image
  2. Establishing credibility
  3. Expanding brand awareness
  4. Generating sales leads and referrals
  5. Creating natural links that greatly improve the firm’s SEO visibility

shutterstock_164492432How to Succeed: A Hands-on Approach

The secret weapon to small-business content marketing is you. You know what to write about. You know how to write about it in ways that influence customer perception and action. You know the top publishing sites and may already have a dialog with some of them. Set realistic goals of publishing two articles per month and proceed as follows:

  • Set aside one to two hours per month to brainstorm topics with your team. Create a simple editorial detailing topics, key points and a target-publishing site for each article.
  • Set aside two to four hours per month to write two articles. Find an editor, either on staff or freelance, to edit as needed. The level of editing you need depends a lot on your writing skills; don’t be deterred if you are not a master writer. For more insight on editing, click here.
  • Set aside one to three hours per month to pitch your articles to publishing sites. You may be able to delegate this assignment to your top marketing person.
  • Task a staffer to monitor published articles. Keep track of the number of comments and social shares each article produces, as well as how many visits to your website were referred from publishing sites. Have this person alert you to any comments that need your response. Spend one hour per month reviewing performance data.
  • Continuously improve your efforts by looking for new publishing sites, and monitoring customer/prospect feedback and questions from whatever sources for new topic ideas.

This content marketing to-do list requires a little over one day a month from the writer (you) — and not much at all in the way of hard costs.

How to Succeed: Stay Focused on Off-site Articles

It’s tempting to expand into other types of content marketing once you’ve gotten your off-site article publishing off the ground. But take care: spreading yourself too thin could lead to mediocre execution on all fronts. Here are reasons not to venture out too quickly in certain content marketing avenues:

  • Social Media. You can labor for years to build a sizeable, engaged and relevant following on your own social media sites. Far easier is to piggyback on the established social media communities of your publishing sites.
  • Company Blog. An on-site blog is certainly a good thing, but doing it properly will consume a lot of internal resources. Effective blogs require the steady production of high-quality content and energetic marketing to develop an audience. Additionally, a blog should have an underlying SEO strategy that adds another layer of complexity and cost.
  • Visual Content. Infographics, video, slide presentations and photography have a huge “cool” factor and attract attention from valuable publishers. Nevertheless, visual content is expensive to produce and hard to do effectively, even with a substantial budget.

If you see your initial content strategy gain traction, based on lead generation, social shares, anecdotal evidence and other relevant factors, you can always expand. It’s a great problem to have — much better than trying to do too much and getting nowhere.

sn-brad-shorr-2Brad Shorr is the B2B Marketing Director of Straight North, an Internet marketing firm serving business of all sizes with their content marketing needs. You can read Brad’s work on Moz, Smashing Magazine, and About.com.

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