Tag Archives: business solutions

Out of a Recession, Into New Marketing Messaging

Okay so maybe we’re not out of the recession woods yet, but I have a sense things are turning around. My colleagues are getting busier and let’s face it, I haven’t had a lot of time to go out for a leisurely afternoon latte!  The long and short of it is this. As I talk with more and more small and medium-sized business owners, I am hearing that their old marketing maneuvers in the form of brochures, print ads and yellow page advertising just aren’t working. While these venues do work for some industries better than others, it’s often how the  company communicates and what they say that has a true defining impact on their bottom line.

Should you just ‘Say Anything’?

The first question, when I begin brainstorming with the client, normally is about marketing messaging.  They ask me, “Isn’t it okay for my message to include something for everyone.”  This is often one of the biggest mistakes a company can make. Don’t sell everything to everyone. It doesn’t help you stand out in the crowd.

Think of your message as a banner flying over your community. If you only had Five Words to say,  that summed up exactly what your business does, what would they be? It’s not easy, but it gets you to begin thinking about short messages that stick.

See Nike’s “Just do it.” Or what about Apple, they don’t even have one, they just have an image … an Apple. Seems pretty elementary when you think about it, but this one concept can cause major problems, especially if you use multiple messages.

If you want some real examples how the recession and new marketing messaging is changing the income for some businesses, take a look at these examples.

Happy Messaging-

Sarah @ Dog-Eared Pages

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Filed under Advertising, copywriting, Marketing, marketing in a down economy, Small Business Solutions

Do You Suffer From Thought Blockage?

 

 

Don't Block A Thought-Nov. '08

Don't Block A Thought Again- Nov'08

 

In the past few days, things have been very busy around here, which is a good thing, but makes the idea well dry up quickly. I have looked though all my ideas and (gasp) discovered that I haven’t been able to brainstorm on fresh ideas for about 3 weeks. Not good. So when I was chatting the other day with a writer buddy, he mentioned a great book that I must recommend to anyone who has to have a quick, creative idea on demand.

 

The book is called The Writers Block-786 Ideas to Jump-Start Your Imagination,  Jason Rekulak’s book is fantastic!  And no, you don’t have to be a creative person to make this puppy work! Anyone can do it, it’s fun and best of all if you don’t like the creative prompt you see, all you have to do is turn the page. Check it out for yourself and see how it can help your business come up with some off-the-wall, innovative ideas to help support your business’ success. 

Share your thoughts with me and let me know how this works for you!

 

All the best in preventing thought blockage-

Sarah @ Dog-Eared Pages

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Does Your Business Stand Out in the Crowd?

 

Pumpkin Hunting Oct. 08

Pumpkin Hunting Oct. 08

 

This weekend my husband and I journeyed out with friends for the annual pumpkin patch expo. It’s something we have done for a few years now and it’s always a blast. Maybe it’s just being around dear friends or the fact that we drive golf carts in search of the perfect pumpkin, I don’t know, but whatever it is, it’s interesting to see which pumpkins we award as the “perfect pumpkin to carve”.

One friends says she likes the warty pumpkins because they have character. Another likes pumpkins that are smooth and flat on one side as they are easier to carve. We like pumpkins that are oval. To us, that’s what a pumpkin “should” look like. 

So as we were in search for our perfect pumpkin I was reminded how crafting a marketing message to catch a customer’s attention can not only seem like a quest, but the message can also get lost in a sea of other everyone else is doing. Finding your business might be very similar to looking for the right pumpkin. There’s a million of them out there, but what really fits your needs?

Here’s how to stand out in the crowded market and make your marketing message the one customer’s find, remember and act upon.

  • Delve into what your competitors are doing. Know their message inside and out. Is it successful? If not, why?  How can you capitalize on their weaknesses? Are your competitors using flashy images? Should they be and if so, why aren’t you using eye-popping images to grab attention?
  • Use keywords and messaging that resonates with your audience. Know what your customer’s speak sounds like. What are terms that get their attention? Are you talking over their heads?
  • Define your target market and talk to them. If you haven’t had a chance to chat with the people who purchase your products/services you should. How can you effectively communicate your company’s message to them if you don’t know what challenges, goals or expectations your customers seek? It’s a good practice to set up focus groups and parade your advertising ideas in front of the people that will be purchasing your product/services. Gage your message’s effectiveness based on their comments. Revise if you need to. It’s much cheaper to revise than to pull the plug on a campaign that’s been running for a few weeks or months!
  • Try something new.  With the Web 2.0 boom, there are a lot of new vehicles that your company can use to get your message out there without spending a ton of ad dollars. Survey your solid client base. See if they know about Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube or even MySpace. If they don’t, discover why they haven’t had a chance to learn about Web 2.0 and take it on as a new way to market yourself if it’s true to your target market, of course.
While you may not find a marketing vehicle that’s totally perfect, you can always fine-tune your ideas so that your customers are more willing to choose your product over the competition. With a little homework on your part, you can find the right messaging and and solid marketing platform. In the end, you create a more effective way to catch your customer’s eye.
All the best-

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5 Reasons You Should Hire a Freelance Writer (Part 3 of a 3 part series)

 

Newburg, Oregon-June 08

Newburg, Oregon-June 08

Flowers come in all shapes, colors and sizes and I think that’s why I am always drawn to their beauty. No two are alike and they always surprise me. Intertwining with other flowers that complement their beauty. I think words often work in the same way.

When you begin to craft your message, you want a person who knows how to arrange and bend words in a fashion that catches attention, complements your your business ideals and produces outstanding results.

This brings us to the final 2 reasons why hiring a freelance writer is key to your messaging success.

4) Well-Crafted Copywriting Skills

When you set out to create a strong message that radiates with your clients, hire a freelance writer with a diverse background of skills.  Why you ask?

It’s been my experience that most of the time when you ask your employees to create the marketing message, they may already be involved with other facets of your company and may not have the time to focus on the messaging development. Furthermore, your employees are geared to get the job completed and on time. They may cut corners when it comes to researching the audience and knowing the competition.

Freelancers are also concerned about meeting deadlines, but this isn’t a primary focus. The number one focus for a freelancer is to be the best writer they can be. Make sure all the “i”s are dotted and “t”s are crossed, so to speak. After all, they are constantly competing against other writers for projects and at the end of the day, they want to ensure their client is generating the leads they need to grow their business. 

What’s more, if you don’t have a writer at your disposal able to craft headlines generating results for your company, your entire message could get missed. According to advertising great David Ogilvy’s book Ogilvy on Advertising, Ogilvy says that five times as many people read headlines as read body copy. That’s huge. So what your headline says better be a solid first impression. (Look to these checkpoints for strong headline creation-How are your current headlines doing?)

Newburg, OR June 2008

Newburg, OR June 2008

 

 

5) A Full Staff of Writers In One Person-Multiple personalities mean multiple sales

Ask any freelance writer if they spend all of their time writing and you’ll get a unanimous “no”. What were else are the spending their time besides word manipulation? For most, they spend hours being their own editors, researchers and customer care representative. So when you want words that make an impact, yet do so with clarity and results, a freelancer is a solid option.

Many times a staff writer only has time to write, then the copy goes to someone else to proofread. Plus, the writer may have had to get a researcher involved in the process before words went to paper. This causes concern as the person who chose the research may not have the same interpretation of the “marketing objective” as the writer or even the editor. When you use one person, the message has more clarity and is crafted with one idea and not three different ideas. Having a clear and concise message means your customers will understand what you are selling and make your phone ring.

So as you can see, there’s many reasons to hire a freelancer. Maybe you just have extra workflow that your staff can’t get to, or you want a fresh perspective. No matter what your reason for hiring a freelancer it’s a good idea to ask a few questions, get to know their style and always ask to see examples of their work.

Next week, we’ll discuss how to interview a copywriter and some important questions you should have answered before they put pen to paper. 

Best of hiring-

Sarah @ Dog-Eared Pages

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5 Reasons You Should Hire a Freelance Writer (Part 2 of a 3 part series)

 

Rome, Italy May 07

Rome, Italy May 07

A few years ago I was in Rome and couldn’t believe the mass of humanity all around me. It was amazing. All walks of life, young people, old people, people looking for love, people in love and lots of people withstanding the loved ones they were with … you get the picture.  So, when I stood on at the top of the Spanish Steps I wondered, what if I could yell hello to everyone standing below and grab their attention all at once? I could say hello in at least 5 languages, but surely I would leave someone out and not be able to connect.  I think we often craft our marketing messages in much the same fashion. We go out there, try to yell hello to the entire group without thinking how to connect with the right words and phrases.

This is why it is so vital to craft a message and generate a concept that is truly unique to the product/service you are promoting. This is why utilizing an accomplished freelance writer makes sense. They often have a strong foundation of client experience and bring a wealth of knowledge to the table. It’s great ideas that your company can build upon and use to create a free flowing stream of solutions for your business.

Yesterday I discussed two reasons for hiring a freelance writer. I want to continue this discussion with one of the most important reasons to hire a writing expert. 

3) Stronger conceptualization with a sprinkling of verbal control – Big Ideas, Enormous Results

One of the most important things your writer can do is effectively brainstorm. It is key for a writer to know how to concept not only with you the client but also with the rest of the creative team. Having the ability to work with multiple business cultures, personalities and daily-to-day challenges is vital when crafting a cohesive message for your clients. 

Often, a staff writer is unable to change the team’s mind when it comes to effective writing and what makes sense for the target audience. Let’s face it, they work together on a day-to-day basis and often begin talking the same speak. They may even loose the ability to communicate to the potential customer in a way that captures their attention.

An experienced freelance copywriter is steadfast in their idea generation and can produce hard-hitting concepts that generate results. They see “creativity” as only a portion of the process and often look to other places, besides their own lives, to concoct successful ideas. They have a multitude of client experiences and bring that expertise to the brainstorming session, which can be invaluable. 

When it comes to generating ideas I look at it as how “powerful” is the concept and then I focus on how “creative” is the concept. Here are some questions to ask to ensure powerful communication over creative fluff.

 

  • Does the message connect with my audience or is it over their head? (If you’re using tech words or ad industry jargon to be cleaver, your words are empty.)
  • Am I using humor just to get a laugh? (Humor is a great tool when used correctly. However, if you’re just using it to get a laugh, you’ll find your targeted message is often being missed.)
  • Have I told my audience what I want them to do? (If you don’t provide a strong call to action, your customers may be lost. While your ad may be unique, eye-catching and creative, it may get missed if the reader isn’t lead to the right outcome.)
These are just a few things to consider when crafting your message for effectiveness and connection. Hiring a seasoned writer who has a handle on brainstorming and how to craft a message with a team is key to the success of a company’s marketing message.
Tomorrow will conclude our discussion of the Top 5 reasons to hire a freelance writer.
Until then, happy concepting!

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How To Stay Afloat In A Down Economy

 

Ships in the Harbor (Newport, OR June-08)

Ships in the Harbor (Newport, OR June-08)

 

Many people are watching the stock market closely. Down, down, down the line journeys. And up. up. up our temptation to panic grows.

So as small business owners, many of us are wondering how we can stay afloat during the downward spiral.

Here are some ideas to keep your business up and running in troubled times:

  •  Put together a company press kit: Talk yourself up. Include a bio of yourself and a brief overview of your company. (Shameless plug: I do this for a number of my clients and would be happy to provide advice on this subject)
  • Make a bigger marketing splash:Discover the power of a paid-search advertising. You can instantly see results and then channel the exact target market that is out there looking for you. 
  • Hire/Retain Employees Wisely: With so many companies laying off employees, highly-talented people are out there searching for new jobs. Take advantage of the talent pool and hire someone you might not have had a chance to employ before now. It doesn’t matter if you hire someone new or you retain your current workforce, bottom line, make sure you take an ample amount of time to train them.
Whatever your current situation, each one of us must think about our business in a different light and hold on tight. One thing is for sure, in an economy like this, things are going to change. It’s up to you to make sure it’s a positive change.
Best to all-

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Keeping Up The Momentum

Last week I was invited to the Dinner of Champions horning the Dunn family. The Dunns are known throughout the community as a family who has given their time, money and dedication to the MS Society. Luckily I was able to attend the event and heard an amazing speaker, Dr. Jack H. Llewellyn, Ph.D.

Dr. Llewellyn has worked with some talented athletic personalities including Tom Glavin, John Smoltz and Bobby Cox. His program not only helps athletes with their game, he also targets their mental edge, while showing them how to overcome adversity head-on. As you may or may not know, Dr. Llewellyn is also an author and wrote a gem of a book called Winning Sure Beats Losing & Here’s What You Can Do About It.  

What is also remarkable about Dr. Llewellyn is he has a daily challenge of his own. He has MS, but don’t let that fool you, he’s a real fighter! I was amazed at his energy and zest for life. Even though his body was aching, he was pacing on the stage, energetic with his speech and somehow grabbed the audience’s attention the second he stepped up to the microphone. He’s an inspiration and really made me think about my passion for life.  

I wonder, how often do we as give up before we even make an effort to try? As a small business owner myself, I find it easy to get discouraged, but as I continue reading his book, I am discovering the power of a positive attitude and adding a mental edge to the way I take on my projects. 

This book is packed full of outstanding ways to strengthen your focus, challenge your fears and thrive on stress. Yes, I said thrive on stress!  If you have a business or you are an employee of a business or if you just want to learn how to use your mind to get ahead, this book is a must read!

Take the challenge!

Sarah @ Dog-Eared Pages

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3 ways to generate a treasure chest of ideas (Part 2 of a 3-part series)

Words are my thing.

Words make me happy. Words can bring people together. Words often bring about change. Words are powerful and when documented can impact lives for decades.

So when it comes to changing the way you do business, or solving a problem that has your company stumped, I think words are often one of the most important tools in your arsenal. 

As we continue to talk about idea generation and the impact it can make on your next challenge, I bring up one of my favorite brainstorming exercises. Check out idea empowerment tool #2.

2) Apply word associations to your problem-solving tactics.

This kind of brainstorming involves using multiple lists of words to discover uncommon links that creatively communicate or solve your current business objective.

Here’s an example:

You are a company that makes toothbrushes. Many of the dentists you sell to have made the comment that their patients aren’t practicing good dental hygiene. They tell you that they would buy more toothbrushes from you if the toothbrushes made their patients want to take better care of their health. Now, could invent such a toothbrush?

Wow sounds like a tall order and a great opportunity! By using word association brainstorming, you can tackle this challenge head on, it works like this. 

 

  • Survey the problem at hand or tackle an idea your company is trying to promote (i.e. creating a new line of toothbrushes that help encourage better dental hygiene)
  • Begin with a word that focuses on your challenge (i.e. Tooth, Brush, Hygiene) (see photo)
  • Circle the phrase or multiple phrases that work to solve your challenge (i.e. Floss Daily, Make Convenient, How Long to Brush?, Time Yourself) (see photo)
  • Join your words together and discover the power of word association brainstorming (i.e. Create a toothbrush that has a build-in dental floss dispenser and a timer to ensure a patient brushes their teeth long enough to remove build-up)

 

This not only works with inventing new product and service lines for your business, it’s also a great starting point for your marketing efforts. Take a look at the words you use to describe your situation. There’s probably a tagline, product name and a simple headline that you can create just from this exercise. Try it out. See what you think and let me know how it goes!

Happy Storming-

Sarah @ Dog-Eared Pages

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3 ways to generate a treasure chest of ideas (Part 1 of a 3-part series)

 

Idea Book-Sept. 08

Idea Book-Sept. 08

Let’s face it, as it gets closer and closer to the end of the year, we begin to run out of steam. With approaching holidays, 4th quarter deadlines and a host of projects that have to be completed by the end of the year, I am in need of some brainy solutions for my clients. That’s where my treasure chest of ideas comes in handy. Most of you know it as brainstorming.

 

Off and on through out the year, I gather as many ideas, thoughts, visual inspirational pieces and articles on successful strategy as I can. I store it in this geeky little notebook (that’s a writer for you) so in times when I am busy, I can peer in and find these gold dubloons and craft them into results-driven solutions.  So you’re asking, “Where do I start?”  

Inside the Idea Book-Sept. 08

Inside the Idea Book-Sept. 08

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try these three ways to generate a ton of ideas in a short period of time. 

1) Begin the brainstorm adventure.  Try Monahan’s 100 MPH Thinking™.

 

  • Take your brainstorming group and divide them up into teams of 3-5 people. 
  • Set a limit on the # of ideas generated in 10 minutes per team. 
  • Give a block of post-it-notes to each team captain. 
  • Start the timer and have the team write down a new idea on each post-it. (This is not the time to self edit, any idea, thought or phrase is game!)
  • Each each team member then selects their two favorites, presents them to the group and then the group as a whole decides which “idea” helps fill your need.

 

Tip: Hang on to all of the stickies you generated. They can be “golden” and stored in a “idea” book for future use.

2) Tomorrow we’ll discuss word association brainstorming

3) On Friday we’ll discover how unusual combinations often lead to brilliant ideas … think sliced bread or rollerblades. 

Many other factors should also be considered when selecting the brainstorming environment, the people that should attend the storm and a plan on how to review your brainstorming “nuggets” and turn them in to gold. Before your get started, make sure you know how to execute the perfect brainstorming playing field.

Stay tuned, more to come tomorrow …

Sarah

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Does Your Biz Card Work For You?

Here’s the senerio, you’re at a “networking event” and you’re approached by a fellow competitor who asks for your business card.  If you’re like many people I talk to, you reluctantly take out your card, hand it to them, hoping to hear, “wow that’s a great card.” Most of the time let’s face it, putting yourself out there on a piece of paper isn’t easy. 

So why do many people cut corners when it comes to business cards? After all, this is the first impression many potential clients have of your business. Think about giving out your card this way. As the recipient puts the card in their pocket, they now have a tangible impression that they can hang onto and refer to when needing an expert. So what you have to say and how you say it better be memorable.

What makes a card stand out? Yesterday I was at a networking event and collected a few cards and I also threw in some cards I have picked up recently. Take a look at what I found.

 

Biz card collection Sept. 08

Biz card collection Sept. 08

As you can see the cards that stand out the most are:

  • colorful, have photos or eye-catching graphics
  • have a different shape, incorporating rounded corners
  • provide a clear vision statement (as a writer this is the first thing I look for-yes I am that geeky)

Now I understand that in some industries this color/unique shape is an easier sell than others. For instance, if you focus on a highly corporate target market, a card that is purple with a flying pink pig, might not be a good idea. But that’s just it.  It’s not just the design, it’s getting your brand out there. Who are you? What do you do? Is that clearly stated on your card?   At the end of the day, does your card pass the trash test?

Need some inspiration? Check out Flicker!  Or if you have the design already in you mind you can create some unique cards at Moo!

Happy Card Creating!

Share your cards with me, I’d love to see what you create to make a lasting impression!

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