Which brings me back to email. I can’t predict what’s going to happen 5 years from now, but I’m pretty sure that in the next five years email will have an important place in the business world. The reason for this is that businesses rely on email for many things:
That’s not to say that newer, more casual forms of digital communication don’t play a role in these things as well – but email creates a digital trail that can be followed, and if need be, verified. There is a clear chronology with email, which is important when dealing with business issues – who said what first, and why.
With email, there is also the aspect of taking the time to think about what you should write. This is funny because I can remember a few years back people bemoaning how email had killed the art of letter writing, since with email writing you were less concerned about content, grammar and style. And now emailers of the world are complaining how texting and tweeting is killing the email. Ha!
The only problem I see for companies who use email for marketing is that it’s going to be harder to reach their prospects. For B2B companies, it will be less so because emails are preferably directed to a business email address. If people in companies use their emails for business, then they will continue to see the marketing pitches in their email boxes. For B2C companies, it will become more of a concern, because if the public turns away from using email to communicate with friends, then they will be less likely to look at their email inboxes.
So what’s going to happen? Or, should I ask, do we have the patience to wait until it does? Have we evolved to the point where we only want instant resolution to the future?
On this Monday take a second to think about who’s making the news these days. Chances are, most of them have been known to stir the pot. They aren’t known for shying away from controversy.
Companies, as a rule, like to avoid controversy. Trust me, as a content copywriter, I’m amazed at what they consider controversial. There are lots of reasons for this – corporate policy, fear, lack of imagination, lawyers etc. But there are ways of attracting attention by saying something that pushes the line or begs a question without jeopardizing your brand. The key is backing up whatever you say with your expertise, because if you write a controversial blog post, you know you’re going to get some comments.
One way to spice up things is to have a headline that looks like it goes counter to current consensus. For example, your headline could read “Organics Don’t Live Up to Hype.” You know that’s going to cause a reaction from those who believe in organic food. In your article you would not denigrate organics, but point out all of the false hype that’s out there and then carefully state your official position of the value of organics.
HubSpot used this tact recently with their webinar and post “Why Social Media is BS.” Basically their position was that social media marketing works best when it’s integrated, but does not work as well when it’s separate from other marketing efforts. The title drew thousands of people to their webinar and the comments prior to the webinar showed that many were ready to counter the premise.
One thing to avoid with controversy is directly attacking your competition. If your competitor makes a product in a certain way, don’t write a piece with a headline that infers that way of making products is wrong. You’re going to open yourself up to them doing the same to you. However, if a competitor knocks your way of making things, that gives you an opening to make your case. Now that’s a controversy that you can win (provided, of course, that you’re right).
Photo Credit: Ben Sutherland
One of the perks of marketing in the natural products industry is that you get to feature photos of beautiful plants, succulent foods, happy harvests and healthy looking people. The whole idea is to present and position products that are created by nature, support sustainable practices and provide wellness. And photos are a great way to back up these claims.
Websites for natural products feature countless photos of their natural ingredients. It’s an essential way to show their customers their natural origins.
But here’s the rub: if you’re searching for those photos on the web, you can’t find them unless they have alt tags assigned to them. Google, Yahoo! and Bing are not yet able to identify images by themselves. There needs to be writing attached to them so they can find them: Thus the alt tag.
Web designers and SEO experts know this, but go on many natural products sites and you’ll be surprised how many of their pictures don’t have alt tags or have alt tags that have limited search value.
If you don’t think that’s important, then you’re not optimizing your website for the search engines.
Some key points to consider:
The Alt Tag is NOT a caption. The sole purpose of an alt tag is to help the search engines find you. Think about your keywords and think about how you’d like your photo to attract people. A caption that reads, “Joe and Cindy at the Echinacea harvest” makes sense on the website, but are those critical keywords that your prospects search for? An alt tag for the same photo could be “organically grown Echinacea harvest – Name of company” since more people are likely to search for those keywords than the words “Joe and Cindy.”
Don’t abuse keywords. There is a temptation to stuff as many keywords into an alt tag as possible. After all, you don’t read the alt tags – only the search engines do. Wrong. Too many keywords – otherwise known as high keyword density – can trigger spam filters and that might result in a penalty for your sites ranking.
Alt Tags are more important than ever. Everyone talks about the importance of title tags and H1 tags for search value, but recent research from SEOMoz shows that keywords in the alt attribute (alt tag) are given more weight than title tags and H1 tags, and almost equal with keywords in the body of text. Bing even gives alt tags more juice than keywords in the URL.
Natural Products consumers like photos of natural things. I don’t have stats for this, but with almost 20 years of marketing natural products I’ve noticed that people interested in organics, sustainability and the environment love beautiful photographs of all things natural. A beautiful shot will create an emotional attachment to a food, product or ingredient. When searching, these same people not only look at Google Search – Web but also at Google Search –Images. Having trouble getting on the first pages of the search engines? If you alt tag correctly, you have a much better shot of getting into the first pages of Images (and, if you go onto Images, you’ll note that 10 pages fit on one).
Want more convincing? I suggest you go into your back end analytics and try to figure out how visitors are being directed to your site. See how many come from an image search. If there aren't any or very few, check your alt tags to see if they are keyword optimized. If there are a lot, then chances are you’re doing a great job with your alt tags.
Have any of you out there had organic search success with your alt tags?
Marketing consultants, corporate marketing departments, public relations agencies and their advertising cousins, all like winning awards. It feels good, provides their work with a “third party” endorsement, builds a bond between the agency/consultant and the client, does wonders for job security, and sometimes gives people an excuse to travel for a party.
So how do you win one of these puppies?
I’ve been on both sides of the fence – as part of a winning team and as a judge. I recognize how hard it can be to put together a proposal and I know what judges go through when determining winners. With that in mind, here are some ways you can win an award.
Assumption Alert: All of these tips assume that you actually think your campaign, brochure, press release, advertisement, website, video etc. has merit. Don’t bother wasting your time filling out a proposal if you don’t think much about what you’re submitting.
1. Pick your category carefully. Most marketing, advertising and PR awards offer numerous categories. The beauty of this is that often what you want to submit can fit several categories. If you want a better chance of winning, pick the least sexy category. You’d be surprised how many contests I’ve judged where some categories only have two or three submissions. That ups your chances of getting at least an honorable mention. Warning: Don't try to fit a round peg into a square hole. If you are in the wrong category, rarely does your proposal get sent to the right one.
2. Results matter. Judges are chosen because they are experts in their field. They acknowledge and are often impressed by spectacular art and clever concepts. But they also recognize the value of results. The difference between first and second is often decided based on the results, since it’s harder to argue with empirical stats than with subjective artistic opinions.
3. Optimize your results. I am not suggesting that you lie about your results. What I recommend is that you highlight the best aspects of your results and, when in doubt, give your entry all the credit you can. For example, if you entered an email campaign for a new product introduction, and your email open and click-through rates were average, look at the sales and provide that information. The judges will know that other things go into a new product introduction, but they also recognize that the email campaign contributed to its success. And finally, here is a dirty little secret: Judges rarely have time to verify your stats. If they sound realistic, they’ll accept them.
4. Presentation counts. I can’t tell you how many presentations are sloppy, incomplete, and poorly communicated. Basically, when a judge sees one like that, it’s a gift. When incomplete, it means the judge does not have to read it or consider it. When sloppy or poorly written, it just pisses off the judge. Remember, judges usually spend one or two intense days pouring over submissions and they love it when one is easily and quickly rejected.
5. Judges are not stupid. They know how things work. That’s why they were picked. Don’t try to persuade them with false aggrandizement or inflated claims. Be clear and to the point. They appreciate that. They are also human. If you take something for granted and it’s not on the page, they won’t go looking for it.
New Development – Online Voting. I recently got an email from an agency I’ve worked with asking me to vote for them in an award contest. I like them, so I cast my vote their way. They won and the reason they won is that they have been actively growing their social network – not because they were the best. So that’s one big vote for social marketing.
Photo Credit: By Dave_B_Davidlohr Bueso
Mmmm. It’s that time again when you have to come up with more content for your blog, and nothing is coming to you. Instead of staring at the blank screen and being a frustrated content copywriter, how about surfing the web to read articles about your industry.
That’s right; I’m encouraging you to procrastinate.
You can find articles in the trade press, from bloggers who cover your industry, mainstream and alternative media, or by checking out what your social media connections are discussing. When you find an article that interests you, think about how you could comment on it in a way that moves the conversation forward.
For example, if you’re in eCommerce, you probably read articles about the record breaking billion dollar Cyber Monday. For your blog post you can:
That’s step one. For step two, go to the original source and if there is a place to comment on it, do so. Offer a bit of the insight you wrote about in your blog, and, if you can, insert a link back to your post. If anyone reading that original story likes your comment, they might click on your link and read your article.
For step three, post on your Facebook company page and tweet about both the original article and your post. This way you share with your social network the information that you originally thought was interesting, and you position yourself as a bit of a thought leader as well.
Next Week: Controversy
(Photo Credit - TheYoungOnes1994)