Friday, July 31, 2009
Research says that consumers spend more than $7.5 billion dollars a year on greeting cards, purchasing from over 2,000 card publishers, from large corporations to the small, family-run greeting card biz.
Here's where I'm going with this. I may have a quirky sense of humor, but there have been many times when I just can't find the card that says exactly what I want to say. In talking with friends, I'm not alone. In this day and age, relationships are complicated, situations are eclectic, and the greeting card industry needs to take note and offer a more "diverse" selection of topics. For instance, where are the birthday cards for the ex-spouses? You know, the ones you get along with but don't want to send a "to my loving husband/wife" to? What about the obligatory congratulations card to someone you really don't like but feel the need to acknowledge? The Father's Day card to the deadbeat dad? The best wishes card to the girl who's marrying your ex-boyfriend? I could go on and on...
I was recently approached by a small card company in Seattle asking for ideas for cards such as these. This would be one of my dream jobs - to write greeting card copy that is real, pertinent, and gets to the heart of what consumers in 2009 really want to say to each other. Yes, it's probably a small market, but it's a growing one. There is a need.
So I'm asking for your input. What specific topics would you like to see covered in the greeting card industry? What card would you reach for and say, "This is perfect!!! I can't believe this card actually exists!!!" If you have an idea, comment below. I'd love to hear it and put it in my bag of tricks. Because sometimes, you care enough to send the very best, and sometimes, you care enough to just send the truth. Happy Friday!!!!
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The obvious reason is for my children. Generations of kids are on this earth today with no real knowledge of their parents' childhood, their grandparents' struggles, or their own ancestry. It's really too bad. I've been blessed by a family of writers. My grandmother on my mother's side was an associate editor for Shell Oil Company newsletter in St. Louis in the mid-1940's. My mother, the editor of the local newspaper in her community of Oak Run, IL. In addition, in the early 1990's, she decided to chronicle my other grandmother's life and spent months interviewing her and writing "Roses in December: Reminiscences of Gladys Blackburn Talcott". What a gift to her grandchildren! Later, she published her own memoir of sorts in "Growing Up On Wren Avenue", and had copies made for everyone in the family. These books are priceless additions to my collection, and make me think that perhaps I should get started on my own.
For writers and non-writers alike, the thought is daunting. But you don't have to write a book to chronicle your life. Something I have done since both my boys were born is write a letter to them once a year around their birthday. It's always hand-written, and ends up usually being around 8 to 10 pages long, once I get going. In that letter, I summarize their year, the good and the bad, what went on with our family, what stage in life they were in, our struggles, and their accomplishments. I always end with a paragraph about how much I love them, and how they are truly my world. Then I tuck them away. No, they don't read these letters yet, but someday they will.
You don't have to be a great writer to leave a paper trail, or even a writer at all. But you do need to chronicle these days, because they will soon be forgotten, and they are important. Even though your kids may say they don't care about "how things were when I was growing up", it's interesting to read nonetheless, and can give them a better insight into you, and into themselves as well.
And even if you don't have kids, do it for yourself. I have to say I do enjoy reading things I have written a year ago, or five, or even 25. It gives me a sense of how far I have come as well as where I have come from. Sometimes we all need to be reminded of that to keep us grounded.
So leave a paper trail. You may be surprised that it actually does help you find your way and lead you home.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Let's break it down. You have a business - big or small. It could be an appliance store with 100+ employees or it could be just you and your hand-made jewelry. Doesn't matter. You have a product or service to sell, and you need to market it. And no matter what size your business is or how small your budget, there's a medium for you.
We'll start with the basics, and the pros and cons of each.
Television can be a great way to give a wide exposure of your business, especially if what you do involves strong visuals. For instance, you're a furniture store wanting to showcase your inventory. You're a medical practice with a comfortable waiting room and an easy-access building. You're a restaurant specializing in ambiance and beautifully presented food.
Television is also a good medium to consider if you want to target a certain audience. Sure, if you want to run a :30 commercial on "Dancing With The Stars" it's not going to be cheap, but you will reach a HUGE audience in a prime time market. But there are certainly many cost-effective options, including package deals, and the increasing popularity of the lower-priced cable stations. Many times, the TV stations can help you with production as well. The con here of course is that TV CAN in fact be expensive, and you do have to have the frequency to make it worth your while.
I'm a big fan of radio, and here's why. It's a good deal, and it's easy. I'm pretty familiar with the stations in town, and can direct any client to the station or stations they will fare best in based on their target audience. I write the spot, the station produces it, and you can be on the air sometimes within days, based on availability.
Radio certainly can give you the frequency that you will not get on TV. And though many may say that radio has gone by the wayside in favor of ipods and other devices, there are still a plethora of "radioheads" out there listening to everything from heavy metal, to easy listening, to good old talk radio. The only con here is the challenge to sell your product or service without it being seen. (That's where I come in.)
Read anything online, and it'll tell you "print is dead". I disagree. Sure, circulation numbers for newspapers and magazines have seen a decline since the dawn of the online versions, but print still works for a certain market in certain situations. For example, I do read the newspaper online. However, nothing compares to sitting down with a cup of coffee and the Sunday paper - the real paper. I would guess that many people - especially the older generations - agree.
Trade and general interest publications are still a safe bet. And local magazine are still doing well. In Peoria, movers and shakers in the business world should not pass up InterBusiness Issues, to advertise in or to read. If you're medical, Healthy Cells is a good place to be, and with a contract you can even publish occasional articles. That's double marketing right there! There's also Midwestern Family Magazine - a great read with tons of ideas on things to do in Central Illinois. The cons here: ads can be pricey, and unless you sign a contract, you won't reap the benefits of a frequency discount. There are deals to be had, however.
I have really come to appreciate billboards in the past few years, especially since Adams Outdoor unveiled the digital billboards. Eye catching and ever-changing, you can't help but spot them at various locations around the area. Billboards are advantageous especially if you need to market something timely: a seminar, an open house, a new business, a change in location. In addition, if there is a billboard NEAR your place of business, you need to snatch it up before your competitor does. (And I say this from experience). Again, there are deals to be had, and with the right reach and frequency, you WILL see results.
Anything you can see, read or listen to is probably available in an online version. Clickthrough ads on sites such as ciproud.com, week.com, or pjstar.com can be one of the fastest ways to direct people to your website and can be a great supplement to any of the above mediums. The benefits are that for the most part, you can change the ad regularly and easily, and clickthroughs can be measured daily, so you can get a true sense of how many people saw your online ad and followed through to your website.
6) Miscellaneous other mediums
There are a host of other mediums that are available based on your budget and the goals you want to achieve. From direct mail, coupon books, cinema advertising (yes, you CAN advertise on the big screen!) to shopping cart advertising, the back of grocery receipts, and basic yard signs to name a few. These require a bit more research and have a more fine-tuned market, but do produce results for the right business or service.
So if you want to be seen, check out a medium. Better yet, contact me and let me check them out for you. Above all, make sure you allocate dollars for media into your budget. It is necessary, and if researched and planned and placed the right way, it will affect your bottom line in a positive way and you'll be seeing rising sales in your future.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
I have been thinking about this term a lot lately, especially as I try to start up my own writing business. I have been incredibly blessed by so many sources of support: from good friends helping me get my website up and going, to computer troubleshooting advice from my awesome IT brother, to the volunteers at SCORE with their savvy business advice, to the countless colleagues and acquaintances who have helped me network and just given me good solid encouragement. I can certainly never pay them all back, but I have made myself a promise to pay it forward. Whether it's a down and out friend who needs a good resume, some PR direction for a non-profit group, or my own words of advice and encouragement for someone else trying to make it on her own - I plan to pass my good fortunes along.
But paying it forward extends to more than just the business world. Many, many people are struggling these days, not only with work, but with relationships, kids, school, personal crises, or just... life. I know I've been helped immeasurably in all of those areas, especially by my family and friends. My parents have been a constant source of unconditional love and support in more ways than I can even list here. I can never pay them back - all I can do is pass that along to my kids... my friends... my colleages... and let my parents know that their example is helping well beyond just their daughter.
My friends - my true friends - make me stronger every day, and I hope, in turn, I do the same for them. They provide me with shoulders so broad that I am always carried, encouragement so strong I feel I can conquer the world and laughs so hearty I think my stomach will burst. My wish is that I not only pay that back to them, but pay it forward to others as well.
So as you begin your week with your life and all that is good and bad about it, think about how YOU can channel the good fortune that others have bestowed on you... and pay it forward. Just like in the movie, the results CAN be life-changing.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I will never forget the time I was approached (in a bar) by a gentleman celebrating his 40th birthday. He had obviously had a few, but we got to talking, and he asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was a copywriter, which caused him to look at me blankly… then it was like a light bulb went off in his head and he replied, “That’s so awesome! What a coincidence! I’m a mailman!”
Obviously, when I tell people what I do, more times than not I get a polite, “Really!?” or perhaps just an “Uh, huh!” It wasn’t until a very intelligent friend of mine asked me point blank, “So….what you do…is that the little “c” in the circle thing?” that I realized that maybe a little more explanation is in order. So here goes.
Copywriting vs. Copyrighting
CopyWRITING is what I do. I write copy. Copy is one of those all-encompassing terms for a bunch of words – and no, I’m not trying to dumb it down. That’s what it is. Copywriting is a form of expression. Technically, a copywriter is a person who uses the written word to “promote” a person, business, opinion or idea. In addition to promotion, copy is written to raise awareness, to educate or to persuade.
Copy is defined as any written content intended for destinations such as websites, sales letters, articles, books, ads, brochures, press releases, radio, television, scripting, etc. All the TV and radio commercials were written by copywriters – yep, even the Billy Mays ones. The websites you go to for information – written by copywriters. The ads in the newspaper, the articles in the magazines, the brochures you pick up on vacation… that’s us… copywriters.
CopyRIGHTING, on the other hand, IS that little “c” in the circle (©). It is a form of protection. At its most basic, a copyright is a right under the law of the United States (and other countries) that protects an author’s original expression of an idea. This encompasses literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual works. Under the 1976 Copyright Act, the owner of a copyright has the EXCLUSIVE right to (or authorize others to) reproduce the work in copies, to prepare derivative works based on the original, to distribute copies by sale, rental, lease or lending, and/or to perform or display the work publicly. It is illegal for anyone to violate these rights; however, they are limited in scope.
My brother, Kelly Talcott, is an attorney who focuses on intellectual property and technology law. In his practice, he commonly deals with cases involving copyrights, patents and trademarks. In his explanation to me he said, “It’s a pretty complicated area of the law. The concept of an "author's original expression of an idea" can be broken down into 1) the Author –the person who creates the original expression; 2) Original - meaning it came from you, though outside influences can have an effect on what is considered “original”; 3) Expression - communicated and recorded some way (i.e. – your spoken word is not considered “copyrighted” until it is recorded or transcribed); and 4) Idea - such as an invention, a song, a work of art, an article, a piece of jewelry you create. It is the expression of the idea, and not the idea itself, that copyright protects. This concept is even broader and more difficult to define clearly.”
So there you have it. I am a copywriter, meaning I write copy. Ironically, according to Kelly, I also have a copyright on things such as the information contained in this blog, which makes me a copyrighted copywriter. Maybe that’s what I’ll say next time someone asks me what I do for a living – that should really confuse ‘em.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Far too much of what we write about attention and interest is abstract. We talk about differentiation, value, and triggers — all useful concepts, but you can’t point to them. You can’t hold out your hand and say, “Give me some differentiation.” As a result, it’s hard to wrap your mind around what those things actually mean.
I’d like to change that. Over the past few weeks, I’ve paid attention to the things that command attention, both of myself and others, and I’ve made a list of techniques that work. It’s far from all of them I’m sure, but it should be enough to get you started.
1. Be wrong: The world is full of people trying to do the right things. It’s become so common that many of us are bored by it. We long for someone that is willing to do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, be the wrong thing. If you have the courage to be that person, you’ll find lots of people paying attention to you.
2. Be right: You can also gain attention by being right… but only if you’re more right than everyone else. Run a mile faster than anyone else, explain your topic more clearly than anyone else, be funnier than everyone else. Embody perfection, and people will take notice.
3. Communicate what others can’t: As writers, we take ideas from our heads and put them on the page. Sometimes we forget how difficult that is for some people and how valuable that makes us. Lots of people would give anything to be able to say what they mean. But they can’t. So, they turn to songs, books, and art that communicate for them. Be a producer of those things, and you’ll never lose their attention.
4. Do something: Everybody online is trying to say something important, but very few are trying to do something important. If you want attention, dare not to just give advice to others, but to live that advice yourself. Then blog about it.
5. Surprise people: Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick, say that one of the best ways to set yourself apart is to break people’s “guessing machines.” Take a surprising position, making outlandish analogy, or otherwise do the opposite of what you normally do. As long as it’s unexpected, people will stop and pay attention.
6. Make people laugh: Bloggers are far too serious. We’re so busy trying to teach that we forget to entertain. As a result, large portions of our readerships fall asleep. And what’s the best way to wake people up? Humor. Public speakers have been using it for ages, and as long as it’s appropriate for your audience, humor can wake your readers up and get them paying attention again.
7. Be startlingly honest: Every once in awhile, tell the truth. Be so honest that you’re scared to click the “Post” button. Be so honest that no one knows what to say in the comments section. Be so honest that your lawyer tells you to stop. You’ll feel better… and people will talk about you.
8. Tell a good story: This one has been drilled into us so many times that I almost didn’t include it… except for one thing: people still don’t get it. Yes, stories support your points, make solid openers, and teach people while entertaining them, but a good story can make you a legend. I’m not talking about the little anecdotes that pepper the blogosphere. I’m talking about the story that haunts you on your deathbed. Forget about all the others. Tell me that one.
9. Create a work of art: Many bloggers crank out posts the way slaughterhouses crank out chickens. They’re ugly things, fit for nothing but consumption. If you want to surprise people, stop and put some actual effort into your blog posts, creating a work of art. You’ll be surprised by how many people remember it long after it’s been swept off your front page.
10. Put your readers first: Yes, you’re the blogger. Yes, you’re the one with talent. Yes, you’re the one working your tail off. But it doesn’t matter. The one and only thing of consequence is your reader. You can rail against this fact for as long as you like, but as long you do, you’ll never be interesting.
About the Author: Jon Morrow is an Associate Editor of Copyblogger and co-author of Keyword Research for Bloggers.