social media marketing

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: 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: There’s no OFF! for verbal tics.

Posted in Advertising Related, freelance business, Helpful Hints, social media marketing, writing well on March 28th, 2013 by liz – 2 Comments

But boy, sometimes I wish there were! OFF! can

Have you noticed that these days, everyone from “Fresh Air” host Teri Gross to the third-grader next door is starting sentences with “So…?”

Several years ago, when I first heard a biology grad student do it, I thought it was cute and kind of funny. I mean, it sounded as if she were continuing a conversation, rather than answering a question. The first few times you heard it, it jolted you awake. Wakefulness is always a desirable state to be in, unless you’re an insomniac. But then it became annoying. In my mind, “so” belongs in a sentence where it means one thing is a consequence of another. For instance, “His home blew away, SO he was homeless.”

But as the first word in a conversation? “So…” has gone viral, or become a meme, or *something*, and I tried to figure out why. Perhaps people don’t want to be interrupted or thought dumb, so instead of “Well” or “Uh,” they say, “So…” to alert you that they’re about to say something.

Also, how many times lately have you heard a politician or interviewee on TV or radio say, in non-answer to a question, “That’s a great question?” Every day people at City Council meetings are even using it. Good grief, if all the questions people asked before someone said that actually *were* great, fine. But the phrase, repeated several times during an interview or conversation, is not a reflection of the quality of the question. It’s just a speed bump, a breather, a two-second “think of plausible response” tic. “Let me think a second” would sound as if you didn’t know the answer. “Hmm” or the formerly popular “Y’know…” are out of fashion. It seems everyone’s doing the “great question” dodge these days.

As long as I’m griping about grammar here, the most recent thing that I dislike, even more than anchovies (ugh), is “change up” or “change out,” when “change” alone will do. A person says they’re going to “change up” their workout routine. Or they’re going to “change out” one light bulb for another. My solution: Out with the “out” and the “up.”

worn-out sneakers

“snuckered?”

Finally of course, there’s the ubiquitous “snuck” instead of the perfectly good “sneaked.” Recently I heard someone use “sneaked” as the past tense of “sneak,” and I wanted to hug that person. But the trend is toward “snuck.” Even the OED people have no problem with “snuck.” I question their standards. Question: If your sneakers are worn out, is it okay to say they are “snuckered?” Oh, well, maybe I’m stuck in the 19th century, but I cannot make myself say “snuck,” especially since it’s an ugly, blunt word. Yes, words do have shapes, and some sound lovelier than others.

What other words annoy me? Say, that’s a great question! So… What words or usages drive you up a wall? Let me know, so I can start using them on people who say “snuck!”

Freelance Writer Files: Social Media Explained

Posted in Advertising Related, Helpful Hints, social media marketing on December 7th, 2012 by liz – Be the first to comment

I’m getting into Pinterest now and finding all kinds of funny, wonderful things other people have pinned, like this:

Source: instagr.am via Paula on Pinterest

A fellow writer pinned this. Thanks, Paula!

Freelance Writer Files: Fearless Google Optimization

Posted in Advertising Related, Helpful Hints, social media marketing on July 4th, 2012 by liz – Be the first to comment

The word is out: too many keywords, and Google will zap you. Keyword-stuffing, the numbing repetition of keywords in blog posts, to the point of nausea, is, thank goodness, now out of favor with the Google Gods.

Google SEO Gods

Too many keywords can get you zapped.

So what do you do to climb the ranks of Google?

• Have a blog on your website.
• And in your blog posts, use keywords. But sparingly.
• Make sure your keywords are ones people would logically use to find your company.
• Use two or three keywords in the context of a blog post that has real content, and another in the sign-off. Like this:

How much is a good roof worth?
By Liz Craig

If you’re buying or selling a house, you know that the quality of a house’s roof can dramatically increase or decrease its sale price.

That’s because if the roof is in poor condition, it can cause a lot of costly problems. Dampness, loss of heat, water leaks, and structural damage can all result from a bad roof. So even though the upfront cost of putting on a sound new roof is nothing to sneeze at, it can save you money on repairs in the long run.

If you’re not sure how sound your roof is, find a good roofing company to come out and check it out. Not just a guy on a ladder looking it over and saying, “Looks okay to me.” You should expect a full, professional assessment of your roof, including a close inspection of gutters and downspouts. Any problems with your roof or drainage should be fixed before they create bigger problems. When you use a reputable roofing company with good references, you’ll have peace of mind, and you’ll be able to maintain the value of your home.

Another reason to have your roof inspected by a professional roofing company: If you plan to sell your home, you don’t want a buyer’s survey to reveal problems with the roof that you didn’t know about, which lower the value of your home. Even if you’re not planning to sell, if you neglect needed roof repairs, you may have to pay higher homeowner’s insurance premiums or have trouble with the insurance company if you file a claim. So it’s a smart idea to keep an eye on roofing material for any signs of damage, check and clear gutters regularly, and make small repairs as soon as you notice any damage, so they don’t turn into big problems.

Liz Craig is a freelance writer who writes about roofing topics for ABC Roofing Company.

Blogging with relevant content is one of the most effective ways to get high rankings from Google. Blog content has to be brief, well-written, and interesting and helpful to the customers or clients you hope to attract.

You can’t make your blog posts “All About My Company.” You need to offer advice, tips, information, guidelines and so on, from your position as an expert in whatever industry you’re in. Be helpful. Be generous. Be heavy on relevance to the target audience (and current customers or subscribers) and sparing in your use of keywords. Oh — and this is vital — regular in your postings. That’s the way to optimize for Google without fear of the Google Gods zapping you off to Nowheresville. Which is Page 2 or lower.

Sometimes, companies’ blog posts are so old they’re festooned with spider webs. What a waste of a good marketing tool. The problem, I suppose, is that someone in the office who’s supposed to do it doesn’t have the time, the desire, or the ability to write and post blog entries on a regular basis. That’s where a professional writer can save the day. For an affordable price, the writer (in this case, me) can help you develop an ongoing blogging program that will help you climb the Google rankings ladder.

So, for help developing your fearlessly Google-optimized blog posts, give me a call.

Freelance Writer Files: How to Make Your B2B Direct Mail Rock!

Posted in Advertising Related, Helpful Hints, social media marketing on July 1st, 2012 by liz – Be the first to comment

You seldom see the terms “B2B” and “Rock!” in the same sentence. Especially in the context of “direct mail.” Hey, isn’t that the fuddy-duddy old granddaddy of e-mail marketing? Well, yes. But the old fella is still kickin’, and kickin’ up sales for smart companies.

Now, you’re going to say, “Hey, but social media is the thing now. It’s cool. It reaches everybody, and it’s cheap.”

Sure, Twitter and Facebook are free or cheap. But if you have to hire a company or an employee to tweet and maintain your Facebook presence, your social media efforts could cost plenty. And even though 10,000 “Likes” on Facebook may give you a warm, cuddly feeling, does it translate to sales? Maybe. But how many of your prospects make their decisions based on Twitter or Facebook?

Don’t get me wrong. I believe social media is fine and dandy for certain things, like creating a buzz, or making people aware of a cause or a brand, but direct mail can do a couple of things social media can’t. Like stay around in eyesight of a prospect, right on his or her desk. And more importantly, give you trackable results. (Yes, I know there are ways to do that in social media, but it’s simpler with direct mail.)

With that in mind, here are a few tips if you’re now considering doing a direct mail campaign.

1. Act as if every DM promotion is life or death.
In other words, take it seriously. You’re going to spend some money on it, so think it through carefully.

2. Zero in on your ideal target audience.
What kind of company needs your product or service? How big a company are you after? How close to your business? How much annual revenue? What kind of customers do *they* have? What’s their corporate culture like? Determine as many characteristics of your ideal prospect as you can. Then go to a good list source with your requirements. These days, they can home in on your prospects so specifically, it’s amazing. And by the way, all list sources are not the same.

Story time

When I was working on a DM program for a repair shop that repaired only two makes of foreign cars, I was looking for a mailing list of
(a) owners of those two car makes ONLY,
(b) who had purchased them more than three years ago (so they were off warranty), and
(c) who lived within 25 miles of the repair shop.

Two list people gave me their counts. One said he had three times as many mailing addresses fitting my criteria than the other did. So more is better, right? Not in this case. The second list guy had weeded out the dead addresses, so my client wouldn’t waste money sending his mailings to people who weren’t there. We went with him, on the advice of a printer I trusted. Always have a printer you trust.

3. Identify your prospects’ biggest gripes.
Figure out what is costing your prospects time, money or grief, and how your company can help eliminate it. Then build the content of your direct mails around that. Too many companies send out messages that are “all about me and what I can do,” instead of “what I can do for you.” Their messages completely miss the mark. You be different: be the solution to their problem.

4. Be sure you have the right fix for their gripes.
Your solutions must match their problems. Obvious, right? But it’s amazing how often direct mail messages say they’ll deliver solutions to problems I don’t have. Or sometimes, they get the gripe right, but I can’t figure out how their solution is going to help.

5. Plan a campaign, not a shot in the dark.
Unless you’re giving away free golden doubloons, one letter probably won’t get much of a response. A successful direct mail campaign includes multiple touches. Say you identified three of your prospects’ biggest gripes. Develop three letters based on your company’s way of solving those three gripes, and send them out at 10-day intervals. Then make follow-up phone calls. Then send out three brochures addressing those same gripes and your solutions at 30-day intervals, with follow-up calls sandwiched in between.

6. Deliver an easy way to respond along with your pitch.
A prepaid post card works. So does a special phone number and/or an e-mail address. Be sure the response goes to a person who’s been designated and trained beforehand to handle the responses. If a postcard comes into the office or an e-mail comes to your website, and it sits idle or floats around looking for a place to land, time passes, and you may lose your opportunity. Get someone to get on it NOW!

5. Track and test response.
For a DM campaign I worked on recently, we wanted to know if prospects responded more to a simple “call this number” or to a “Call this number or go to this URL” call for action. We developed a splash page for the URL letter, where prospects could fill out a quick form for someone to get in touch with them. We had two different codes for the letters. The letters with only a phone number had a code number the prospect could mention to get a free evaluation. The “number or URL” letter had a different code number. The campaign is still in process, so when it’s done, we’ll know more about what works for the next campaign.

Many voluminous books and countless articles have been written about how to do direct mail. These are just a few top-of-mind tips from my own experience. Do you have some tips or war stories to offer? I’d love to hear them. In closing, if you’re doing direct mail, I say, “Rock on!”

And of course, if your biggest gripe is that you don’t have the help you need to plan your campaign and write those letters and brochures, well, hey, I’ve got your solution. Just give me a call.

Tips on Becoming a Copywriter

Posted in Advertising Related, Helpful Hints, Job Search, social media marketing, writing well on May 4th, 2012 by liz – Be the first to comment

A young woman who’s about to graduate with a degree in English writes to me: “Do you think it would help my chances of getting a job if I took a class in graphic design?” My answer: “YES!”

Quizzical proto-writer

Should an aspiring copywriter study graphic design?

These days, with company budgets being what they are (small and getting smaller), creatives are expected to do the jobs of two or three people. I saw an ad for a Creative Director that required the applicant to be able to write, do graphic design, create websites, manage a department budget, and interact with clients.

In the old days (as little as five years ago), those would have been the jobs of at least five people. Today, it could be the job of one employee, depending on the size of the creative department and the agency or company. Oh, and did I mention that Creative Director-of-all-Trades job was paying $30,000 per year?

Jobs for copywriters at companies are all but non-existent, which makes it a bull market for freelancers. But though I hate to disillusion this young woman about the value of an English degree, in my experience, with only that degree, your competition is everyone who can type on a computer. Everyone thinks s/he can write. But everyone knows they need a graphic designer to make Web or printed materials look good.

So I will reply to this budding copywriter that yes, she probably should take a class in Graphic Design, if not two or three, so that she can meet the current need for multi-skilled creatives in a company or agency.

Annie Oakley, Little Sure-Shot

Loaded for bear

The more you can do, the better your chances of getting one of the few available jobs for college grads. Write? Great. Write and create designs? Better. Write, create designs, and build websites? Better still. Write, create designs, build websites and know SEO? BEST! Then, if you have Emotional Intelligence to go with all that know-how, you may have it made. It’s a lot to ask, but most companies don’t train employees anymore. They expect you to come in the door loaded for bear, with all the talents they need already in place. So go get loaded. I mean, for bear, creatively. Of course! ;-)

Freelance Writer Files: A Tight Deadline is Good For You.

Posted in Advertising Related, freelance business, social media marketing, writing well on June 27th, 2011 by liz – Be the first to comment

Today, I outlined and wrote a sales presentation for a company I’d never heard of until a few days ago. A PR friend of mine had called and asked for my help on the writing end of a big branding/positioning project with a number of closely-spaced deadlines for items progressing to a complete revamp.

Hey, doing anything is easier when you don’t have time to do it. You doubt it?

Without thinking time, you don’t have ruminating time. You go with your first instinct and make it work. It’s kind of exhilarating. Kind of devil-may-care, even!Of course, background info helps. And on this project, it was coming through in small drips as the writing progressed. It’s still coming in, even as I’ve just finished the presentation script. Do I go back now and change things? Heck, there isn’t time! My PR friend has to present the danged thing in about an hour!

Thank goodness for tight deadlines, I say. Now for a little nap.

Freelance Writer Files: Does a title make a difference?

Posted in Advertising Related, freelance business, Other Stuff, social media marketing, writing well on June 13th, 2011 by liz – Be the first to comment

For the past 10 years, I’ve been calling myself a freelance writer. But recently, a friend who is cognizant of the kind of counseling I give my clients, suggested that “writer” is a bit limiting.

There's the whole thinking part, which "Writer" doesn't address.


It’s true that I can write, and am, in fact, “a writer.” “Senior Writer” is the title by which I’ve been known in the ad agency world. But, as anyone who has worked at an agency, or as a freelancer, can tell you, there’s more to the job of writing than pulling out a computer and banging out some random letters. There’s the whole “thinking” part, for instance, which the title, “Writer,” doesn’t address.

By way of explaining this to a foreign client who was unfamiliar with the process and wondered what I had been billing him for, since he hadn’t seen his campaign yet, I drew a picture of an iceberg (I do have some artistic skills, but anyone can draw a triangle.). I drew the waterline close to the tip.

What you see is not all you get.

Then I explained that all the background info gathering, analyzing, thinking, strategizing, getting bids, estimating, budgeting and planning were in the part below the waterline. You can’t see them. The part you finally see, the finished project, is the very tip of the iceberg. You have to pay for all of that, just as you have to pay for an architect’s plans before you build your house.

My client’s question brought to mind the image of a dad-to-be looking at his third-trimester-pregnant wife and saying, “You’ve been saying for months that you’re going to have a baby. I don’t see any baby. So what gives?”

But getting back to services I offer clients: beyond simply writing, I do project management.

Business owners are busy. Really busy.

Harried business owners don’t have the time, energy or knowledge to manage graphic designers, webmasters, HTML experts, and others involved in a Web or other project. So if they turn the project over to me, let me communicate and negotiate with the other suppliers, then report to them, they save a lot of time, which equates to money. Not to mention that they avoid the anguish of trying to get business, do business, AND manage a marketing or advertising project.

Managing a project in print or Web or video for a client is child’s play, compared with my duties as an ad agency writer/producer. In that capacity, I was in charge of every aspect of a production, from keeping the client happy (Number One, always) to producing estimates to riding herd on the production company, casting talent, directing same, selecting wardrobe set designs, keeping costs in line, and overseeing anything else that would affect the final product.

Would he have been as famous?

So, since I help clients as a consultant, thinker, planner, strategist and project manager, what do I call myself? Would a rose by any other name really smell as sweet? Or would another name make me smell sweeter? If I give up “writer” and go for the more accurate “independent marketing and advertising consultant,” will people actually know what I can do? Hmm. I changed it on LinkedIn. Let’s see what happens.