Marketing Advice for Halloween

Dear Copy Bitch: I challenge you to come up with a marketing post involving Halloween.

–The Instigator, Chicago

Answer: No problem. Here’s a great post on marketing from marketing guru Seth Godin: “Why Celebrate Halloween?”

(Note: Mr. Instigator, you didn’t say it had to be an original marketing post involving Halloween.)

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Word Confusion: Compliment vs. Complement

Dear Copy Bitch: Any tricks for keeping compliment and complement straight in my thick skull?

—Confused in Colorado

Answer: Dear Confused: Think “complete” when thinking “complement,” which means “to go with or complete” (when used as a verb) or “something that completes” (when used as a noun). As a trick, just think of the “e”–there are two in complete and two in complement. Think of flattery when thinking of “compliment” as in “I love receiving compliments.”

Examples:

1. “I love it when George compliments me on my fashion sense and sassiness.”

2. “I think a George Clooney Love Nest would complement my lifestyle quite nicely.”

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Yes, You Have Competitors (Even if You Think You Don’t)

Dear Copy Bitch: I have a copywriter working on my website copy, and she recently asked me who my competitors are. Here’s the thing: I know it’s a standard question, but we really don’t have competitors. No one does the work as well as we do. We really are different. How do I explain this to the copywriter? Her copy should be focusing on what makes us so great, right?

—Awesome Company, Boston

Answer: Sure, from your perspective your nearest competitor is so far behind you that there’s no way anyone would possibly opt for said competitor over you, right? That’s a fine and dandy attitude to have if you’re, say, eight and still thinking the world revolves around you. But how ’bout putting on your big boy or big girl pants and looking at it from your prospects’ perspectives?

Your prospects don’t know you’re the be-all end-all in your industry, and they certainly won’t “get” it just because you tell them so on your website. Your copywriter is smart for asking about your competitors. Why? Because it’s important to look at how your competitors are positioning themselves, their services, and their products so that you can figure out what they’re doing right (because they will be doing something, I guarantee it), what they’re doing wrong (ditto), and how you’re really going to demonstrate your company’s unique qualities (i.e. your unique selling proposition).

Remember, your website (and any other marketing vehicles) should be about your customers and prospects first. Acknowledge their needs, worries, fears, and pain and then demonstrate how your company fulfills those needs, relieves their fears and worries, and eliminates their pain.

There’s an adage in creative writing: show, don’t tell. The same is true here. Telling me you’re the greatest and that any “so-called” competitor is a lying heap of horse manure won’t be as effective as showing me how well you take care of your current customers and what makes you different from the competition.

Pretending the competition doesn’t exist or isn’t good enough or is too far behind you to catch up is dumb-ass marketing. Don’t do it.

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4 Strategies for Proofreading Online

Dear Copy Bitch: My eyes hurt! I stare at my computer all day and make mistakes left and right–stupid mistakes, too. Do you have any tips for proofreading on a computer monitor?

–Grumpy Proofreader

Answer: Yes, Grumpy, never fear! The Copy Bitch feels your pain and has strategies for proofreading online:

1. Increase/decrease the zoom level on your monitor. When you’ve been staring at a document for hours on end, this one little change is enough to give your precious eyeballs (and brain) a fresh perspective on the words staring back at you. When I’m in Word on my PC, the zoom toggle is in the lower right-hand corner.

2. Highlight the text in yellow. This works especially well for shorter pieces. In Word, the highlight option is usually in the same area as the font face and size options.

3. Read backwards. Start with the last sentence of your document and work your way to the beginning (note: don’t read the sentences themselves backwards). Reading things out of context is a great way to catch mistakes.

4. Do a “find” on your crutch words and problem areas. Do you write “your” when you really mean “you’re”? Do a “find” on “your” and double-check yourself. Do you tend to use fillers like “just,” “very,” “really” or “George Clooney is a god”? Do a search on those words/phrases. Do you type too fast and always use “manger” instead of “manager”? Ditto.

Would love to hear about some other strategies. Leave yours in the comments thread.

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Smart Advertising: “Grab Your Bag. It’s On.”

Dear Copy Bitch: What do you think of Southwest Airlines’ new tagline and advertising campaign?

—Marketing Student, Boston

Answer: Changing your well-known and effective tagline can be a risky maneuver. But, oh, when it works…

I’ve always loved Southwest Airlines’ tagline, “You’re Now Free to Move About the Country.” It was clever (the little cockpit “ding” that precedes the tag, which is spoken in the tone of a pilot, really made it pop), memorable (I never had trouble identifying who the advertiser was whenever I heard the tag), and, no doubt, effective.

But this past June, Southwest Airlines changed its tag to “Grab Your Bag. It’s On.” Here’s why I think it’s effective (I’d love to hear what you think):

  1. First off, Southwest takes advantage of exploiting a trend among other airlines: the charging of bags, sometimes at $20 a pop. Just goes to show that choosing to do the opposite of what your competitors are doing can set you apart–in a good way.
  2. The tagline has a double meaning, so it’s working doubly hard. Not only does the tag remind you that Southwest won’t charge you for your bags, it also makes the (albeit subtle) claim that your bags will reach their correct destination (whether it can back up this claim is another story…but just making the claim alone is memorable). The folks at Southwest discuss their new ad campaign in a blog post from June (they say that the phrase “It’s On” is all about attitude. I can dig that, too. Think of the popular “Just do it.” Pithy phrases work really well and easily become part of the present-day lexicon.)
  3. But what really makes Southwest’s advertising so effective is that it’s thinking of–I mean, really considering–its audience first. One of the biggest pet peeves travelers have faced in the last two years (after long lines, of course) is the fact they’re being charged for their baggage. Southwest responded to its audience’s pain by opting not to charge…and by highlighting its audience-centric ways first and foremost in its advertising.

What do you think?

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Marketing Resources for Facebook Fan Pages & Blog Submissions

Dear Copy Bitch: Do you have any resources on how to create a Facebook fan page and how to promote my new blog?

—Suffering from Social Media Angst in Annapolis

Answer: Sure do, Social Media Angst (okay, I’m starting to feel like “Dear Abby”). Check out Jennifer Laycock’s article called “The Super Simple Guide to Setting Up Your First Company Facebook Page Without Blowing a Gasket – Part One.” And check out The Social Media Marketing Guru’s “48 Top Places to Submit Your Blog.” Good luck!

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Copy & Marketing Tips: Three Tools You Can Use

Dear Copy Bitch: I really love all the tidbits of advice you’ve been giving on your blog. Here’s a “weird” question: name three “tools” you use in your business that the rest of us could use in ours.

–Sam, Framingham

Answer: Here are two tools I use a lot and one I recently discovered and am looking forward to using for the first time:

1. Color Cop: I learned about Color Cop from Constant Contact’s Zak Barron. I sometimes design newsletter templates for my email marketing clients, and this free, downloadable tool makes getting a color’s hex values (also known as RGB) an absolute breeze.

2. Visual Thesaurus: If you’re a visual person, then Visual Thesaurus is for you. What a great way to discover the perfect word for marketing copy, taglines, you name it.

3. Ask500People: Wouldn’t it be great if you could “test” your new logo or tagline on real people and get feedback? Now you can, and quite economically with Ask500People.

What are some of your favorite finds? Leave your answers in the comments section.

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Web Marketing Strategy Done Right

Dear Copy Bitch: I really liked reading about your “Rent My Noggin” promotion. But your post on “Why I hate writing websites” really made me stop and reconsider my web strategy. My company has been in business for 15 years. We’ve finally decided to get a website. (Up until now, we’ve gotten business through word of mouth and referrals.) Can you point me to some sites, articles, etc. that will ensure we do this web development/strategizing thing just right?

—LB, Lexington, Mass.

Answer: It warms the Copy Bitch’s heart to hear you say you’re going to develop a strategy before developing a site. Smart, smart, SMART move. There’s one GREAT resource that I share with my clients and prospects. It’s Stoney deGuyter’s “The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period.” Download the PDF. Print it. Study it. Make it your web bible. (Stoney is an SEO god and writer for Search Engine Guide. He owns Pole Position Marketing.)

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Email Marketing: Should I Send Weekly Campaigns?

Dear Copy Bitch: We’ve been doing an every-other-month email newsletter campaign for over a year, but one of my competitors (I’m an executive coach) does a quick-hitting weekly email with a quote/source of inspiration. I’m thinking I should do something like that starting in January. Our list is around 150, and we have, on average, a 50 percent open rate. Your thoughts?

—BH, Rhode Island

Answer: Be very careful about going from an every-other-month email newsletter to a weekly email campaign. Remember, the people who are on your mailing list signed up for a bi-monthly newsletter. In fact, I’m hesitant about weekly email campaigns in general because they tend to cause list fatigue. The types of businesses that can “get away with it” are retailers, and even they have a high number of opt-outs and abuse complaints.

You have a small list, but it sounds like a loyal list (the fact that half the list regularly opens your email indicates that). I’ve seen weekly emails like the one you’re referencing. To me, most tend to be short on substance (inspirational quotes can be, well, inspiring, but is the point for me to remember the person who said the quote or the person/company–in this case, the exec coach–who sent me the quote? It’s a fine line).

If you’re concerned you’re not in front of your newsletter subscribers enough, consider going to a monthly schedule. Or better yet, ask your audience what it wants (i.e. survey the people on your mailing list). Your marketing should respond to your customers’ needs first, not in reaction to what your competitors are doing.

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Copy Tip: Fewer vs Less

Dear Copy Bitch: Should I use the word “fewer” or “less” in this sentence? Fitness industry statistics indicate that about 75% of health club members are interested in personal training, but fewer/less than 5% ever purchase it due to its perceived high cost.

–Todd, Boston

Answer: Use “fewer” with items that can be counted. Use “less” with general amounts. So, in your example, I’d use “fewer” since the statistic would be based on real numbers (i.e. things that can be counted).

More examples:

  1. The older I get, the fewer suitors I have.
  2. George doesn’t like kissing girls with stinky breath, so please make the dish with less garlic.

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