Freelance Writer Files: 8 Website Boo-Boos To Avoid

Posted in Advertising Related, Helpful Hints, social media marketing, writing well on May 30th, 2014 by liz – Be the first to comment

Now that practically anyone can build a website, Website Boo-Boos are popping up all over cyberspace. They frustrate users and decrease the effectiveness of the site. Here are a few common ones to avoid:

Oops-544x410Boo-Boo #1
White type on a black or very dark background.
It’s 30% harder to read text on a computer screen than it is to read text in print. Why would you make it even harder with harsh contrast? Italics are bad, too. (Mea culpa: You’ll note my header is black with gray type, and some of the text is tiny. However, look at my pages, and the important info is in black on a white background.)

Boo-Boo #2
Mouse type.
If your user has to blow up the screen to 200% to read your text, need I mention it’s too danged small? Don’t expect users go to extra trouble to read your text. They won’t.

Boo-Boo #3
Huge graphics and tiny type.
Ahem, unless you’re an artist, your user probably isn’t visiting your site to admire your graphics. They’re looking for information. So feature the essential info upfront. Supplement it with reasonably demure graphics.

Boo-Boo #4
Flash graphics.
That’s so 2000s. I suppose you know by now that search engines can’t “see” flash graphics. That’s one count against them. Another one is that if you’re like me, you find ever-changing images at the top of the page distracting while you’re trying to read the text below. There’s no need for flash graphics today. There’s a Java app that makes moving graphics, if you really think you need them, and apparently, they’re visible to search engines (Check me on this, though).

Boo-Boo #5
Too much text.
Before we got so smart about Web usability, companies used to reproduce their long brochure copy on their websites and call it good. These days, we know that websites are a whole different animal from printed documents. And we have such short attention spans, if we see a lot of text on the screen (or in print, for that matter), we stop reading.

Boo-Boo #6
Text with no headlines or subheads.
Make sure your story can be told effectively by just the headlines and subheads. That may be all the user looks at. And use bullet points instead of long lines of text.

Boo-Boo #7
Here’s a Peek-A-Boo-Boo: Hiding contact information.
Some Web designers like to be cutesy and hide vital information behind quirky cickable icons or funny words. Don’t do it. It will drive users away. Make sure every page of your site features your company name, location (if that’s important), phone number and email address. Don’t count on people clicking the “Contact Us” link to figure it out.

Boo-Boo #8
Contact email forms.
If I do click “Contact Us,” I expect to see a phone number and/or an email address, so I can initiate the contact right then, when I’m feeling the need. If all you have is a form users have to fill out, and a message that “We’ll get back to you within 48 hours,” your drop-off rate will occur at two points: (1) When users balk at filling out your form; and (2) If they fill it out, and you contact them 48 hours later, when they’ve lost the desire to talk to you, maybe even forgotten what they wanted to talk to you about.

Boo-Boo-proof your website.

Ask if the laziest person in the world will take one look at your Web page and vamoose. Okay, maybe the world’s laziest person is not your prospect. But remember that most of us are the next-laziest person in the world when we’re cruising websites.

• Are you creating a smooth, easy road to your door, or are you making the road bumpy and hard, with unreadable, bloated text, graphic misdirection, or things that take too long to figure out?

• Do you have contact info on every page, so prospects can call or email you and get a response immediately? They don’t want to talk to you in two days, they want to do it NOW!

• Do you have a live human (not a recording) available by phone or email to help them right away?

Ask yourself these questions, and if you still have any of these 8 Boo-Boos on your site, fix them. Clear the path to your door. That’s a great way to get prospects to go where you want them to go and thereby boost your site’s effectiveness.

Freelance Writer Files: Use These Words Correctly and Look Good

Posted in Advertising Related, Helpful Hints, social media marketing, writing well on May 28th, 2014 by liz – Be the first to comment
Yeah, you're looking good.

Yeah, you’re looking good.

There are 30 good examples, so take a look.

Better still, if you’re not sure how to convey your advertising or marketing message properly, call on a professional writer to help you out. :-)

Freelance Writer Files: The Story of How Ink is Made

Posted in Advertising Related on May 6th, 2014 by liz – Be the first to comment

Colorful, beautiful cinematography and music by Beethoven. You’ll love it!

How Ink is Made

Freelance Writer Files: Does Color Matter?

Posted in Advertising Related, freelance business, Helpful Hints on March 31st, 2014 by liz – Be the first to comment

When you’re designing an ad, brochure or collateral, color matters. A lot.

What’s the most eye-catching, exciting color? The same one you see in bullfight scenes: RED! Red is hot, like blood, and it gets your blood racing (at least a little) when you see it in a printed piece or on a billboard or TV screen.

RED!

RED!

Other colors are nice, but you’re not after NICE, you’re after getting attention. Remember AIDA? Attention, desire, interest, action? If you don’t get that first “A,” you’ve lost the game before you’ve even started.

As a general rule, don’t use any colors you’re likely to find in a typical bathroom: muted pastels or beige. Unless it’s as a background color for your exciting headline.

So yes, color matters. So you use red for your headline. Is it large enough to be read easily? And most important of all, is it a “grabber?” Floating around in an ocean of other headlines, does it stand out to a member of your target audience? Does it present a clear benefit proposition? Or at least, does it grab attention, so someone will read the benefit proposition in your exciting subhead?

That pops!

That pops!

Now, if you’re looking for the ultimate in readability, use the combo that Western Union discovered tops them all: black letters on a yellow background. It may not be the ultimate in sophisticated design, but depending on the product or service you’re hawking, it might be just right. Like on a billboard, where drivers have very little time to absorb your message.

Ever drive past a billboard with type so tiny that you nearly run off the road trying to read it? This is the result of the graphic designer looking at his or her design only on a computer monitor. Gee, it looks readable there. But what about 50 feet in the air, hundreds of yards from the road? Designers should try reducing the design to a size the driver might see it.

Ignoring any of the proven rules for effectiveness will cause you to throw money on advertising or promotional materials that simply don’t work.

If you don’t feel confident that you can do all the right things on your own, by all means, hire a communications professional, as well as a good graphic designer, to create your advertising and promotional materials. It will be money well spent.

Freelance Writer Files: 7 Quick Tips for Brochures that Work

Posted in Advertising Related, Helpful Hints on March 21st, 2014 by liz – Be the first to comment

Here are a few simple things you can do with your next brochure that will make it stand out and get results.

business woman_z1. The cover should feature a picture of a person.
People are attracted to pictures of faces. The person could be a company president, a customer, or an expert of some kind. Someone whose comments are featured inside the brochure.

2. Include “knock-outs” on the cover.
Those are one- or two-line highlights of the content inside. You know how those “People” magazine knock-outs grab you. Use them on business brochures. Make them interesting!

3. On the front inside cover, summarize the key points in the brochure. That way, it’s quick and easy for the reader to go directly to the specific content he or she is interested in.

4. Include a call to action on every page: Call this toll-free number, learn more at this Web address, whatever you need the reader to do.

5. Use a Q&A format to engage the reader. It breaks up the content into manageable chunks and makes it easy to read.

6. On the back cover, make sure to have a contact name and return address displayed prominently.

7. Keep in mind always that you need to make people stop, be drawn to your brochure (especially if you’re at a trade show), and be encouraged to read what’s inside. Study magazines at the grocery store and see what colors, designs, type fonts and other devices they use to stand out and draw you in. Some are kind of gaudy, but you can borrow a few of their tricks without looking unprofessional.

7.a. Okay, I said 7 points, but this one is important. Make sure every aspect of your brochure is relevant. Don’t stick in a picture of your plant as seen from a helicopter (a popular one, for some reason). It has nothing to do with the product that’s made in that plant. So you have a big building. What does that mean to ME, your potential customer? Likewise, unless your audience is made up of gearheads, don’t stick in photos of machines you use to make things. It’s the things you’re selling, not the machines.

Whew. Well, those are my 7 (+1) tips for making effective brochures. If you have others, please let me know.

Freelance Writer Files: Do You Know the Three Essential Ingredients?

Posted in Advertising Related, Helpful Hints, social media marketing on February 19th, 2014 by liz – Be the first to comment

A successful advertising or marketing campaign has three essential ingredients.

A successful advertising or marketing campaign has three essential ingredients.

Let’s say you’re a small business owner trying to squeeze the best return out of a small marketing and advertising budget. You need to know how to communicate with your target audience efficiently and efffectively. And if you know the Three Essential Ingredients of a successful marketing campaign, you can do it. Here they are:

Essential Ingredient 1: Excitement
Don’t be a me-too advertiser/marketer. Find a way to get your target audience members to notice your campaign and climb aboard. Your marketing/advertising must cause them to RESPOND by buying, calling, signing up, or whatever it is you need them to do. And that requires an offer of value to your target audience, not just a piece where you “we” on them (e.g., we have 12,000 sq. ft. of storage space, we have 76 trucks covering 24 states, etc. What about the people you’re talking to? What do THEY NEED that you can provide?).

Essential Ingredient 2: News
Ask yourself whether your ad/marketing campaign creates news. Does it get talked about on social media? Does it make the TV news? Not all campaigns will. Let’s face it. There are a lot of parity products and services out there. But if there is some way you can present your product or service in a quirky, newsworthy way (for instance, having your company president move his desk to a billboard beside a well-traveled urban highway), then do it. That’s assuming you have the budget and the confidence of your CFO (you) to do such a thing. But in any case, you can at least spring for good-looking, attention-getting direct mail pieces, brochures, collateral pieces and Web pages focused on the “news” that you provide exactly what the recipients are looking for.

If you can promote via social media, stick to the newsworthy aspects of your offering and devote time and effort to keeping up your efforts on Facebook, Twitter, and other Web platforms.

Essential Ingredient 3: Call to action
A piece I wrote recently for a building maintenance company focused on building managers’ shrinking cleaning budgets, and how my client could get them more cleaning for less. The client has a unique estimating device that can do as many “what if” scenarios as a building manager needs to explore, and fit the cleaning plan to a set budget. So the call to action is “Call XYZ Company now. We’re the only one with an electronic estimating system to help you get the most cleaning for your budget. And you’ll get our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. That means you must be satisfied with the job we do, or you don’t pay.” And that’s good news!

Do you think there are more essential ingredients to a successful ad/marketing campaign? Add a comment.

Freelance Writer Files: Running like the Red Queen

Posted in Advertising Related, Helpful Hints, Motivation on February 6th, 2014 by liz – 1 Comment

You have to run as fast as you can to stay in one place.

You have to run as fast as you can to stay in one place.

In Rosser Reeves’ book, “Reality in Advertising,” he likens the advertiser to the Red Queen of “Alice in Wonderland,” running as fast as s/he can just to stay in one place. It’s an apt, if depressing, analogy.

If you’re running advertising today, good! Tomorrow? That’s good, too! But what are you doing next week, or next month, or next year? Are you keeping up the effort or letting it (and business) slide?

See, advertising isn’t like laundry detergent, where you pour it in, close the lid, and it just keeps on cleaning. It’s more like a snow blower (a propos today’s view out my window): As long as there’s snow to feed it, the blower will continue to blast out snow. When the snow’s gone, it’s all over.

So you can’t run an ad or do a blog post one time and expect much business from it. That’s because of something called “room in the box,” the box being the space between your prospect’s ears. It always contains somebody’s advertising message, and if you don’t keep feeding yours in, somebody else will feed in theirs. Then there is a point where there’s “no more room in the box,” and no more messages can fit inside. brain-in-shipping-box

You want your message to fill up that box, effectively preventing competitors’ messages from getting in. How do you do that?

• By being clear about the unique selling proposition you’re offering.
• By delivering your message to the right target audience.
• By choosing the right voice and language to convey it to the target audience.
• By selecting the right media to deliver it in.
• By allocating enough budget that you can afford a continuing campaign.
• And by keeping on keeping on.

A continuing campaign doesn’t mean you’re blasting out messages every day or every minute. But it does mean you’ve planned your advertising and marketing for at least one year, set your budget, and each quarter you plan on paying for some advertising or promotional activity.

If your product or service has a unique benefit that is more relevant at one time of the year than another, you heavy up then. For instance, if you’re selling SPF 50 suntan lotion, you’ll start a heavy awareness and promotional period around April and run it until September (In the Northern Hemisphere. If you also sell in the Southern Hemisphere, you’ve got a year-round market). The other six months of the year, you can analyze how your program did, then plan what adjustments you need to make and what you’re going to do the following year.

Make a schedule and stick to it.

Make a schedule and stick to it.

A client of mine follows a schedule that includes sending each prospect a series of three direct mail letters spaced six weeks apart, followed by a phone call. Then, three months later, he sends them a direct mail piece, also followed up by a phone call. He is out there in the trenches, calling on people face-to-face, so he really knows what their concerns are. I know how to put his message in a compelling form, whether in a letter or a brochure, or on his website. Together, we’ve honed his message to the point that it’s really working.

Developing a message and a plan that work like a charm doesn’t happen overnight. There probably will be some trial and error. You may have to do some formal or informal focus group testing, or let results tell you what’s right or wrong. But in the end, it’s worth it. One new client or customer can pay for most of a year’s advertising and marketing, if you’re playing your cards right.

So don’t think of running like the Red Queen as an expensive, unproductive grind. Think of it as a wellness program that’s making your advertising and marketing efforts healthier and stronger day by day, month by month, and year by year. Which, in turn, brings you more clients and boosts your profits.

Freelance Writer Files: Don’t Overstuff that Ad

Posted in Advertising Related, Helpful Hints on January 31st, 2014 by liz – Be the first to comment

Too-many-choicesOnce I worked at an agency that had a shoe manufacturer for a client. The advertising manager wanted to get his money’s worth (he thought) out of his :30 TV commercials by squeezing three shoe styles and prices in between the open and close.

Okay, we said. We made a couple of price-and-item-packed :30 animatics. We played them for the ad manager. Afterward, we said, “What do you think?” “I like them,” he said.

“That’s good. Now, can you tell me what items were featured in those spots?”

Silence.

There were so many things stuffed into that :30 spot that even the ad manager couldn’t recall what they were.

So the moral is:

Thou shalt not overstuff your ad/brochure/whatever with more than one main idea.

Because your viewer/reader is not paying as close attention as the creators of that piece of advertising are, and therefore, they’re even less likely to recall a whole bunch of products or ideas from one ad or spot.

Rosser Reeves, the original Mad Man, wrote in his book, “Reality in Advertising”:

“The consumer tends to remember just one thing from an advertisement—one strong claim, or one strong concept.”

Amen, Mr. Reeves.

So if you’re a tire store, are you going to feature ten different tires and prices in your :30 TV spot? No. (Though you might in a newspaper insert, which potential customers have time to peruse.) You’d be more effective featuring one tire as an exemplar of the unique benefits your brand of tires offers. If you’ve discovered “safety” is the top-of-mind decider on which tire to buy, use it. These radial tires I sell are safe, because of the unique strength of their steel belts.

You might phrase it in a clever way, but still, stick to the one strong idea that will resonate with your target audience. If you’ve discovered “safety” is the keyword in tire buyers’ minds, then use that.

But if you’re a tire store, it’s likely you sell the same kinds of tires many other stores do. So how do you differentiate yourself with one clear concept? Service beyond the call of duty? Could you feature a testimonial or recreation of a time when you got a customer out of a jam after hours? Something you and only you could brag about? And isn’t that just an extension of the idea of “safety?”

If you have a flat tire, and you call the tire store, and the owner makes sure you get back on the road in time to make it to your business appointment, doesn’t that make you feel it’s safer to develop a relationship with this tire store owner? And that he cares about your safety? You bet!

So resist the temptation to say six things, because only one is going to stick and get you customers or clients.

Freelance Writer Files: What’s a USP? And do I need one?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 29th, 2014 by liz – Be the first to comment

Do you need a USP?

Do you need a USP?

If you’re selling a product or service, the answer is YES!

Below, link to a presentation I gave recently that walks you through developing your USP and getting it out there to the right people, in the right media, using the right voice.

What the heck is a USP? And do I need one?

The first step in the process is — what else? — First Questions. I have a sheet of questions I’ll be glad to send you. Just ask!

Freelance Writer Files: How does SEO work these days?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 28th, 2014 by liz – Be the first to comment

As you undoubtedly know, Google algorithms change every other minute. Or that’s how it seems to someone feverishly trying to catch up and stay high on Google search pages.

So I was really glad to come across this effective infographic that explains what’s going on. Hope you find it helpful, too.

http://socialmediatoday.com/irfan-ahmad/2112491/sustainable-seo-methods-and-tools-work-2014