Can Your Marketing Materials Have Too Much Personality?

oopsNo one wants to be just another (attorney/insurance agent /hair stylist/dentist/chiropractor ….fill in the blank) clamoring for consumers’ attention, particularly in today’s impatient, digitally-based marketplace.  Articles flood our inboxes with tips on branding and differentiation.  But sometimes, business owners miss the mark by confusing or even offending prospects as they attempt to make bold statements.

Hinge Marketing hits the nail on the head by identifying some key elements of a successful brand:

“Every brand needs a voice. Messaging provides the words that help customers and prospects understand a firm’s value (why it’s useful) and values (what it believes in). It articulates the brand’s promise and stimulates desire for a firm’s services. A brand’s messaging sums up all of the experiential characteristics of a brand and rallies them behind a single flag. In the war for customers’ hearts, messaging leads the charge.”

But what if your voice is the shrieky one that makes people shudder and run away?  (“Your mattress is FREE!!!”)   In attempting to gain approval from multiple stakeholders, does your message become so diluted it is meaningless, or so cumbersome it is unappealing?  (“The redline from Legal just came in….”)

Appeal to Emotions – Finding the right note here is critical; some businesses are successful in associating their brand with messages that appeal to deep-rooted human emotions, e.g., the ability to provide security for your family.  But it can be tricky to find something to say about pool cleaners that will pull heart-strings; that’s why a professional writer can help.

Match Tone and Style to Target Market –  Is your language age- and style-appropriate? Are you trying too hard to be “hip” and missing the mark?  (Awkward…don’t be that guy!)  If you are a B2C company (business to consumer), be sure to avoid speaking above your audience as if you were talking to colleagues in your field. But being preachy or condescending is just as bad.

Not TOO Cute – The right touch of humor, a bit of spunk, a less-than-formal writing style can all work well….but can also backfire if done wrong.  People will be LingOL if you use texting short-cuts or Twitter-talk on your business website.  And while occasional salty language may be accepted in a live presentation in some circles, it really has no place in copywriting.

Do No Harm –The mantra for health care providers applies here too; under no circumstances should your professional materials have discriminatory, exclusionary, or otherwise offensive language.  Sometimes, it pays to have an objective second opinion to make absolutely sure that nothing has inadvertently slipped in that could be taken the wrong way.

Branding messages can be serious or whimsical, direct or subtle.  But above all else, they must connect to your firm’s value statement, must be concise and memorable, and should inspire action.  Seek input from a variety of constituents to see if your messaging hits or misses the mark.

SOPA: Why Business Owners And Content Sharers Should Care

It’s next to impossible to miss today’s biggest news if you go onlinestop SOPA at any point or see a newspaper; several of the web’s most prominent sites are “going dark” in protest of SOPA and PIPA, the proposed anti-online piracy legislation.

What is SOPA?

SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, is a bill that seeks to “crack down on copyright infringement by restricting access to sites that host pirated content,” according to a great report by CNN Money. These bills are supposedly aimed at websites – mainly overseas – known for their access to and promotion of illegal downloads of movies and other digital content.  While many agree that restrictions on privacy are needed, there are complicated consequences that reach much farther.  The proposed legislation would require U.S.-based search engines and other service provides to withhold or block services with sites that connect to these problematic sites, but many fear that the restrictions are the beginning of a slippery slope into censorship.

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Is Your Business Website Like an Old Cell Phone?

modern website featuresYou know who you are….the busy small business owner who threw up a website using a simple “drag and drop” template or one offered through an industry trade group.  Maybe you read a book- or even a blog! – that inspired you to create an online presence, but didn’t have much time or money to invest.

Just as advances in telecommunications have made clunky old cell phones obsolete, a static, poorly-designed website is a sign that you are not keeping up with the times.  In the case of your business site, however, the costs are greater than looking ridiculous; you are missing efficiencies and losing opportunities to attract fresh business.

How do you know if your website is old-school?

Shop around!  Act like your own potential customer.  Take 15 minutes and pretend you are seeking your services.

  1. Most importantly, determine whether you can be readily found online.  No fair typing in your business name; the idea is to assume the role of someone seeking out your product or services.  Try asking a friend what search terms they would use; you may be too enmeshed in your own “identity” to be completely objective about this.  Your awareness of how you rank in likely searches is an important reality check.
  2. Notice what your competitors’ sites look like and what features they include.  Are there social media share and follow buttons? How do they distinguish themselves?
  3. Identify the last time you updated your content; was it during the Bush administration?
  4. What must prospects do to reach you, either to buy something or to indicate their interest in your services?  Access to your contact information is key; after all, it’s an online “presence” you are seeking.  So be present.

What are the most important upgrades you can make that won’t cost you a fortune?

Effective, modern websites, aside from looking clean and uncluttered, must have some key features, including:

Fresh content

Google values new, original, high quality web content and rewards those who provide it with higher search engine listings. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is by blogging, which ideally provides relevant, fresh, new, original, high quality web content added regularly.

Call(s) to Action

Your site should have at least one call-to-action on every page.

In addition, Small Business Marketing advises on some things to avoid to bring your site into the 21st century:

  1. Flash – Search engines cannot read Flash files and smartphones usually cannot display them.
  2. Text only in images – Search engines cannot ‘see’ images, so they appear blank.
  3. Cloaking/Hidden text – In simple terms, if you show one thing to human visitors and another to search engines, you are cloaking. This trick can backfire, damaging your search engine results or even resulting in having your website banned.
  4. Spamming/Keyword Stuffing – People unfamiliar with proper SEO writing try to game the system by using a particular word or phrase far more often than you would normally in an attempt to manipulate the search engines.

Your business website is far more than just an “electronic business card.”  Tap into its potential so you won’t convey an unprofessional, dated image to your prospects.