It's great to work with Plush Marketing Agency as the voice of their latest property offering video featuring the Holiday Inn in Manhattan's Business District.
I'm excited about a new class I'm teaching at Clackamas Community College's Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The 10-week evening program is called Innovation Bridge and starts October 11. We'll take you through a proven methodology to help you learn how to:
- Describe your business or product idea
- Determine what problem you are solving with your idea
- Determine your target customers
- Find your path to market
- Determine if you can launch your idea into the market
The tuition is $200 per business and one additional person from the same business may participate free of charge. Veterans may qualify for a discount or waiver. For more information, call 503-594-0738. Hope to see you in class!
I am excited to join the impressive list of speakers at this year's Communicators Conference, hosted by PRSA Oregon on May 8.
My talk will focus on growing your audience by using an equity lens. But what is equity? Why should we focus on race? Great questions.
Your potential clients and customers are growing more diverse every day, so what can you do to ensure you’re not marginalizing or ignoring them?
Successful public relations and marketing professionals embrace diversity as a core value and use an equity lens to build their communication strategies every step of the way.
In this workshop, you will learn:
- How institutional and systemic racism marginalize people of color
- How to be more culturally conscious as you develop your communication plan
- How implicit bias affects your communications approach
- What an equity lens is and how to develop your own
- What not to do in your next campaign
Intended audience: Communications practitioners who want to grow their audience by connecting with diverse communities.
Here's a great article about an organization that I joined in 2007, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC at Clackamas Community College). If you're a small business owner or are thinking about starting a business, find out how your SBDC can help you.
First impressions are important. If your attire and demeanor help present a positive first impression in a job interview, then your headline is the first impression in your ad copy. Effective headlines have always been the foundation for successful ads, but now more than ever, in a world of digitalized media, effective headlines are vital. Our audience now has a shorter average attention span than a goldfish (2.8 to 8 seconds) and we only have that short window of time to convince them to read further or even better, share our story with their social media networks.
How does this company benefit me?
People want to know—as soon as possible—what’s in it for them. If your headline can quickly tell them the benefit of your product or service, they will read on. Don’t focus on features, share real benefits. If you don’t capture their attention, you’re doomed.
Here are some examples:
Meh: Helpful business software available online
Better: How to grow your business using this inexpensive tool
Meh: Looking for America’s best fertilizer?
Better: Your neighbors will want to know your gardening secret
Meh: Friendly business consultants are standing by
Better: Are you losing sales by making these common mistakes?
Meh: Oregon’s favorite recipes make families happy!
Better: Create a nutritious family meal in under 20 minutes
What are the common traits of better headlines? First off, you’ll notice brevity, benefits, and frequent use of the words, “you” or “your” (the most important words in marketing).
Be specific with your message, too. I knew a dealer who kept using the phrase, “Oregon’s #1 ______ Dealer!” But what does that mean to the car buyer? Is there a clear benefit or is it just a meaningless cliché?
Speaking of car ads, we often see copywriters trying to come up with clever, sexy headlines. Look at the samples below. On the left you have, “August just got hotter.” We get it. Hot car. Sexy. Of course my first thought is, “Do I really want to think about heat in August? Do I really need another reminder of hotness?! The admittedly unsexy headline on the right does something interesting, though. It puts you in the car. And it states a price that might convince you to buy a BMW when you didn’t even know you could afford one (always read the fine print, by the way). Now, if you can write an engaging headline that's also sexy, that's a home run, of course.
Michael Pranikoff, global director of emerging media at PR Newswire, says, “If your content is a gift, then your headline is the wrapping.”
Pranikoff’s formula for good headlines: include a number or a trigger within the first 20 characters, a keyword, an adjective, and a promise. His example? “How to write headlines that are better than bacon-covered-bacon.”
Whatever method you choose, just make sure your headline is the best it can be. It takes time, but it's worth it.
Have you ever been trapped at a cocktail party by a guy who just talked about himself the whole time? How did you feel? Did you think he was interested in anything about you? Did you get the impression that he respected you and valued your time? Think about that scenario the next time you’re given the opportunity to talk about your business.
Quite often, as a business owner, you’re going to hear the question, “What do you do?” Your response can create a positive, memorable impression on a potential client, or make that person a disinterested party…or even worse, someone who wants herself and her money to be far away from you.
Successful marketing starts with your message and the most powerful word you can use is, “You” (or “your” or an understood “you” or “your”).
People are selfish for the most part. That’s not meant to be an insult; we’re literally selfish in that we want to know what’s in it for us and we won't wait long or expend much effort to find out. Determine your potential clients’ needs and address them in your messaging. Let them know right away how their lives will improve with your service or product. Effective marketing is about addressing an emotional need—quickly. Your chances of landing clients are better if you create emotional connections with them.
Let’s take a look at two approaches of talking about your business. If you’ve ever been to a Chamber of Commerce meeting, you might be familiar with speed networking. It’s like speed dating, but you sit at a table with other business owners and have two minutes each to talk about your businesses. I’ve seen so many business owners (even marketing folks) blow this opportunity with a captive audience.
The most common, ineffective approach (Hank):
“Hi, I’m Hank. I’m an accountant. If you need an accountant, call me. Here’s my business card.”
A more effective approach (Phil):
“You’re all business owners. Which do you prefer: constantly worryIng about the accuracy of your numbers and financial records, or hiring a professional to take care of all that so you can have fun, spend more time with customers, grow your business, and remember why you started your business in the first place? I’m Phil, and I’d like to be your accountant.”
See the difference? Hank figures people know what an accountant does, so he just says his name and hands out his card. But Phil has done his homework. He knows that, for the most part, small business owners don’t want to spend their time on the thoroughly unsexy activity of accounting. He makes an emotional connection by addressing their distaste for accounting work. He also puts his audience first, knowing that they don’t care who he is yet. First, they want to know what’s in it for them, THEN, they may want to know who he is.
Here’s my usual approach for my business.
Potential client: “What do you do?”
Me: “Do you know anyone who runs a business?”
Potential Client: “Yes, my uncle owns a bagel store.”
Me: “Well, your uncle would have a better image, improve his customer relations process, and attract more customers with my help. I assist businesses and non-profits with marketing strategy, branding, and graphic design.”
I show interest in the potential client by asking her a question and using words like, “you” and “your.” AND I’ve begun to paint a picture in her mind about what I do and how I can help people like her uncle. When I pitch automotive companies, I don’t say, “I’m a marketing and customer relations strategist.” I say, “You will sell more cars if you hire me.”
To make things easy, get out of the habit of starting your marketing message with, “My company does ____________ .” Switch it around and focus on the potential client: “You can have a better experience with ____________ if you hire my company.”
We’ll continue to discuss the importance of “you” in future posts, but this is a good start. Just remember, it’s not about you, it’s about what your audience will experience or accomplish by hiring you. Ask yourself, “What’s in it for them, and why should they choose me over my competition?”
Think of me as your full service creative agency. How does it all work? I recently completed a project that serves as a great example of how I can be a one-stop creative marketing solution for your business or organization.
MRG Foundation is a non-profit group that raises funds and awards grants to grassroots social justice groups in Oregon. MRG’s annual fund raising event is called “Justice within Reach” and my work on the project illustrates the various creative resources in my toolbox.
Graphic Design + Branding
I designed the logo and branding for the event, which was used in all marketing materials, presentations, sponsor packets, letterhead, programs, and event visuals.
I was honored to serve as Master of Ceremonies for the event.
To set the mood for social justice fundraising, I produced the opening video.
For many small businesses or non-profits, paying for professional graphic design, branding, or audio/video production doesn't seem affordable. With AIW Creative, it’s one guy who wears a lot of hats—and working with just one person lowers your costs. Contact me and let’s work on your next project.
When you think about your brand, consider your font choices. Fonts help create an impression on current and prospective clients—what do you want those impressions to be?
Look at the examples below and pay attention to your first impressions and focus on how each version makes you feel.
Is the text easy to read? Does the font give you confidence about the treatment?
#1 is Times New Roman, a serif font. Some experts say that fonts without serifs (sans serif) are easier to read for people with visual impairments.
#2 is Comic Sans. If you want to instill a sense of credibility and professionalism, AVOID THIS FONT.
#3 is Brush Script. Remember, don’t make your audience work to get your message—keep everything as legible as possible. If you choose a script font, never use all caps.
#4 is Gotham. This is my “go-to” font because of its simplicity, versatility, legibility, and beauty, but it's a personal choice that doesn't necessarily mean it will work for you.
I could go on for a while, but I want to save you some scrolling time. Each design element in your brand tells your customer something about you, and fonts play a vital role. So be thoughtful in choosing your typefaces and don’t be afraid to hire a professional to help you with your design.