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Ten Tips for Content Clarity

PWB Ann Arbor Marketing Agency blogClarity. A simple word. An elusive goal for many marketers. As we all scramble to provide quality content that engages our readers, this is a struggle for many. But time invested in improving clarity of your content is time well-spent. Your audience will understand and value your content. Your team will appreciate your focus. And, search engines will love you as a bonus.

While clarity is a core issue with technology products, I see issues in everything from enterprise software, down to baked goods. Many marketers without formal writing training fall victim to gobbledygookspeak. Hell, even many WITH formal training do it.

But my mom taught me that if I can’t say something constructive, best keep my mouth shut. So, here are a few ideas for achieving clarity.

  1. AAAA – Avoid Acronyms Almost Always. Tech people might remember the term PCMCIA. Some industry analysts said that stood for People Can’t Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms. If you must use them, spell it out first with the acronym in parentheses. Then try to keep re-use to a minimum.
  2. Buzzword Bingo – You don’t “socialize” things, you review them with others. Human beings don’t have “bandwidth”. They have time available or they don’t. Strunk and White had it right in 1920 – “write like you talk”.
  3. Shorter is Better – Brevity is a virtue. In the words of Mark Twain, “If I’d had more time, I’d have written you a shorter letter.” Always be looking for the briefest way to communicate your key point(s).
  4. Think About Your Mom – Would your Mom understand this content? No way? Well, then re-write it until you think she could at least get the gist.
  5. Have a Purpose – Don’t develop content just to develop content. Before a single keystroke, you should have clear objectives for what you’re trying to convey.
  6. One Picture = 1,000 Words – Is there a visual way to explain the concept? Do that.
  7. Don’t Complexify the Simple – Some folks have a gift for this. An innate ability to take something relatively simple and then overthink it until no one has a clue. If you’re one of those people, be vigilant to prevent it.
  8. Tell ‘em Three Times – I taught public speaking in a former life. One of the key points I made to students was that you need to tell your audience what you’re about to tell them, then tell them, then review what you told them to check for understanding.
  9. Be Bright, Be Brief, Be Gone – I will admit that I stole this from a presentation coach. Be insightful. Be quick. And, then leave them wanting more.
  10. Editing – Your best friend. Write it well. Then take out at least 10%. Then 10% more. You’re almost there.

Hope these help you as you consider developing quality content for your marketing campaigns. If you just can’t do it, call us. We’ll help you out.

Sean

Don’t “Blow” It – Plan Ahead on Your Marketing Campaign

Last month my shoes finally decided they were not providing enough stability. My knees were returning to having nightly pain. So I grabbed a pair of tennis shoes that I had purchased on clearance. They were a reputable brand but just didn’t seem to be cutting the mustard and I began to feel like the little pig who build his house of straw – Everything was being blown down. I’m wogging (Yes wogging – That is jog/walking) the Detroit Half Marathon at the end of next month though and I really need to make sure my feet and legs are prepared.

That is why I decided to hop over to Running Fit today at lunch. My knees had clearly reminded me what five months of physical therapy last fall taught me – Get good shoes! So jiggidy-jig-jig off I went to get a new pair of stability running shoes.

While I was checking out, I noticed this marketing campaign flier:

Being into social media, I thought it was an interesting idea. So I grabbed a copy to take back to the office.

The Shop Arbor Hills marketing campaign helped me ask lots of questions. Ultimately though I wondered, was this a well thought out campaign or simply a solution in search of a problem? Did their marketing team sit down with complete shopper demographic information, market research and a goal, or did they simply say, “Selfies are hot right now. This would be a great way to get some increased website traffic, improved awareness for the mall AND free publicity.”

When I got back to the office I did some research. I wanted to know – How old are most individuals that take selfies. I know I abhor them. As coincidence would have it, I found some information. According to a small study done by Selfie City, selfies remain largely the domain of young people. Statistically speaking, the median age of a selfie taker is 23.7.

Finding that information though prompted more questions. Was that information considered when starting the campaign? Does that demographic fit with those who shop in the mall? Did their marketing team figure out the percentage of people ages 25-34 or 35-44 that take selfies? Did that matter to them?

I checked out the Shop Arbor Hills Facebook page and also their Twitter feed. Since the start of the campaign I did not find any selfies. Nor did I find mention of their chosen hashtag on Twitter. It is still a very young marketing campaign though, so perhaps it’s not been seen by many. I will be interesting to see how it plays out in the market and who will participate. I’d sure like to know if it will give them their desired results.

This experience though reminded me of an old nursery tale, the Three Little Pigs. The last of the three little pigs knew best; Carefully choose the best materials for the strongest house, since anything less can be blown away quickly and easily by the big bad wolf! It is the same with any new marketing endeavor. For the best results, do your research, gather your information and prepare the foundation for your marketing campaign. Doing so will net you the strongest campaign with the best results.

Marketing: How Do You Sell?

I have a funny skill to come up with Yogi Berra-esque quotes that are off-the-cuff at the time, but then prove to be even more accurate than I realized initially.

Last night, at a local workshop for entrepreneurs, I did it again. I was talking with a peer after the event and I said,

“Channel trumps promotion…”

In this case, I was referring to a local start-up who is doing all the new cool edgy marketing tactics, but wasn’t really putting much value in how their product would get sold. They have a solid distribution partner who’s getting them into key retail outlets, but that’s not energizing the brand in their minds. As I thought about it more afterward, I find that this is an all-too-common problem in demand generation and marketing.

Case in point – a couple of years back I was talking to a technology company who’d basically been built on defense and government contracts. They wanted to start to sell into more consumer markets (a familiar theme) and they had identified 2-3 possibilities. What they were looking for from me was a marketing plan to penetrate one of these markets.

As it often is, one of my early questions was, “How will you go to market?” The answer was both revealing and frustrating. Turns out they had a potential deal with a humungous OEM who basically owned that segment. We’re talking a “these guys would buy 100% of what we could possibly manufacture” type deal. Yet they wanted me to build them a plan to reach end users. Ummmm, how about if we chase that OEM thing down first, guys?

If you’re in Marketing and you’ve never “carried a bag” (i.e. been in field sales), it’s easy to dismiss the importance of a connected, effective sales channel. Want to sell high-pressure filters for use in refineries? If you don’t have either a direct team or a group of reps who know the industry and have access to key contacts, it’ll never fly, Orville.

I’ve said this before and I’ll repeat it – sales and marketing are interrelated, interdependent disciplines. HOW you go to market is tremendously important to WHAT marketing strategies you will employ. If you haven’t figured out the former, the latter will nearly always fail.

Easily over half the entrepreneurs (who, BTW, had some pretty cool products and ideas) at last night’s event hadn’t really figured that out yet.

Marketing can be an answer. But first you have to figure out what the questions are.

-Sean-

Channel Your Marketing Efforts

Over the years, PWB has worked with a lot of clients with independent sales channels. Whether Value Added Resellers (VARs) in software, manufacturer’s representatives in manufacturing, or independent agents representing insurance companies, independent channel situations present unique challenges.

Earlier this year, I presented a marketing workshop for independent resellers of one of our clients. The content development process was both fun, and enlightening.One of the most striking reminders was a simple one:

They all sell the same stuff.

At the end of the day, unless you have a direct sales channel, your sales outlets all have the same product offerings. Most corporate marketers want to push the superiority of their offering, without considering the marketing challenge facing their channel. Again, they all sell the same stuff.

For me, the implications for the channel are clear – differentiation is a must. If I can buy the new SuperWidget 3.0 from Dealer A, Dealer B, or Dealer C, how will I choose? Clearly the simple answer is their brand. Every independent sales channel outlet is unique – they have different strengths, histories, and weaknesses. And their brand should embrace these differences and accentuate them. If they’re better at SuperWidget 3.0 for left-handed people – say it!

As you consider how to make your channel successful, don’t just think about your goals for them. Instead, consider how helping them to stand on their own with a powerful brand will enable them and fuel sales of YOUR product or service!

-Sean-

PWB Helps Kasperek Optical Create a Whole New Space

Company Branding

Today’s independent optical retailers face incredible competitive pressure from big chains, forcing many to be less profitable and give up market share. Industry leader Kasperek Optical saw a better way. They turned to PWB to help bring new branding to life and develop tools to help both retailers and consumers understand the program and its benefits. The new brand marketing program centers on a simple premise — one low price for both a standard glasses frame and a sunglass frame. Good for the retailer. Good for the consumer. PWB started with a simple, thought-provoking name. Then we developed key messaging and high-impact logo. We’ve also developed sales literature for both retailers and consumers.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Rebranding is ticklish business. There are a myriad of issues and questions to address to achieve success. Do I just update what I have? Do I throw it all out and start over? Is there significant equity in my current brand mark? Do I rename at the same time? All of these (and more) are among the reasons we believe that working with a solid outside partner is practically mandatory.

I ran across an interesting example from the outdoor industry this weekend. With consolidation, a fair number of the major brands in fly fishing are being rolled up into families. The group that owns Sage fly rods also owns Rio fly lines – and more. Scientific Anglers has been under 3M ownership for a number of years. Last year’s acquisition of Ross Reels by 3M was a significant development.

Ross Reels Almost immediately, Ross was rebranded. Personally, I liked the old logo better – it had a lot of equity and was visually unique. But I see now that they’re trying to get the Ross and Scientific Anglers brands in alignment, so as a marketer I get where they’re coming from.

Sage fly rods, Rio fly linesSo now Sage feels compelled to get into the game by rebranding Rio. The old Rio logo looked like an escapee from the 80’s, so it was definitely time to freshen things up.

Here’s where I think it gets weird. The new Rio logo has been in-market for a few months. Something about it has been vaguely bugging me since I first saw it. This weekend I figured out what it was. What do you think?It sure seems to me to look just a bit too much like the new Ross logo. Yeah, I get it, I see the fish. But the basic letterform sure does have a lot of similarities to the Ross logo. And, it gives up one of the strengths of the old Rio logo – the fly line built into the image.

This brings up a key factor of rebranding – adjacency. You can’t just look at what your competitors are doing. What is needed is a holistic view of your segment. Both Rio and Ross are well-known and well-respected brands. I really believe that it would have been a good idea for Rio to consider what Ross had recently done before launching a visually similar brand.

Keep this in mind if you’re considering a rebranding. I think Rio made a major faux pas. One that could have easily been avoided.

But I will give Rio credit for one marketing win. It offered Facebook fans who visited their booth at the Midwest Fly Fishing Show a free hat just for stopping by and mentioning that they were FB fans. Solid way to tie social media to your trade show strategy – nice work, Rio!

Did you notice the rules of marketing have changed?

If you’re like many of us who have been around for a while (I’m pushing four decades as a marketer), you’ve noticed that the old standbys aren’t working as well as they used to. Somewhere along the line, the web changed things.

In the old days, when you wanted to market a product or service, you took out your wallet and set about interrupting people you thought might be interested by running ads in the magazines, radio stations or TV shows where you thought they might be. Well, targets, er people have gotten a lot better at ignoring your interruptions.

This old school style of marketing still works. But less well than it used to. Today, buyers more often than not, aren’t waiting to be interrupted, but are out looking for your product or service. The question is, will you be found?

Being something of an autodidact, a couple of months ago I started researching the literature as they say, and I found quite a bit about the topic, and as is often the case, a book title often crystalizes a new model for thinking about this problem. It turns out that the traditional marketing methods that are declining in effectiveness are called “Outbound Marketing.” This is, as you’d expect, in contrast to the new approach, “Inbound Marketing.”

If you feel like you’d like to do some catch-up on understanding all these changes and how they should impact your marketing thinking, I recommend a couple of books:

Inbound Marketing, Get Found using Google, Social Media and Blogs, by Brian Halligan and Darmesh Shah. (who’ve built a business helping companies get good at it).

The New Rules of Marketing and PR, by David Meerman Scott