I was walking through the beachside town of Tangalle today and realized how important analog forms of marketing are to the businesses here. While Sri Lanka was recently awarded Best in Travel #1 Top Country of the Year (2019) by Lonely Planet, the tourism infrastructure and digital presence of the country is still underdeveloped.
This means unlike a highly touristed middle-income Asian country like Thailand, there are no 7-Elevens at every street corner; there are no readily apparent streetfood markets or bougie Instagram-worthy avocado-toast-and-poached-egg Western cafes with snappy WIFI. It’s hard to find and access things like hostels, bike rentals, Western food, etc.
I spent thirty minutes today just trying to find someone who rents push bikes by walking around and asking locals.
There are some TripAdvisor reviews and blogs online, but by far the best way to find things here is following signs on the streets and stopping to ask local people. AKA in marketing speak: print advertising and word-of-mouth.
The simple and small investment of a chalkboard for a local business could literally 100x their sales in a day. Suddenly the hippie ravers on a 3-day trance bender know where to get the best sunset happy hour beachside beer specials. The Scandinavian couple traveling with their young children know where to get their vegan oatmeal with bananas and ginger tea.
What can we extrapolate from this?
Don’t forget the value of simple and cheap yet effective advertising. Don’t forget about analog forms of promotion. Don’t just create content: you have to promote it. Many times, people don’t even know where to look or can’t find what they’re looking for. Be where they are looking and tell everyone you know about what you provide.
Marketing is essentially understanding what people want and like and then making a product or service that fits that. Strategy is enormously important. In content marketing specifically, getting a behind-the-scenes look into site clicks, bounce rates, email signups, search terms and everything else is damn near essential.
It’s all so important, you could almost say it’s all you need in content marketing: a banging strategy based on what your target audience wants and what’s working.
But wanna know where the real magic happens? Where the real money is made?
In creativity and innovation. Henry Ford once said (you know what’s coming here), “If I had asked the people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”*
I mean that pretty much sums it up. If you only produce content based on what people say they want or what they show they want through their behavior you might never create anything new.
It’s absolutely key to keep the creative brainwaves open, keep letting yourself generate new ideas that haven’t been dreamt up before. And then take the risk to implement some of them and see what happens.
After all, once AI takes over everything, the only thing us humans will have left is our creativity. Might as well practice it 😉
I call myself a freelance copywriter and content marketing strategist. But what exactly does that mean?
The short version is that I write words on digital platforms to help businesses get more leads. In terms of topic, I love working with B2B businesses that make a social impact. Whether in health, education, or environment, I do my best work when I’m helping mission-driven organizations thrive.
Here’s how I do it:
I strategize and write blog posts
My specialty is in blog content management, strategy, and writing. I help businesses use their blog to capture leads at the top of the funnel. I work with clients to identify action-based goals (e.g. sign up for the email list, schedule a free consultation, sign up for the free webinar, or simply click through to this link) and create content around those goals.
I help clients identify and target longtail keywords, optimize their content for these keywords, and bring in traffic through search engine marketing.
I do extensive market research to get inside the target audience’s head and understand how my client’s blog can offer better and higher quality value than what’s already out there.
I also help clients promote themselves as thought leaders in their niche. No fluff pieces, no empty writing. Good, solid work that shows their expertise and authority in their space.
I write persuasive website and sales copy
I also write copy to help capture leads lower down on the funnel (closer to making the buying decision). I work with clients to do market research and analysis before writing anything. For example, I look at pain points, primary and secondary benefits, customer avatar and segments, and a competition analysis, amongst other things.
Copywriting is a bit of a different skillset than content writing. It requires an understanding of the principles of persuasion, different templates and techniques for selling, and overall a creative flair for coming up with “sticky” and exciting words that sell.
Some past clients
Here are some examples of who I’ve worked with in the past (I’m limited in what I can reveal due to NDA’s with some of my clients but here’s some of what I can share). Click for full case studies:
Wonderschool, a startup that helps educators open their own in-home preschool or child care
As someone who spends a lot of time on content strategy and creation, I’ve seen my fair share of content across niches.
By the way, if you’re wondering, What is content marketing?
ContentMarketingInstitute.com defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
The most familiar form of digital content marketing is blogging, but videos, audio, and infographics count as well.
Anyways, as I was saying, I’ve seen my fair share of content – good and bad. One of the first things I tend to do is analyze an organization’s current content and strategy and look for ways to make it better. Here are the most common mistakes I see during that process:
You may be surprised to see something that sounds like design on my list of content marketing mistakes, but design is SO important to content.
There’s no use in spending hours, effort, and money on great content only to slap it into an underperforming design. The design makes sure the content can reach its full potential.
So in terms of illegible text, there are a few sub-issues that I see a lot:
Tiny font: I get so upset when I see quality, good writing in a teeny tiny font. This is especially a problem for “minimalist” themes in WordPress, and in most Squarespace sites I see. You should be writing online in a font that is no smaller than 16px, period.
Grey font: This is another thing I see often with modern/minimalist themes. Tiny grey letters. Dark grey is fine and sometimes even preferred to blackest-black because it’s a bit softer on the eyes. But if it’s grey enough to where you would look at it and say “that’s grey text”, it’s too grey. You need more contrast than that to optimize the readability of your content.
Text areas that are too wide: Your text area should be between 80-100 characters wide. This could mean a number of things in terms of pixels – that’s not the point (although I’ve noticed somewhere around 680-750 pixels wide is usually good). The ideal width will depend on your font and font size. I see a lot of full-width blocks of text, and this makes it hard for the reader’s eyes to jump to the next line.
When in doubt about font, visit Medium and study what they do for blog post formatting. They’ve optimized their site for readability.
Lots of content and no promotion
Producing content for your business’s blog is great – essential even. Businesses with blogs generate between 67% (B2B) and 88% (B2C) more leads per month than those without (Hubspot’s “The State of Inbound Marketing 2010“).
But without any efforts towards promotion, your content will just sit there unread. Investing in a social media manager or VA to handle your social media marketing is a good start. You also want to work on backlink building to build a presence on search engines (your SEO).
Lack of understanding of target audience
I get why this is hard: when you’re so deep inside something, it’s hard to see it from the outside perspective. It’s hard to step into your reader’s shoes. I struggle with it myself for my own blog, so I know the feeling.
It’s worth it to talk with someone with a bit more distance from the product or service for sale on developing or revisiting your customer avatar.
What are your target audience’s pain points? Can you define different segments? What are the primary and secondary benefits your product or service can offer them?
Your content is for them, so you need to have a next level understanding of what they’re thinking and feeling.
Fear of sharing too much value for free
Yes, some of your information and expertise should be saved for paying customers. But if you want to generate leads, you need to attract people and build trust by giving away really juicy value for free.
Don’t be afraid to give too much. There is always a point where people won’t have the time or expertise and will rather pay you to do things for them. Always.
If you haven’t met thirteen-year-old Robert Irwin, be prepared to be blown away. He is by far the most gracious, likable, intelligent, well-spoken 13-year-old I think I’ve ever seen.
As someone in the video comments section said, “He is a f***ing treasure”.
Robert recently stopped by the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. He brought in baby animals and let Jimmy interact with them while he told Jimmy fun facts about each one. Jimmy plays the “city guy” to Robert’s “outdoorsman” and the [very real] hesitation we get from Jimmy makes for a fun and entertaining contrast with Robert’s sheer, unstoppable delight.
Have a watch:
You’re ready to go on an expedition with Robert, right? I know I am.
So how come this pre-teen can sell us wildlife research and conservation but some of the biggest NGO’s in the world can’t?
Robert (or the team behind him, I don’t know) is excellent at marketing.
Here’s what we can learn as marketers – especially those of us working in the social impact space – from 13-year-old Robert Irwin:
He’s excited as hell about his brand
Talk about infectious excitement! Now Robert didn’t invent the gig – his father certainly did this first – but he knows how to use his energy to get our attention. Notice how positive he is about everything. Notice his passion and enthusiasm to share every single “fun fact” about each animal.
You might not have the opportunity to appear on the Tonight Show anytime soon, but there are still opportunities to be excited as hell about your brand. Think about how you can “write like you speak” on social media posts to convey this kind of enthusiasm. Think about how you can incorporate your energy and passion for your business when you talk with leads, funders, the press.
Obviously, you should tailor your messaging to fit the tone of your brand. But if you don’t get excited about your products/services/project, no one else will either.
Here’s another clip from the same show a few months ago
He tells interesting stories
The major challenge anyone working in social impact has is that oftentimes the thing they’re selling doesn’t have a direct or clear benefit for the audience their selling it to. It’s social impact, so it usually benefits someone else, maybe a community in need – a community your target audience doesn’t know, has never met, and will never meet.
Let’s face it: it’s hard to get people to care about anything or anyone but themselves.
You have to do as Robert does and sell the stories.
Make those communities across the world very real. And be INTERESTING.
This is where so many organizations go wrong: no one wants to know “we had X-many honey badgers in the world in 2005 but we only have only X-many today”.
Data and facts and all that serious stuff are important to have in your back pocket because they validate that the world needs what you have to offer. But, if you’re marketing yourself to a lay audience, you need to be more interesting than that to get their attention.
How about, “In Africa, the honey badger has been known to back down lions! They have NO FEAR AT ALL!” Ah, that’s better.
Robert layers on these little anecdotes one after another. He paints us juicy pictures of the animals’ lives. Tells us their names, feeds them, pets them.
I dare you to aim for interesting in your marketing. Think of the really intriguing stuff you can share with your audience. The stuff they don’t usually get to hear about. Tell anecdotes, or tell longer stories with a beginning, middle, and end – but start with the end and keep them on the edge of their seats!
Maybe you’re thinking, “Well Robert’s got it easy. He has exotic animals to show off for godsakes! I don’t have anything that interesting or exciting.”
I would bet your brand has its own “exotic animals” to share with the world. You just need to look for them.