Category Archives: Marketing

17 Tips for Increasing the Selling Power of Your Ad Copy

Whether you’re doing the writing yourself or you’ve decided to hire a writer, see if you can glean some valuable insights from the following list of 17 methods.

1. Use present tense, second person. When we read any kind of promotional copy, our favorite word is “you.” When we see “you,” it means the writer is talking directly to us. It encourages us to picture ourselves with the product. There may be times when it’s appropriate to use the third person — for example when talking about “those people” who don’t have the finer taste or understanding that “you” do or when explaining the faults of the competition. In general, try to stick to “you” and speak in the present tense as much as possible, not about the past or future.

Don’t say: Buyers will experience vibrant health with a daily dose of aloe vera juice.

Do say: You experience vibrant health with a daily dose of aloe vera juice.

2. Use a simple style of writing. The purpose of your ad is to sell a product or service, not to impress the reader with your brilliant writing. Also, you want your writing to carry the readers along without putting up any roadblocks to their under­standing or interest. If your writing is dense, flowery, or filled with complex images readers can’t relate to, you’re going to discourage them from moving forward.

3. Use simple words. This is similar to the previous point. If your writing is loaded with long, pompous words that most people don’t understand, prospects won’t keep reading because it seems like too much work. Make it easy for people to read the ad, get the message and want to follow your call to action.

4. Give free information. To get something, you have to give something. To get your readers’ attention, you have to give them something to ensure it will be worth their while to read your copy — and one thing you can give them is free infor­mation. Tell them something useful right at the beginning. You can even write that part of your letter in editorial style, rather than making it obvious that you’re trying to sell them something.

Another method is to promise at the beginning that they’ll find valuable information later on in the piece, e.g., “Keep reading for the list of 10 foods you should always avoid if you suffer from heartburn.”

This is especially easy for online marketers, who can offer a downloadable free premium. Online marketers today have also figured out that if they don’t give away a lot of free information before getting read­ers to the point of sale, there’s a big chance they’ll lose the prospect before getting to the moment of truth.

5. Make your copy specific. We’re so accustomed to seeing wild advertising claims, especially on the internet, that we don’t really believe them anymore. To counteract skep­ticism, one ad expert advises saying, “97,482 people have bought one of these appliances” rather than “Nearly 100,000 of these appliances have been sold.” The first statement sounds like a fact. The second sounds like copywriting bluster. Simply put, being more precise with exact numbers or “real data,” rather than rounding up or being general, will always enhance your copy.

6. Write long copy. You’ve probably heard that copy can nei­ther be too long nor too short, just too boring. But if it’s done intelligently, longer copy does a much better job of selling than shorter copy — if it’s laid out attractively, it’s always more effective.

And you can get the best of both worlds by using headlines and subheads to create a smaller, quicker-to-read piece within the longer piece. Then you’ll appeal to the “skimmers” while still providing plenty of sales talk to those who were interested and want more information. This is especially important when sending emails or setting up web pages. These can be difficult to read if the copy isn’t broken up.

7. Write more copy than you need to fill the space. Write more copy than you need, then refine it down — copy gets better when you start long and then cut it because it gets tighter and more to the point. Don’t worry about length while you’re writing. Just put down all your ideas in as much detail as you want. Then go back and edit, refining as you go, taking out the excess, rephrasing and getting your points in the most efficient order.

8. Avoid helping your competitors. Don’t spend a lot of time talking in general terms about how great your type of prod­uct is. Talk more specifically about all the great features of your own product.

Let’s say you’re selling a home cleaning service. If you spend most of your pitch describing how nice a homeowner’s life will be with someone else doing the cleaning, they might agree, go online to see who else is offering cleaning services in the area and end up hiring someone else! Instead, use your copy to focus on the great features of your cleaning service and how you’re so much better than anyone else.

9. Make every advertisement a complete sales pitch. Don’t assume your prospect has ever read anything else about you or knows anything about the advantages you offer. Don’t talk about half the things that make you stand out in one piece and the other half in another promotional piece. For all you know, you’ll only have this one shot to make this sale or get some­one to your blog. Always make the most of it.

10. Urge the reader to act. Every promo­tional piece should have a clear call to action: Act now! Call today! Order while supplies last! You’ve spent your entire piece getting your readers’ attention and explaining why they should want your product or service. Now put the bow on the package — tell them what you want them to do. And if you can add a sense of urgency by telling them it’s a limited-time offer, supplies are limited, or these special prices can’t last long, all the better. Without a clear call to action, the rest of the piece, as good as it may be, could be a complete waste.

11. Put captions under illustrations. As advertising expert, David Ogilvy once said: “More people read the captions under illustrations than read the body copy, so never use an illustration without putting a caption under it. Your caption should include the brand name and/or the promise.”

12. Use mail order methods in direct mail advertising. Rules of good advertising, e.g., a strong headline and opening sen­tence, work for every medium, including online advertising.

13. Overstatement vs. understatement. Avoid advertising blus­ter. Give supported facts and go for believability.

14. Avoid trick slogans. Don’t use slogans that are obviously untrue. Ad expert John Caples offered the example of a mint manufacturer whose slogan was “On every tongue” — an obvious impossi­bility. A more effective slogan would have been “The flavor lasts.”

15. Get help from others. Find a sounding board to give you honest opinions on what you write.

16. Don’t say that a salesperson will call. You’ll cut down responses to your offer for a free item if you tell prospects you’ll be following up with a call (or a letter or email). Don’t tell them your sales plan. Caples said this could reduce responses to coupons by 75 percent.

17. Study the selling copy in mail order catalogs. At the time Caples was writing ads, mail order catalogs had the best copy­writers. His advice simply meant you should learn how to write great copy by reading the best. That’s great advice to follow today in your own medium.


Here Is Why You Should Be Running Native Ads

There are multiple options when it comes to attracting customers online — promoted social media posts, pay-per-click ads and banner advertising are just a few options to throw your advertising budget at. While these are all very effective, there is another option that you should consider — native advertising.

It’s a form of advertising that’s designed to match the look and feel of the website upon which it appears. Kyle Ryan, CEO of Earnify, a native advertising platform for both publishers and advertisers, sees first hand how effective this form of advertising can be for businesses. I recently spoke with Ryan at length about native advertising, and he explained why businesses should be using it in their marketing campaigns.

Businesses of all sizes can benefit.

While native advertising is quite new to the digital advertising space, many brands, big and small, are starting to use it more. Banner ads on some of the larger websites, for example, will often require a large financial commitment, which eliminates the smaller businesses. Most native advertising platforms have very small financial buy-ins to get started, allowing even the smallest businesses to experience native advertising.

We have run several split-test campaigns pairing traditional ads against native ads, and we have found that native ads consistently received nearly 25 percent more engagement. This is a significant number, especially at scale.

Provides an overall lower cost-per-click.

Native ads provide excellent custom targeting, allowing you to create advertisements that prove to be more interesting to consumers when compared to traditional digital advertising. Cost-wise, native ads are more efficient.

Overall, they are much cheaper because they are so targeted, which results in high click-through rates and a low cost-per-click. Native ads attract clicks because they are not intrusive, unlike in-your-face animated banners and pop-ups.

Native ads attract more genuine interest.

Native ads perform exceptionally well because they don’t interrupt the use experience like other forms of advertising, which consumers appreciate. They are marked as advertisements, so it’s not a deceptive form of marketing, like some might assume.

Top performing native ads appear within relevant content, blending in to give a fluid and pleasant user experience to the website visitor. When someone views the ad and click on it you are attracting someone with genuine interest in what you are offering. Attracting a higher quality visitor to your landing page is going to ultimately result in a higher conversion rate. Leads generated via native ads are always going to be high quality because their level of interest is higher.

There is less resistance from the consumer.

In-feed native ads allow you to blend in and not stand out like a conspicuous banner ad. You experience more user engagement because they aren’t avoiding your ads like the plague — which is what happens to the banner ads that typically sit in a website’s header areas and right-hand sidebar area.

Consumers are highly educated when it comes to online marketing — they have become almost immune to traditional advertisements and their locations. Now is the time to take advantage of the limited resistance and test the effectiveness of native ads for your business.

Ryan founded his native ad platform after being on the other side of the table — he understood what both the publisher and advertiser required in order to be successful. I have seen several of my consulting clients experience success with native ads and we have a native ad campaign set up for one of my newest companies, a teeth whitening kit, for the upcoming holiday season.


5 Ways to Reach Businesses Looking for Your Services But Haven’t Found You Yet

Google “how to market your business” and you’ll find a wealth of information on how to reach the general public. If your business caters to consumers, these tips can be very helpful indeed. But what if you’re with one of the many businesses that exist to support the needs of other companies? The business community is full of organizations that specialize in selling software, office supplies, marketing tools, and a wide variety of other products to other firms. Reaching those customers can be tricky, but these tips can help.

1. Become a thought leader.

As much as business owners want to support fellow business owners, they usually gravitate towards working with the best in a particular field. If a company wants to partner with a local company for IT services, for instance, its leader will likely look for the top local provider. One way to capture the attention of businesses in search of excellence is to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field. Conduct workshops, write insightful posts for various websites, and produce content on your own platforms that make it clear you are a well-respected authority in your field. Don’t expect results right away. Generate new online material consistently over a long period of time, and you will develop a following, especially if you network.

2. Network like a boss.

In a B2B context, networking is essential. The more your potential clients see your name, the more likely it is that they’ll consider you when they’re looking for the type of services you offer. Set up a LinkedIn profile and create content that others will share on the site. Attend conferences and follow up after the event to create a lasting relationship with the people you meet. Webinars can also be an effective way to attract new customers and you won’t even have to leave the comfort of your office. I know CEOs who spend spare moments answering questions on Quora, or hold podcasts with various industry luminaries on a regular schedule, which helps increase exposure.

3. Tell a story.

The most successful brand marketers tell a story, realizing that customers react well to that approach. Case studies and testimonials allow your website visitors to connect with others who use your product. A business searching for your services may relate to one of those stories and see your brand as providing exactly what it needs. It’s important to show your brand personality in everything you share with customers to make a lasting connection.

4. Use paid ads.

Many B2B businesses mistakenly skip ads, assuming those are designed for B2C-based companies. Actually, paid ads are a potent way to reach your target audience. Today’s paid ads allow you to narrow your focus to a very specific subset of consumers. For B2B ads, this means segmenting your audience to specific businesses. One useful outlet for B2B advertising is LinkedIn, which helps advertisers target audiences by job title and company. This includes the site’s sponsored updates, which give users the ability to boost a post in the same way they would on Facebook or Twitter.

5. Use integrations. 

B2B businesses often interact with professionals throughout a specific industry. Those interactions can be bolstered by simply conducting research on people before sending an initial email or continuing an existing conversation. With the right plugins, you can put that information directly in your inbox, which lets you see a person’s social media information without leaving your email client. You’ll be able to capture information that could be relevant to your conversation, as well as potentially locate a connection you might have in common with a person you’re contacting.

B2B marketing has its own unique challenges, but with the right tools in place, you’ll be on your way to mastering it. As a result, you’ll build lasting connections with people in industries that are vital to your own business. Over time, those connections can lead to referrals, which will help your company grow.


Your Customers’ Brains Are Hard-Wired to Decode These 10 Signals

Why do some websites seem to magically make us want to click “add to cart” and others leave us cold? The answer lies in psychology.

Whether you frame it as an art to perfect or the science of what makes people tick, psychology can motivate people to take action. In fact, persuasive writers have used techniques based in psychology to influence people since at least 1895.

These 10 copywriting techniques can help you harness the power of the unconscious to drive the results you want.

1. Repetition.

Repetition also is called “illusory truth.” It’s the notion that something repeated frequently feels more truthful and accurate to us — and it’s backed by study findings from the Association for Consumer Research.

To apply this idea to your copywriting, create several benefit or fact statements about a product, service or company. Then, consistently weave them throughout the copy you create. This involves repetition both within a single piece and across the entire spectrum of works to reiterate the same points.

2. Rhymes.

Rhymes piggyback on repetition by using sounds that repeat in patterns. Our minds remember patterns more easily than other information, which is probably why you forget a dentist appointment but can recall every lyric from your favorite band’s songs.

Rhyming schemes are a memorization tactic, too. Planted subtly within copy, such a rhyme can create the seed of an idea. This is precisely why so many television and radio commercials feature jingles. The best ones have you singing along, even if you don’t need the product or service. You can experiment by adding rhyming patterns into advertising copy or inserting short, rhyming phrases in headlines.

3. Action verbs.

Action verbs imply urgency, motion and positivity. Passive voice slows down the copy and kills any energy within the words. Choose rich, imaginative active verbs whenever possible. A laundry detergent doesn’t simply clean clothes, it freshens and brightens them. A consulting firm doesn’t just offer business advice to help you make money, it develops action plans so you can vault over your competition.

Evocative action verbs form the basis of all good copy and are a writer’s best friends. If you struggle to find such words when you’re in the middle of a project, make lists of possible words and jot down verbs that strike your fancy as you surf the web or read journals. Soon, you’ll have your own personal lexicon of energy-packed super verbs.

4. Justification.

Justification offers a plausible reason behind your call to action. In copywriting, it taps into unconscious mental scripts and shorthands that enable you to rationalize your own actions.

If someone cuts in line in front of you at the ATM and murmurs, “Excuse me, may I go first? My grandmother is waiting at the pharmacy counter and I need to get some cash quick to pay for her medicine,” you probably won’t put up much of a fuss. This particular justification taps into your cultural programming to show empathy toward the elderly and the sick.

It’s a little trickier to code this psychological technique into your copy, but writers will find great success when they do it well. L’Oreal Paris cosmetics used this technique in its “Because I’m worth it” campaign. The commercials and print ads played on women’s feelings of self worth and celebrated the brand’s products as a way to act on that justified belief.

4. Offbeat word pairs.

Offbeat pairs make your headlines memorable. The technique jars your mental radar out of its complacent preset, making your mind sit up and take notice.

“Poor rich” is one example of a bizarre pairing. Others are more subtle. Headlines can use this tactic, too: “Run Your Company Like a Lemonade Stand ” or “The Car That Flies” both defy expectations.

5. Textured Adjectives.

Like strong action verbs, textured adjectives add layered meaning and create a mental image. “Hot” is a concrete term, but “blistering” is much stronger because takes the meaning to a higher degree. The mind attaches emotion to words that carry texture and feeling. Use your adjectives sparingly and choose them wisely to get the fullest effect.

6. Visual numbers.

If your copy is heavy with numbers, percentages or other quantitative data, give your readers a break. Use word pictures, descriptions and metaphors to engage their imaginations and illustrate the meaning behind the numbers.

State the numbers first and then add the picture: “One out of every five children will go to bed hungry tonight. Imagine a typical classroom. See that boy in the blue sweater, seated at the last desk in the front row? His mother lost her job last week and can’t afford groceries.”

8. Freedom to choose.

It sounds counterintuitive, but emphasizing your customer’s freedom to choose can be a powerful inducement to select your product of service. A study conducted in 2000 showed how adding the phrase “but you are free” to a direct request for money drastically increased the odds of securing a gift.

Test the phrase in your copy, and you’re likely to see it outperform the control. Variations on this theme include “It’s your call,” ‘You can decide” and “It’s your choice.” The exact wording matters less than acknowledging that the consumer is exercising his or her will by taking action.

9. Indirect claims.

Indirect claims are tied to the brain’s quest for context. They force the reader or listener to form the meaning behind the claim, whereas direct claims can indicate no meaning other than what’s explicitly stated.

“The sweetness of a ripe peach” is a better claim for a natural-based candy than simply saying, “It’s very sweet.” The comparison puts the reader’s imagination to work, thinking on the juiciest fruit he or she ever ate.

An article featured in the March 2013 Journal of Advertising explored the psychology behind this tactic. Self-generated inferences — formed from indirect claims — proved much more effective than direct claims.

10. Second-person perspective.

Writing in the first person centers on “I,” while the third person deals in “she” and “he.” But the second person is even more immediate because it in hinges on “you.”

One study found “you” statements outperformed neutral statements in terms of making people believe the copy is relevant to them. “You” encourages your readers to consider their own needs and feelings first. It directs the statement to the audience so they can absorb and internalize its meaning.


5 Things Entrepreneurs Should Never Say to Journalists

If I have a hidden talent, it’s putting my foot in my mouth; I might blithely tell you how much your child looks like his stepdad, accidentally mistake your wife for your mother or even re-gift you a present you bought for me last year. Because “foot-in-mouth” is my speciality.

But, with a faux pas, after a few red-faced moments, all is soon forgotten.

Unfortunately, that’s not true when speaking with journalists, where what you say might end up being immortalized in print. That possibility can be quite daunting for new entrepreneurs and founders.

Not that you should let that put you off seeking press for your startup. Because media coverage can be an enormous win for your company. Not only is third-party or expert content up to 88 percent percent more effective than branded content, but it can gain you exposure in new markets, and set you up as an expert in your field, which will raise your industry profile.

Want to get better at the journalism game? There are unwritten rules aplenty, but if you avoid saying or doing the following five things, you’ll keep your relationship with the media as healthy as possible.

1. ‘I’ll pay you to write it.’

Nothing will turn a journalist’s milk sour quite like an indecent proposal. Journalists write about news. Period. If you have an interesting story, and it relates to a particular journalist’s beat, by all means pitch it. If your company is doing something new or noteworthy, you’re “in.” Enjoy your shot of media coverage.

Alternately, as soon as you offer a journalist money to cover your story, you’ll be breaking an ethical code which will likely get you blacklisted, not only by that journalist, but by all his or her colleagues, friends, family and pets. Most journalists value their careers far more than your offer. So . . . don’t do it. Offering to pay will be a sure-fire way of saying goodbye to a good contact and decent media coverage — forever.

On the other hand, dismiss any journalist who asks that you pay, in cash or kind, for coverage. TechCrunch’s heartfelt apology for a number of incidents involving an intern requesting a Macbook Air from a startup in return for a write-up gives you an idea of just how serious this problem can be.

Paid, or “native,” content is a legitimate way of supporting the media — and there’s nothing wrong with contacting a publication to post a native ad or sponsored article. Just make sure you contact the marketing department, not the editorial one.

2. ‘I must review it before you publish.’

Although it may be nerve-wracking, once the interview ends and the notepad has closed, you have no control over the outcome. It’s a journalist’s prerogative to write his or her own story, and you can’t expect to impose any influence. As an interviewee, you have no right to ask to review the article before it goes to print.

Occasionally, a reporter may call to double-check a fact for accuracy, but that will be as far as it goes. So, avoid the temptation, and just wait for your story to come out.

If there are mistakes, by all means get in touch and politely explain what should be corrected. Most journalists will gladly add a note and correction to the article, indicating that errors occurred.

3. ‘Can you hold, please?’ or, Sorry, let’s do it another day.’

Nothing brings forth the gnashing of journalistic teeth quite like being asked to call back. With rapidly diminishing newsrooms and mounting pressure to write more and more stories, journalists have far less time on their hands than they used to.

When a journalist asks to interview you about your product, company launch or new product, don’t let the opportunity slip. Ask this individual to call you back, or come to the office another day — and there goes your media coverage.

So, treat journalists as you would a well-respected venture capitalist thinking of making an investment in your company. Their time is their money, and they really don’t owe you anything.

4. ‘Is this is off the record?’

“You know, my business partner wears a terrible wig. That’s off the record, right?”

Wrong. And there’s that faux pas again.

Please confirm that what you are about to say is “off the record,” before you say it. Unless agreed upon, anything you say is fair game. And, believe me, if it’s juicy, it’s going into the story.

Need confirmation? We all know what happened to Donald Trump and Billy Bush. Their disturbing conversation laughing about sexual assault was caught on tape — “When you’re a star, they let you do it”- -and it was perfectly legal for that to be made public (though Trump has threatened to sue).

Of course, that’s an extreme example, but the same goes for emails, text messages, Post-it notes: Anything you say or write down may be included in the article. So, those angry tweets? They’re going in. Those private Facebook messages? Front-page news.

Anything, in fact, that you say may be used for or against you, so always think before you speak, tweet or email.

5. ‘You didn’t include me in your article.’

Journalists interview a whole range of different people all the time. En route, they build up backgrounds enabling them to really understand a story and tell it in a clear and comprehensive way.

Unfortunately, not every interview makes the cut, and some interviewees are left out of the final story. This may be the journalist’s decision, or a copy editor may take it out so that the story fits its layout. Of course, if you’re the one getting left out, you may feel quite frustrated, especially when you were hoping to boost your business with a mention in a great feature.

But none of that matters. What does is how you react.

Journalists hate being berated for ignoring an interviewee’s story. So, whatever you do, don’t complain. One angry email from you, and they’ll cross you off their contact list for the next story.

Instead, write to the journalist with congratulations on the article; this will set you up as a willing source for the future, and you never know what good might come out of it for you or your company.

Dealing with the media can be a difficult and delicate process, but it is also extremely rewarding. Remember to treat journalists with professional respect, and recognize that you are potentially presenting your company to hundreds of thousands of people. So, prepare and practice beforehand, and you’ll be excited by another big step for your company.

‘Digital Unicorn’ Is the Next Big Marketing Hire You Want to Make

I was meeting with a marketing professor recently and she asked me about my prediction on the next trend within the digital marketing industry. I responded with a simple answer: the digital unicorn.

If you are unfamiliar with this term, it is someone that has a public relations background but a firm grasp on digital. If someone in HR is nervous to post an advertisement on Indeed seeking a Digital Unicorn, “Digital PR Specialist” would be the safer route.

He or she is familiar with backlinks, search engine optimization and implementing the proper title tags on the site. Yet, this unicorn also has connections within the PR industry, can make new reporter connections on Twitter, knows how to write compelling blog content and can promote blogs and articles to be seen by the masses on social. Don’t forget, this unicorn knows how to shoot and edit videos, has a keen eye for photography and can code HTML.

For all of the naysayers who assumed PR was dead, think again, this skill-set will continue to be in demand as marketing departments and agencies try and snag these well versed individuals.

SEO benefits.

If you follow the SEO industry, you are well aware that Google values quality content. Long gone are the days where you can manipulate Google’s search engine with low quality content. You need to constantly be increasing your domain authority, which is something this unicorn can spearhead.

For example, if you work in the apartment industry, contributing content on sites like Apartment Finder and Apartment Guide can not only help establish your credibility, it can also increase a metric that is called domain authority.

Google’s core algorithm, PageRank, is predicated off of backlinks. The more credibility a website has, the higher its domain authority.

Think of the website. Thousands of apartment related websites link back to this domain, which over time has given this site a very high and credible domain authority. When you search for apartment-related search terms frequently populates.

When a high quality site within the same industry or the same city links back to your site, it can drastically improve your SEO.

If you have a Digital PR Specialist, you can not only forge the relationships with these sites through outreach, but he or she can write the articles and promote them on social. Over time, this can lead to more referral traffic, brand recognition, more valuable keywords ranking on the first page of Google and more revenue for your business.

Quality is king.

Sharing your company’s story in a compelling fashion seems simple, right? I can’t tell you how many times business owners and marketers completely drop the ball on their content execution, which leads to a failed marketing strategy.

It is important to realize that compelling content is the backbone to marketing success. About 350 million new photos are added each day to Facebook, and 100 million hours of video are consumed daily on the social channel. If your content doesn’t kick ass, nobody will pay attention to your brand.

A digital PR specialist can help you hit a home run with your content strategy. This will actually make your advertising budget work more effectively in your favor while getting more people to talk and pay attention to your brand.

You see, Facebook has a metric called Relevance Score. Without even putting a penny behind a post, their algorithm will be able to detect based off of the interaction of your post along with the engagement how well your post is performing. The more high quality content you push out, the more likely your content is going to crush it from a performance perspective.

Digital unicorn.

If your digital PR specialist can improve your search engine ranking position, write amazing copy for Adwords and churn out quality content, you have found an extremely valuable asset for your business.

To find the ultimate digital unicorn, this digital guru would be able to create graphics using Photoshop, be familiar with WordPress and basic HTML and be proficient with FinalCut for video editing and Google Analytics.

2020 prediction.

The trend continues where brands are shifting ad spend away from traditional television and more towards digital. By 2020, companies will have their own digital content teams producing videos, writing articles and pushing out Facebook live stories. Some brands are already ahead of the curve.

For the entrepreneurs that are hustling on their own and are working on a shoestring budget, it is time to become your own digital unicornso you can get found and talked about online.


3 Compelling Reasons to Adopt Agile Marketing

Is “agile marketing” on your to-do list for the coming year? If not, it’s time to get up to speed: According to a 2016 survey by Workfront and MarketingProfs, 41 percent of marketers either already use or plan to use an agile approach over the next few years.

Workfront defines agile marketing as “a tactical marketing approach in which teams identify and focus their collective efforts on high value projects, complete those projects cooperatively, measure their impact and then continuously and incrementally improve the results over time.” It’s a process designed to enable rapid iteration, testing, and learning and the ability to change course quickly. In an agile marketing framework, decisions are based on data and results, not opinions and conventions.

Adopting agile principles and practices in your marketing “capitalizes on value that has been proven through the software delivery industry and that closely aligns with needs of marketers,” adds Roy Huhta, chief product officer at digital media and marketing agency West Cary Group. “Building an agile foundation of practice ensures that you are continuously maximizing and optimizing the marketing investment.”

Here are a few more reasons to consider an agile marketing approach in the coming year:

1. An easier time keeping up with the market.

It certainly would be nice if the market and our competitors moved on a quarterly planning cycle, but of course, this isn’t how it works — and marketers know it. In fact, in a recent agile marketing survey by project management software provider Wrike, 26 percent of marketers said keeping up with changing market dynamics and competitors is one of their biggest challenges.

Companies who adopt an agile marketing approach find that it allows them to adapt and move faster. With agile marketing, the planning horizon is shortened to weeks rather than months or years. Instead of building rigid plans that are hard to change, agile marketers develop flexible road maps of projects and tests. Projects get broken down into smaller tasks and prioritized by the team. Teams have frequent (often daily) meetings to reprioritize work as market conditions change or new learnings are achieved.

“The appeal of agile marketing is the ability to readjust, refocus and recalculate the direction of our marketing strategy at a pace much more like real-time, as opposed to having a traditional 6-month or annual review of what worked and what didn’t,” says Ken Wincko, senior vice president of marketing at Cision and PR Newswire. “We’re changing our strategy on a weekly basis based on our analytics to enhance our content and channel performance.”

Jason Weamer, founder of digital agency Visual Identity Group, likes that agile marketing reduces the risk of making just a few big bets.

“The ability to test and iterate reduces the need for heavy investments into a single idea or campaign where all your eggs are placed into a single basket — instead, you’re placing them in many smaller baskets, and learning valuable lessons along the way,” says Weamer.

2. Have a better scope and prioritization of work.

By breaking down projects into smaller tasks, and meeting frequently to evaluate what’s working and what’s changed, an agile marketing team can make trade-offs and reprioritize their work based on new information. This approach also makes it less challenging to manage urgent work requests; these simply become part of the regular prioritization process instead of a fire drill.

“Being agile in marketing helps us to better plan and prioritize. It also helps to sync the most recent information between team members, while identifying the obstacles before they become major problems,” says Olga Noha, head of marketing at CRM software provider bpm’online. “The team understands the priorities and a scope of work that’s been planned and evaluated for the entire week, which helps them to be more focused and efficient.”

Communication and project scoping also become easier in an environment where work is mapped out and reviewed as a team.

“The agile method helps improve two very distinct communication challenges nearly every marketing organization has: we don’t share our priorities clearly, and we don’t estimate how much time it takes to work on specific task well,” says Mozilla CMO Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, author of “Growing Up Fast: How New Agile Practices Can Move Marketing And Innovation Past The Old Business Stalemates.” “Being a discipline rooted in product and engineering, the agile system is built to make it easier to share priorities among teams and stakeholders, as well as help train marketers how to estimate the time needed to complete each project.”

3. Your team will be happier.

According to a report by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, an agile software development approach can increase employee satisfaction by 20 percent or more; agile marketing is no different. In fact, Wrike’s study found that heavy agile marketing adopters are significantly more satisfied with how work is managed on their marketing team than non-agile adopters.

Agile marketing doesn’t just improve work management and make it more collaborative — it also sets up many opportunities for regular “wins.”

“Employees receive the gratification of getting their work out quickly and seeing it in action, versus long projects that continually creep in scope and drag on,” says Weamer.

Want to learn more? Here are some great agile marketing resources to help you get started.


4 Steps to Creating Great Blog Posts When You’re Pressed for Time

Having a company blog is really important. But if you’re anything like me, you’re often pushed for time, and writing new content sometimes doesn’t get the time or attention it deserves.

That needs to change.

Done right, business blogging can help you establish yourself as an expert in your industry and give you the authority to pull in customers and cement their loyalty. Guest blogging, for instance, exposes you to a new audience and helps you connect with influencers in your industry.

Over the years, I’ve discovered some simple habits that help me write great blog posts in less time, allowing me to create content consistently without sacrificing in terms of quality. I’d like to share them with you.

Step 1 — Be systematic.

For effective blogging, you need to have a plan. You need to adopt the mentality that blogging is a powerful marketing tool rather than a leisure activity.

Assuming you’re starting from scratch, the first step might sound a little trite, but you really have to know your audience. This helps youset the general tone for your posts. Would they prefer it formal and professional or informal and chatty?

Your industry can help you predict the kind of tone you should use, but generally, a mix of formal and informal makes for the most impactful content. Whichever tone you use, you won’t be read by everyone — and that’s okay. The goal is to create a loyal fan base.

You also need to be clear on the type of content you publish. Choose a specific niche — your niche — and stick to that. This will help you stay focused and appeal to a specific audience. After all, you don’t have enough time to write across industries.

The third most important thing is to organize your time. Stick to a writing and publishing schedule. If you can only write two days a week, do that consistently. Writing and publishing randomly will not only reduce your effectiveness, but also deter your audience.

Step 2 — Use outlines.

Do you ever find yourself moving from one idea to another and then back up to the first idea. In the end, you have a post with a flow so poor that not even you can read it without wincing? It might be because you didn’t set an outline first, or you set it poorly.

Creating an outline makes it easy for you to think through a certain topic by helping you visualize a post before writing. That way you know which ideas you’ll be presenting and in which order. Outlines also help you avoid writer’s block by breaking down the subject into more manageable chunks.

By creating outlines, you can easily tell if you’re communicating your point as clearly as it sounds in your head. For instance, you can have an outline where you explain a point in three sections — introduction, supporting facts and conclusion. Once all three sections are sufficiently filled, you can comfortably move to the next point.

Also be on the lookout for inspiration. It’s the middle of the day, and a prospect just asked you a question you think could make for a great blog post. Jot it down, and get back to it. By using a tool like Evernote, or just creating a note in your smartphone, you can create an outline and continue building it up on the go. This reduces the amount of time needed when you actually sit down to write.

Bottom line — more time on preparation means less time writing and editing.

Step 3 — Keep it simple.

People want access to as much online content as they can get in a day. They want to wake up the next day and find more. For this reason, most people who come across your blog post won’t read it in its entirety.

So, how do you use the blog post to provide value to the same people you know won’t read it from top to bottom? Simple — be brief. Always go for the least number of words to make a point. Clear and concise writing requires frugality. This saves time for both you and the reader.

Also, practice writing in the active rather than the passive voice. For instance, say “police raided the premises” instead of “the premises were raided by police.” The active voice is shorter than the passive by two words. When you add it up it really makes a difference.

Another way to keep things brief is to use visuals like images, video and infographics in your text. People love visual content, especially on social media.

Step 4 — Repackage existing content.

Sometimes you’ll momentarily run out of blog post ideas. It happens. At such times, repackaging existing content, especially by industry experts, is a good idea.

As the name suggests, content repackaging means changing the format of existing content and republishing it in a new format. Sometimes it involves updating it without changing the format.

Think about all the blog posts you don’t read because they’re too lengthy and simply because you don’t have the time. You’re not alone. There are readers out there who wish they could find shorter versions of certain online content. So why not create a condensed version? Just remember to give full credit to the original author. For instance, you could have the headline that reads “6 Key Takeaways From XYZ.”

You can also republish SlideShare presentations, videos or infographics as blog posts. The opportunities are endless. However, unless you’re running a content curation site, don’t overuse this tactic as you might lose credibility or misrepresent the real purpose of your blog.

I can’t overstate the benefits of business blogging. It doesn’t necessarily need a huge investment of your time. Sometimes it takes under an hour to write an insightful blog post that will keep bringing traffic to your site day after day, month after month.


10 Online Marketers to Follow for Inspiration and Growth

No matter how seasoned you are in the world of online marketing, it’s always smart to surround yourself with other pros. The good news is that there are countless marketers online who are willing to share their advice. The bad news, of course, is that it’s not always easy to distinguish between the true gurus and the wannabes.

And that’s where this list come into play. The marketing experts that follow have met at least the following criteria:

  1. They get results for their clients.
  2. They’ve been around longer than a year or two. No fly-by-night marketers on this list.
  3. They contribute to the marketing industry by consistently offering advice and new ideas for other marketers.
  4. They’re trusted and respected by other top marketing experts.
  5. They contribute something unique to the marketing industry. Each of the experts below are marketing innovators in some small (or big) way.

Ready to expand your marketing knowledge every day? The following 10 experts won’t steer you wrong.

1. Neil Patel.

The co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar and Kissmetrics, Neil Patel, a regular contributor to Entrepreneur, is recognized as one of the top 10 online marketers. His client list is impressive: he’s helped grow the revenues of renowned brands such as NBC, Amazon, Viacom, GM and HP. Whether you want to grow in your knowledge of Web analytics, marketing or conversion, you’ll learn a great deal from him daily.

Where to find him:

Notable quote: “Don’t expect things to be handed to you or for doors to open up when you want them to. You have to be a go-getter and if you aren’t one, you better learn how to become one.”

2. Avinash Kaushik.

Avinash is an entrepreneur, author and speaker with a depth of knowledge that even the most seasoned marketers can learn from.

The digital marketing evangelist for Google, Avinash helps marketers understand the complex world of data analytics. He’s the co-founder and CEO of Market Motive, and the author of two bestselling books: “Web Analytics 2.0,” and “Web Analytics: An Hour a Day.”

Where to find him: You’ll find a treasure trove of Avinash’s knowledge on his blog, Occam’s Razor.

Notable quote: “Data is important. I believe it can help drive your business strategy smartly. But, a data-first strategy, defined as above, is nuts. It will only slow down your progress and allow your competitors to crush you like a bug (even if you are a top player in your market today.) You should reject data-first. You should accept data-with strategies.”

3. Melissa Mackey.

A marketer since 1988 and a PPC practitioner since 2002, Melissa’s got a whole world of online-marketing knowledge to share. She’s currently the Search Supervisor at gyro, the largest independent B2B agency in the world. Her expertise helps clients achieve maximum ROI from paid search.

Besides busily serving gyro, Melissa has spoken regularly at marketing conferences such as PPC Hero’s HeroConf, Search Engine Strategies and SMX Advanced. In 2015, she became a Microsoft MVP for Bing Ads.

Where to find her:

Notable quote: “I do this as well — at a minimum, I’ll visit competitor landing pages and take screen shots to share with our clients. Often, we get ideas from competitor landing pages — or at least we learn what not to do.”

4. Nadav Dakner.

Nadav is a veteran online marketer and the founder and CEO ofInboundJunction, an Israel-based content marketing company. He helps well-known brands boost their online visibility through the latest PR, SEO and social media strategies. Nadav specializes in influencer marketing and performance PR and also gives back to the marketing industry by sharing his knowledge of things that work, and things that don’t.

Where to find him:

Notable quote: “As your audience faces this sea of information, what they’re looking for isn’t more. Instead, they’re looking for trusted and knowledgeable guides who can navigate them through the stormy, unorganized mess.

In other words, showcasing other people’s content cements your own website as an authoritative voice. Not only that, but curation is one of the most effective ways to build relationships and generate influence within your industry.”

5. Ian Cleary.

Ian is the founder of RazorSocial, a provider of online training in content marketing and social media. With a focus on using the best tools and technology, his training helps companies and marketers achieve better social-media results.

Ian is a regular speaker at marketing conferences around the globe, including Social Media Marketing World and Content Marketing World. He’s known as one of the leading social media specialists worldwide.

Where to find him:

Notable quote: “Influence is the new online currency. You build influence in your niche and you generate more money. It takes time to build influence, but it’s worth it.”

6. Syed Balkhi.

Syed was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by the United Nations. Specializing in viral growth, social media, lead generation and conversion marketing, when Syed has something to say, marketers listen.

Syed founded WPBeginner, the largest free WordPress resource site on the planet. He’s also the co-founder of OptinMonster, WPForms and List25. His focus is on using his success and experience to help others build and market businesses online.

Where to find him: blog

Notable quote: “I often get asked about how many internal links should I have in my blog post. At minimum, it should be between two to three. You don’t want to force the internal links in your articles, but really there is no limit to how many internal links you can have. If you have a lot of content on your site, then go for 10 to 15 internal links. As long as it’s helpful for users, you’ll find it beneficial for SEO.”

7. Sujan Patel.

Sujan Patel is the motorcycle-racing, skydiving cousin of Neil Patel. An inspiring workhorse, he’s known for his 80-hour work weeks.

Sujan co-founded Web Profits, an innovative growth-marketing agency that helps clients gain more customers and grow brand awareness. He is also a partner in several software companies, including, Narrow and Mailshake.

His more than 13 years’ of online marketing experience has earned the trust of clients such as Sony, Intuit, Turbo Tax and Sales Force. Sujan’s book on growth hacking, “100 Days of Growth,” sold over 35,000 copies.

Where to find him:

Notable quote: “Successful companies aren’t the ones with the infrastructure and campaigns to quickly attract lots of new customers (even though, on the surface, they might seem enviable). Instead, it’s the companies that are able to keep those customers, long-term, that eventually win.”

8. Andy Crestodina.

A Web strategist who believes in “doing great work for people you love,” Andy Crestodina has worked in Web design and interactive marketing since January of 2000. He’s known as being an evangelist for content marketing and ethical digital marketing.

Besides co-founding Orbit Media, Andy also founded Content Jam — Chicago’s largest content marketing conference. His book, “Content Chemistry,” is currently in its third edition. He’s also contributed his advice to practically every highly-read marketing website.

Where to find him: You’ll find a large collection of his articles and podcasts on Orbit Media.

Notable quote: “To be successful, websites must do two things: 1. Attract visitors, and 2. Convert those visitors into leads and customers. In order to do this, Web marketers must do two things: 1. Create content and 2. Promote it. Content makes the difference between success and failure on the web.”

9. Heidi Cohen.

As chief content officer of Actionable Marketing Guide, Heidi’s mission is to simplify the complex concepts behind today’s evolving marketing challenges. In her consultancy, Riverside Marketing Strategies, she builds on her clients’ competencies to “turn constraints into opportunities.”

Heidi has taught graduate level marketing at a variety of universities. She’s a sought-after speaker at marketing conferences around the world, and takes part in top events every year. She has spoken throughout the U.S., Europe and South America.

Where to find her: Find valuable insights with practical marketing tips and tactics at Actionable Marketing Guide.

Notable quote: “Use your video content as audio content. It already exists. Strip the audio out of your existing video. Voila, new enhanced content marketing. This is an easy way to extend the lifetime value of your existing content. It avoids the problem of once and done content.”

10. Mari Smith.

Nicknamed “The Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is known as one of the world’s most trusted social media marketers. She co-authored “Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day.” She also authored “The New Relationship Marketing: How to Build a Large, Loyal, Profitable Network Using the Social Web.”

Facebook recently selected Mari to hire and partner with as the company’s leading Small Business and Facebook Marketing expert. Forbes named her as one of the Top 10 Social Media Power Influencers four years in a row.

Where to find her:

Notable quote: “More than 89 percent of users access Facebook on their mobile devices and they check Facebook 14 times a day. Those people have an intimate relationship with Messenger. When your company starts conversations with users, you’re befriending them on that level. This is how to change business relationships into personal ones.”


14 Easy Ways Authors Can Promote Their Books

In the book marketing world what works today can be considered old news tomorrow and won’t work because ‘everybody’ is doing it. Some tactics continue to be effective over time. As a book publicist I keep an eye out for the latest tips and techniques. Here’s a list of ‘easy’ ways authors can promote their books.

  1. TV news. Few mediums reach as many people as TV news. I’ve spent the better portion of my life placing clients on TV news programs and interview shows. It’s extremely effective in letting people know about your book. The easiest way to land a TV interview is to send your book with a personally addressed cover letter/pitch and press release about the book to the news director of the station. Provide your photo and send it in. Do that for every TV station you want to appear on. Start local first then go after the big shows.
  2. Talk radio. Listeners turn to talk radio to be fully informed on topics that are not covered completely in newspapers or on TV and to have an actual conversation with the host and you, the guest. Talk radio show hosts will in most cases ask you to share your website, e-mail address or toll-free phone number or they’ll mention it themselves. Use the same methods discussed to solicit TV News above.
  3. Kickstarter. Need money to promote your book? Many authors have successfully turned to Kickstarter to fund their book marketing.
  4. Goodreads. 50 Million readers find books to read onGoodreads so it makes sense for authors to find out as much as possible about how it can help sell books. One way is to make sure reviewers post their reviews on Goodreads. Also ask readers to add your book to Listopia lists where books are grouped together by genre and subject. Get active on Goodreads. Write reviews of books you’ve read and add books you’d like to read to your ‘Want to Read’ list. Buy an ad on Goodreads. Target your ad by book genre, location, gender or age.
  5. Amazon Author page. Make sure you are utilizing your Amazon Author page. Are all your books listed? Have you added your author photo and bio? What about including your book trailer, blog and tour schedule? Take advantage of all the tools you can that cost nothing!
  6. Amazon KDP Select. This is where you give away your ebook on Amazon for up to five days. When this first started it was amazing how effective it was in getting exposure for authors. While not as effective today, it’s still worth doing.
  7. Book awards. You have to enter to win. It’s well worth your time and money giving you media opportunities as it distinguishes you when you become ‘an award-winning author.’
  8. Book Fairs. Meet fellow authors and readers who love books. It’s where the rubber meets the road in the book business. You’ll find out what readers like and what’s on the mind of authors. You may find out some good info about effective marketing methods. Make it a point to hit a few during your next vacation.
  9. Writer’s Conferences. Where serious authors go to hone their craft, meet fellow authors and listen to experts in the field. Well worth your time to find out how others are progressing in the writing field. Writers are quite nice people so you’re bound to make long term friends who collectively can change your life for the better. When you look back after a few years you’ll remember bits of advice that made all the difference in your success.
  10. Social Media. Become active on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Create specific content for each of the mediums using blurbs, your book trailer, memes and book reviews. It’s a major project no doubt, but it’s one of the best low cost ways to reach readers. Plus, Facebook offers advertising directly to fans of authors in your genre or specific authors themselves. Get busy and just do it!
  11. Book trailer. Just as a movie trailer is used to get consumers interested in a movie, a book trailer does the same for a book. If a picture is worth 1000 words then a book trailer must be worth 100,000 words! Get one for your book and post it to social media and include the URL in all pitches.
  12. Read a book. You want people to buy your book then go out and buy and read books about book marketing. You can’t know everything on book promotion so read books to find out what you need to learn.
  13. ProfNet. A reporter, freelance writer or television producer is assigned a story and places a query on ProfNet requesting an expert who could speak to the topic. Queries come from the NY Times, Good Morning America, Women’s World Magazine, NPR etc. Authors are perfect for ProfNet because of their built-in credibility since they wrote about the subject matter covered in their book. The media likes people who have credentials and are authorities and experts.
  14. Book signing event. Often we’ll land a media interview because we have an event such as a book signing. The event gives the media a ‘reason’ to talk about your book right now. Since book stores are solicited by authors and publishers incessantly, try another retail outlet. One client of mine set up a book signing in a bake shop. We got TV and newspaper coverage for that one!

The Bottom Line: Authors, recheck your marketing mix and take advantage of all the ‘easy’ ways to promote your book. Do it today!