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Copywriting: How to improve headlines on landing pages and blog posts

April 5th, 2012
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Headlines are tricky little devils. Whether you’re writing them for an article or a PPC landing page, they can carry your campaign to glory or bury it forever.

We gathered some theory on writing great headlines from our sister company, MarketingExperiments, and capped it off with five tips from our editors and a useful process for improving results.

Before we get to all that, keep this in mind:

  • The goal of a headline is to seize readers’ attention and convince them to continue

 

Headline Theory

There is no arguing it — people are busy. You need to write a headline that convinces them to ignore distractions and pay attention. When people see a headline, their minds want to know:

“Why should I read this instead of doing one of the other 50 tasks on my list?”

The key question is “what do I get?” A good headline answers this in one word, “value.”

 

4 attributes of value

Picture your ideal customer deciding where to spend his time and energy. He wants something good for his investment. A headline that emphasizes something “valuable” to him gets his attention. He’ll invest a click and continue reading.

Your headline is “selling” your next paragraph and you need to make a good offer (also known as a proposition). Researchers at MECLABS, our parent company, evaluate the power of a value proposition through four attributes. You can use these same attributes to create and evaluate headlines. Read more…

Content Marketing: Case studies are stories — so be a storyteller

December 13th, 2011
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Have you ever watched a movie that was happy from beginning to end? Just sunshine and roses and everyone was happy and lovely the whole time? Probably not, but if you have, I’m sorry because it must have been terrible. Every good story needs struggle.

In a good story, no one is happy for more than a few seconds (usually at the end). Cinderella and Snow White struggle. Odysseus struggles. Snooki struggles. What engages us is our connection to the character’s feelings. We relate to them and we want the character to win.

This is why customer testimonials are powerful. People see the quote and think, “This is a real person, just like me! And look, they love this thing!” A good testimonial wonderfully illustrates why someone should buy your product, and it resonates because people relate to the customer.

Read more…

Content Marketing: Should you lure a journalist over to the “dark side?”

February 24th, 2011
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As a longtime writer of both journalism and corporate communications, the idea of brand journalism is very interesting to me. I’ve worn both hats — media and marketing — and sometimes both at the same time. The two are very different, and require somewhat different skill sets and definitely different approaches. (Side note: I also sometimes do fiction, so in a way I’ve hit the content trifecta.)

Defining “brand journalism”

The idea is for companies to hire actual J-school trained journalists and give them free-reign to cover stories that involve topics of interest to the company’s customers and the general space of the business, but not exert any control over the story creation process, and certainly to not require — or even ask — the brand journalist to cover the company’s “story.” The brand journalist is to act as, well, a journalist.

Of course many veterans of copy desks, editorial rooms, city beats and magazine mastheads think of marketing as the “dark side,” and see going to work for a company as joining forces with Darth Vader, the Emperor, and the rest of the gang at the Death Star.

On the other hand, many journalists are in search of work in this tough media economy so there’s a lot of talented people out there to wheezily reach out to with an offer of doing real journalism, just doing it in a different setting.

Last week I had the chance to speak with one company that has taken the plunge into making brand journalism part of its marketing efforts.

Brand journalism in the real world

Nils Johnson is a co-founder of Beautylish, an online destination for trends and products in the beauty market. Nils just hired Ning Chao, former senior beauty editor at Marie Claire and InStyle, as the resident brand journalist for Beautylish.

From a marketing standpoint why did you decide to hire a brand journalist?

Nils Johnson: As a trusted expert in beauty, Ning [Chao] brings tremendous industry credibility to Beautylish which helps establish trust with brands and members. She also brings a strong editorial point of view to Beautylish. Having her provide expert insight to our users is integral in engaging our users in a long-term, meaningful way.

Will you exert any editorial control — either in assigning topics, editing or even killing pieces — over your brand journalist? If not, how does this content fit into your overall marketing strategy?

NJ: No, we will not assign any topics to her or edit any of her pieces. We may talk about topics to cover, but ultimately she makes the call on what she is going to cover. Ning [Chao] was the senior beauty editor for Marie Claire and InStyle, and writing for other top magazines for over a decade. We absolutely trust her judgment on what to write about.

In terms of how it fits into our marketing strategy, our site is focused on helping women discover new beauty trends and techniques. As an expert in the beauty industry, Ning [Chao] is responsible for helping to keep our readers up-to-date on what’s hot in beauty. Additionally we believe readers are more likely to follow and share high-quality editorial driven stories as compared to low-value SEO content that many sites are focused on producing.

It sounds like this is a relatively new effort so you probably don’t have any results to talk about right now. What sort of results are you looking for with this marketing effort? Do you have metrics you are going to watch, and if not how do you plan on tracking this initiative in brand journalism?

NJ: Our main metric is engagement. We want women to share and return to the content Ning [Chao] is directing. We’ll be monitoring engagement across social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook, direct user interaction, and traffic numbers. Although Ning [Chao] only recently joined us we’ve already seen an increase in content sharing, brands engaging with our content via Twitter, and positive feedback from women that visit our site.

Related resources

Example of Ning Chao’s work at Beautylish, Hair Care Time-Saver: Cleansing Conditioner

Brand Journalism

User-Generated Video Contest: 6 Steps to Promote Brand and Generate New Marketing Content (Members’ library)

Brand Journalism: A Field Day for Web Marketers

Brand Journalism?

photo by: RogueSun Media

Brands Gone Wild

November 19th, 2008
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Am I the only sports fan to notice how more and more TV analysts in the niche are talking about individual athletes’ and sports teams’ as “brands”? Of course, they have always been, quote-and-unquote, brands. That’s real-world talk among marketing professionals.

But to protect the fans (or “customers”) from the game of marketing, this stuff was not supposed to be discussed in public. At least, that is the way it used to be. Yet, times have changed. Read more…

Treat Halloween Like a Shopping Mini-Season in Email

September 23rd, 2008
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Last year, numerous email marketers used Halloween to spike their open and clickthrough rates and drive sales. But the most important thing that industry observers saw in their inboxes was that this mini-season isn’t just for seasonal marketers with tight product niches. Read more…

How to Write Copy in Marketing-speak

July 7th, 2008
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We love debating words in the office. We discuss whether an ad was “changed” or “manipulated” or if a marketer “destroyed” or “smashed” previous records. And we try hard to write in the language of marketers.

We particularly love to debate “marketing-speak.” Marketers like making nouns into verbs, or adjectives into nouns. It’s our job to decide where to draw the line. Here’s a quick list of some of our favorites:

Read more…