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.



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?”


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.

Freelance Writer Files: Penetration alone is not enough.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 21st, 2014 by liz – Be the first to comment

Let’s say you’re an advertiser who has learned you have 65% penetration of your advertising message among your target audience. Great! That means nearly two-thirds of your potential buyers/clients can remember your message. You’ve reached your advertising goal, so you’re done!

Well, not quite. Great penetration is… great. But there’s another vital factor that will mean the difference between the success and failure of your campaign, long-term. It is… ahem…Stick with it!

Sticking to your message!

Any advertising person with some experience can tell you that long before an advertiser’s message “wears out” among the target audience, the marketing manager of the client company will get all antsy and order the message changed. At that point, if the ad agency (or advertising person) is honest with the marketing manager, the only honorable thing to do is to tell him or her to get the ants out of his or her pants and stick with the successful message.

Q: If you have determined that 65% of your target audience can remember your message, why in the heck would you change it?
A: You wouldn’t.

If you don’t stick to it, you’re wasting well-spent advertising dollars, and you risk losing the 65% penetration you’ve so carefully built. How smart is that?

Check this out: Over a certain period of time, you’ll probably find that only half the original percent of your “penetrated” audience remembers your message (about 32%). But wait a minute. You’ll also discover that while you’ve lost 32% of the original group, another new group of about 32% now remembers your message. New audience members have restored your original 65% penetration level.

Of course, we assume you have a great message, targeted correctly to the audience you want, and that you spend enough to get the word out widely. But here’s the point:

If you have a message that works, DON’T CHANGE IT, even if you get so bored with it you have to cover your eyes and ears and say “LALALALA!” to block it out every time it comes around. Remember, although you’re sick of it, a new audience is just now discovering it. And responding to it.

Caveat: That doesn’t mean that you can’t ever change the execution of your message. That initial ad featuring a penguin on roller skates may eventually get stale. So, though you may find different ways of delivering the same message to the same audience, if you stick to the USP, you should be okay. But you don’t want to tinker too much with success.

So what can you do to relieve your own boredom with your winning campaign?

Try adding different media. If you’re in one women’s magazine, for example, try adding another one with a similar demographic.
Try adding e-mail marketing, if you have a relevant list.
Try adding direct mail to your target audience, if it’s appropriate. Unless you’re a national advertiser, this would be within a geographic area where you sell.
Try a newspaper insert, preferably in a special issue devoted to a subject your target audience is interested in (example: health care, elder care, gardening, winter meals, sports).
Try adding radio spots. As a radio producer, I recommend that you have them professionally written, voiced and produced. But if your budget is limited, generally, local stations will give you script, talent and production in exchange for your paid advertising time. Just be sure the station reaches the right target audience.
Use your message on your Web site and your Facebook page, preferably accompanied by coupons, special offers, contests, or other ways to engage users with your product or service. Provide a way for interested users to sign up for email newsletters or offers.

To sum up, once your message reaches maximum penetration, keep on sending it. And change the messenger, if you like, but don’t shoot the message!

Freelance Writer Files: Penetration = Sales?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 15th, 2014 by liz – Be the first to comment ad types measure “penetration,” they’re trying to determine how many people have gotten a product or service’s advertising message in their heads. As an advertiser, you may think,

“Gee, my agency did a survey and found out that 87% of my target demographic knows my advertising slogan. All I have to do is stand back while the money starts rolling in!”

But wait a minute.

If 87% of the target audience knows your spiel, does that necessary translate to all of that 87% buying your product or service? Unfortunately, NO.

The serious fact is that penetration alone will not sell the goods. If you have high penetration, but sales won’t budge off the floor, something’s wrong. There are two questions you need to ask yourself:

1. Does my story work?

2. Does it pull people over to my product or service?

First, let’s talk about point 1, how your story works. Maybe you don’t have a real Unique Selling Proposition. Remember the USP discussion, and review to determine:

1.a. Is your message unique?
Meaning, is it something none of your competitors can or does currently say? Or is it just more of the same thing others can and do say?

1.b. Does it sell?
Do you promise something that’s compelling enough to make your competitors’ customers or clients quit buying their stuff and switch over to yours? “Free air with every purchase” is a non-proposition. It’s meaningless. On the other hand, if you offer something of value, such as a free pair of diamond earrings with every diamond wedding ring set, that’s an attractive proposition, if it’s something only you are offering.

1.c. Is it a proposition?
This may seem like nit-picking about form, but it’s important that you make your offer in the form of a proposition. Does your target audience clearly understand you’re making a proposition to them that “If you buy my X, you will get Y (compelling benefit)?”

Now for question 2: Does it pull people over to your product or service?

You must realize that if an equivalent to your product or service exists, you have to take your customers away from the product or service a competitor has right now. You don’t create new customers for an existing product, especially a well-known one. How do you take your competitor’s share of the target market? By not only having a strong USP, but by getting your proposition to the target audience in the most efficient, effective way possible.

How will you get your message out?
That depends on who your target audience is, where you can find them, and how much money is in your advertising budget. Word of mouth, it is said, is the best advertising, and it’s free (Not really, it takes hard work to be good enough to get word of mouth advertising, but never mind.). But most companies need to advertise in some way.

Figure out where you can reach your target audience.
Do they listen to a classic rock station, or do they visit certain websites on a regular basis? Do they read the paper? Subscribe to certain magazines? Drive by a certain billboard every day on the way to work?

If you have an e-mail list of customers, or a mailing list, you could send out messages either of those ways. But consent or prior purchases help you keep out of the spam box or the circular file. If you have a blog on your website, post relevant content on it frequently, and encourage people to subscribe to your posts. That way, you can remind them of your existence and offer them valuable information or hot deals.

To sum up, penetration is good, penetration is fine. But are you getting your ad message into the heads of people who are not impressed by it and are not going to buy from you, no matter what?

Always go back to your Unique Selling Proposition and make sure it’s solid.
Then examine your media choices. And see if you are spending enough on advertising to make an impression, or lots of them. If all is good, and your product or service are excellent, you’re on the path to success. If any stretch of that path is rocky, better smooth it out and make it easy for your customers to buy from you. Yours is not the only choice they have. Make it an easy choice, and you’ll succeed.

Freelance Writer Files: Hardee’s, from buns to buns?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 9th, 2014 by liz – Be the first to comment

Maybe Hardee’s finally figured out not all people who like thick burgers are high-school-age boys.

That’s the only explanation for the fast-food outlet’s change from scantily clad models lasciviously biting into juicy burgers to… pictures of buns being baked?

Lately, Hardee’s ads are absolutely prim in their concentration on ingredients. Who knew they cared about quality? And the latest ingredient and selling point is the fact that now, they’re baking hamburger buns on the premises.

As a woman, I’ve long curled my lip at those sexy, sexist spots exploiting skin and dripping beef patties. Will these new spots change my aversion to Hardee’s? Maybe. But if I try their burger one time and find it less than fabulous, I’m outta there.

Let me know if you’ve tried the new, metrosexual Hardee’s burger, and what you think of it.