Video camera drawing overlaid on taco with text about video.

Why Video Helps Small Business Marketing

You might not think your small business offering lends itself to video, but a variety of new video formats can highlight your product and services with flair and appeal.

As part of a video promotion community (a closed group for pros on Facebook), I’ve recently witnessed the exchange of numerous videos selling everything from nutrition drinks and real estate to novels and art. The novelist’s videos told a story about the book, without spoiling the plot.

In video, key phrases underpin the overall narrative. Remember, you are drawing people in with a glimmer of what your product is. You are not just handing them a product.

As a marketing tool, we are well beyond having a person in a conference room speaking to the camera. This reminds of the time in the early ‘90s when, as an intern, I found myself being called upon to eat tacos on camera in a boardroom. Why? More on that later.

The current crop of video combine still photos, art, music, text and effects to keep eyeballs on the content and are specifically optimized for mobile phone delivery. If the medium is the message, this content is crafted for watching in the palm of one’s hand. Indeed, a lot of social media video is viewed by people sitting in front of other screens, such as their TV or work computer monitors. This is why captioning is helpful; you are still giving content without sound.

Video also adds legitimacy in ways the written word alone might fall short. Now, the viewer feels they have met you, much as if they walked into your storefront.

This can cut another way in that video can appear to reveal who you really are… or are not. An acquaintance told me about someone he assumed did similar work as me. Whoa! Not really, the video showed a slickster doing a selfie video in a garage with a luxury car. The implication being if you buy what I’m selling, you too can rent a luxury car. The bigger problem was the content. I listened and heard nothing specific. Nada.

People watch videos to learn something, see something or feel something. If you can deliver on all three, that’s great. The only way to meaningfully deliver on anything is to be specific. All effective storytelling requires specifics, be it data, descriptions or directions.

If you are selling widgets, show the assembly line. If you sell a service, give some instructions. Most of all, direct the viewers to your store!

People want to see the experience. This brings me to the tacos. The TV news station where I interned was doing a feature story on Mexican food and was waiting on a freelance cameraman to send us video with various shots from a restaurant. We were expecting to see beautiful dishes and décor. Instead, it was a lot of B-roll of drunk people doing shots of tequila. Apparently, the cameraman (also known as a shooter, by the way) put the camera down on the bar and had a great time. This was not the kind of shooter we wanted.

We still needed usable B-roll. A producer sent me and another shooter (without booze) down to Taco Bell to get some footage. We got the boot. But we bought some tacos to go. I thought we could put the tacos down on a table and get some decent Ken Burns-style footage documenting the tacos in all their glory. Unfortunately for me, the producer took it further and insisted the cameraman shoot me eating the tacos. He got a nice tight, close-up shot of me chewing. Why? Because great storytelling puts people in the action. Turns out, the video was so compelling the story went national and some of my college friends were very surprised to see me eating lunch on a major network’s nightly news.Video camera drawing overlaid on taco with text about video.

Not every video is going to garner a huge audience. Just like blogging, if you do videos, do them consistently to build a portfolio. You will improve with each installment. Also, you cannot do something once and expect success. By blogging or posting video on a regular basis, you are informing the internet gods and your customers that you are a reliable, consistent presence.

For more information on video and other digital marketing services provided by Adroit Narratives, please see our services menu.

How to Write a Blog for Your Business

Where do you start when sitting down to write a blog to market your business? Overcome whatever inertia is holding you back. You may only need a half hour to an hour to do this. You also need not be the greatest writer in the world – you just need to be good at writing.

In this blog, I will walk you through three basic steps to writing a blog.

  • Pick a topic and break it down into a series of related blogs
  • Aim to write about 500 words per blog
  • Edit yourself!

Blogging a Marketing Campaign

You have a lot to say; you built a better mousetrap and want the world to beat a path to your door. But, it’s complicated. Your business model is complex and your product’s value proposition is hard to explain in short order. This is why it is OK to give away some basic information for free. You are not giving away the farm, but instead getting people interested. Now, they view you as a resource and if you are good at what you do, they are more likely to buy. Speak from experience, use real-life examples to tell a story and paint the picture of what your product or service will do for them.

By stringing out a series of blogs under an umbrella topic you can showcase your product or service more in-depth. If you were selling mousetraps, you could first blog about why a breakthrough has been long overdue and highlight the simplest reason your product provides that. The next blog could be a quick history of how your product was developed and who is behind it. The third blog could be a customer experience story (how your product solved a problem for a customer). The fourth blog could overtly pitch the better mousetrap.

By mapping out a structure for yourself, you can easily write with purpose. Keep your audience in mind and write as it you are answering their questions:

  • What is this about?
  • Why do I care?
  • Why should I trust you?
  • Is this of value?

Always keep the writing fairly simple. You are not writing the Great American Novel. Speak as if your prospect is sitting across from you. The tone should be straightforward. Try not to get to casual or comedic; it’s still business.

Organizing Each Blog with Purpose

Create a roadmap or outline before you begin typing. I believe in the power of threes and usually set out a bulleted list of the three most important things I wish to convey. I developed this habit when I was a news reporter. I would come in fresh from an assignment and feel slightly overwhelmed by everything I gathered. My mind was awash with ideas. To get started, I would jot down the three most important aspects of the story. Then, I would ask myself, what is the lede (lede is news speak for lead sentence) that will hook the reader? It does not have to be sensational, but it needs to be interesting. Some ledes write themselves while others take some thought. Once you write that introduction and fill out the three sections, you will be amazed at how quickly you have written close to 500 words. Maybe you even ran over that amount.

Proofreading is Essential

To start editing yourself, take advantage of the tools in the program you are using. For instance, in Word, the tools menu includes word count. The red, squiggly underline will point out spelling errors. To catch other boo-boos, read your content from the bottom up. Print out the page and proofread the copy with fresh eyes and a pen to scratch out what’s wrong. Walk away for a few minutes and return with a critical eye. If you think it will help you, read it out loud. We often catch our own mistakes with a dramatic reading.

Pop question: did I follow my own advice with the structure and tone of this blog? Let me know what you think. Contact consultant Katharine Fraser.

Swipe Files: Are They Really Your Content Bestie?

You want your business to break through the digital marketing clutter and stand out, so why use someone else’s material in your social media content?

There are some best practices that are quantifiable in terms of response rates and conversions. Most people are more likely to click on Learn More than Buy Now! Also true is that some wording is really good and can be used again.

Back in my news writing days, when on a breaking news assignment, I would always go back to the “morgue,” or digital library of previously published stories, to refresh my memory on what the facts surrounding a situation had been. This way, I could supply background and give the context around a major change. In other words, looking at the original story gave me the ability to tell the readers why is this news and what does the newest information mean to them.

But, here’s the caveat. Something in the original story is likely outdated. The worst possibility would be to repeat a mistake. The old story should be a guide, not a gospel. Worst of all – and this applies to marketing copy – people will recognize the wording as canned. This is a sure-fire way to lose people. Oh, I’ve seen this before, and poof, they have clicked away.

Write gripping content

As an aside, in a world where we are awash in content, we don’t always recognize something we have read before. I have had the experience myself of reading an old news story from prior years and thinking it seemed familiar, only to then see my own byline. Still, if you are trying to be fresh and relevant, rehashing old content is not exactly gripping.

Even worse, it is possible to “swipe” copyrighted content, which is a no-no. You can emulate the style of swipe files you think will work for your business.

Granted, you can repurpose content. That is, your own content. Perhaps you have extensive collateral material on your business website and in handout marketing materials that identify your core product or service, how it works and why it is of value to customers and clients. This copy can be repurposed into your social media and blogging content. Indeed, it must so that your brand is recognizable in all settings. This is known as “omnichannel marketing.” Take the tidbits in that content that really pop and use those phrases in the social media content.

If you are a small or big business, you want the customer to immediately recognize the product or service experience when they are at the point of sale because they already became acquainted with you online. Analogously, your LinkedIn profile should come across as if someone is meeting you in person in a boardroom setting. Your product and service should come across online to perfect strangers who find you on Twitter, in their Facebook feeds, etc.

SOCIAL MEDIA BEST PRACTICES

But, if you are using swipe files, how can you distinguish yourself? You can blend your own branding with ad copy wording that is known to work. You should review Facebook ads swipe files and similar resources (just Google). Checking out the look, feel and wording will inform how you decide to write your social media posts and sponsored content (ads). See what you like and what you dislike. Think about what will inspire or intrigue your ideal customer. You want to write the ad to speak to that target market.

For more content writing tips or to inquiry about Adroit Narratives’ content marketing writing services, contact consultant Katharine Fraser.

Elevating Our Business Language above the Fray, Online and in Person

Call me an idealist. I believe that we should strive to use elevated language in our business dealings to ensure we are clear and effective in our communications. I try not to be dismayed by the lowering of standards in our society, but it’s hard.

Just look at all the trolls on Twitter who have taken over a lot of the political discourse. It seems many are emulating the bullying personas that have become all too prevalent, whether it be teen cyber-bullying, pop culture braggadocio or even mean-spirited tweets by a presidential candidate.

Perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end of a barrage of angry electronic comments in the social media world, even in business. I was recently asked whether steering clear of social media is one way to avoid all this. Sure, but I don’t advocate becoming a digital hermit in a digital world. I do recommend you respond to cyber critics, but in a kindly way and not in kind.

The best advice I ever heard at a writing conference came from an unlikely source: a retired FBI agent. He had been dispensing advice to newspaper reporters on how to deal with unwilling interview subjects. A reporter related a problem he was having with a cantankerous town council member and how this public official would shout down anyone who asked questions, even perfectly legitimate public policy questions. The retired investigator advised, “never shout back at a shouter. He’s been doing it his whole life and will be better at it than you.”

The advice was to instead maintain poise and an even tone. This tone may just aggravate the shouter, he added. The retired investigator then related a story about a time he patiently sat in a witness box while a criminal defense lawyer shouted at him with questions. The lawyer came closer and closer to the witness, all the while shouting. The witness waited for the right moment and then calmly asked if the lawyer would mind taking a few steps back. Why, asked the lawyer, am I intimidating you? No, came the reply, you are getting your spittle on me. The jury cracked up, the investigator said.

Funny, this writing conference was in the 1990s and back then boorish behavior was considered out of the norm, but today it is all too common. Sometimes people may not even realize what they are saying in business might be crossing a line, even inadvertently. I recently ran into a man at a coffee who was saying something that just didn’t sit right with me.

I wondered if he really meant what it sounded like, so I deployed a simple and effective communications mechanism. I asked him if I could summarize what I thought I heard him saying and, once I related what the message seemed to be, he seemed surprised. This gave him a chance to quickly correct what he really meant. It is a lot easier to give people a second chance with feedback than to dismiss them outright. feedback-796143_1280All too often in today’s discourse, people are too harsh, critical and rude. To rise above the fray, stake out that higher ground and stick to it. Use thoughtful language and tone, maintain professionalism and speak on the level at which you want to be addressed.

For more communications consulting, contact Katharine Fraser.

How & Why Print Marketing Still Matters in the Digital Age

Aside from your arsenal of digital marketing tools, I bet you rely on the time-tested staple of brand management: your business card. Not only do people still hand out business cards – because they work – but now there are new mod designs and shapes for business cards. Business cards are held, carefully read and, ideally, retained. They can also contain technology that brings people into digital content.

Augmentative reality images can be placed on printed material and then scanned on a phone or tablet. Using an app, the user is taken to a video. Imagine handing out business cards at a conference that bring people to a video about your product. That business card doesn’t seem so old-fashioned anymore, does it?

It is a first impression that determines if the card is retained and used by the recipient. Is it easy to read and is that content clear? The questions that must be answered are what is it this person does and does that offering matter to me? Does the content of the card make clear what is the nature of your business? If your company name does not explicitly include the business category, consider adding a tagline that does.

You want to strike the right balance between capturing as much useful information as possible and, by contrast, making it too busy looking. For instance, do you really need to list three or four phone numbers and a FAX number? Direct and mobile numbers suffice. Drop the www. prefix from your website address.

There is more real estate on the back of the card. I have a client who was inclined to cram a lot of information back there, enough copy for a large brochure. Still, it’s not a bad idea to place a list on the back of the card. We winnowed down the essentials of what a customer of this service provider would experience at their first consultation. We trimmed it down to five bullet points with short phrases. It looks good and tells a story of what the first meeting will accomplish and what key services are at the core of his business.

The business card remains a reliable workhorse of content marketing and can easily be integrated with your other marketing channels, including digital. Your card is expresses your business identity and should be as respected and carefully considered as your other communications.

To review your business communications and how to improve and augment them, contact consultant Katharine Fraser.

Adroit Narratives

New Year, new style, keeping it real with authentic communications

Ever received a holiday email card from someone you cannot place in your mind or from someone you met once? The message this sends is hey, we decided to create a spreadsheet list of every email address with which our company has ever had any contact and blast out a greeting. Nice, but does this serve any real marketing or communications purpose? I suppose one could argue that this kind of messaging keeps one front of mind in your marketplace.

I would argue it simply looks like spam. Or worse, it really does amount to spam. By contrast, a printed holiday card or even an email sent to select customers or clients carries more significance, especially if you add a message tailored to the specific interactions the recipients have had in the past year with your company.

Looking forward

The end of the year is a good time to position your business with clients and prospects as the go-to buy in the coming year. Select particular people to reach out to with a quick note, thanking them for their business this year and expressing interest in building that relationship in the New Year. This exercise will also bring focus on an internal basis to your action plan for the next quarter and year. Moreover, the recipients of such email will clearly see this message is expressly for them and not a message in a bottle cast out upon the email beach.

Giving pause to reflect on who is most important for maintaining contact and who is most important for reaching as prospects should be a regular practice, not just an end of year routine. The best gift you can give your customers is the knowledge you truly care about how you connect with them and that is conveyed with customized communications.

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