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design & marketing blog

Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.

Don’t write like an advertising writer

November 13th, 2009

I’m currently reading a book from 1938 entitled, “If You Want to Write” by Brenda Ueland. I was struck by how applicable her observation of business communication still is 70 years later; she writes:

Don’t write like an advertising writer . . . if you feel a thing the more simply you say it the better

Don’t write like an advertising writer…advertising companies hire the very brightest, wittiest young people to write for them. Not one single sentence of it is worth repeating. Why? Because it wasn’t meant. It was all written, not because the writer felt something and then said it (if you feel a thing the more simply you say it the better, the more effective), but because he tried to impress and inveigle people, convince them something is very fine about which he himself does not really care… (p 115)

I sense the anxiety many clients have when they put together the content for their Websites . . . they put themselves under some unrealistic expectation that their writing needs to sound “businesslike.” The problem with business sounding content is that it sounds way too much like a billion other Websites, brochures and magazine ads and is tuned out by the reader.

More than any other medium, the modern interactive Webpage is fertile ground for communication that is authentic. Most business owners and executives are typically much better qualified to provide this type of writing than anyone else . . . the most important to effective content writing is authenticity and passion.

Strategies to Increase Your Website Traffic

January 12th, 2009

I read recently that there are over 800 billion documents on the Internet. Now there was no documentation to this statement, definition of what an internet document is, and the number seems high to me given the Wikipedia stats for Google….who knows the real answer. Regardless of the exact number, no one is going to argue that there are a lot of pages on the Internet and a lot more being added, so many that the probability of any certain page being visited by an individual diminishes daily. This fact brings up a good question for each of us who are stakeholders in a website to ask ourselves—with all the choices out there why would anyone visit our site?

Well funny you should ask, because the answer to that question has occupied me in the past on this blog:

For my grand finale of SEO posts (is that applause that I hear?) I’m going to share some secret insight…well, it’s not really secret but it’s the type of insight that I’m always tempted not to share because I want to keep the real good stuff for myself. So, being in this altruistic moment, here are the top 7 strategies from the gurus on how to bring attention to your site. I’ve hand picked the single strategies that I thought were the absolute best, but each one of these links takes you to a whole article or site that is golden with advice.

  1. This is the most important tip. Build your web site around a blog that you keep active and updated with relevant and valuable information. Why you might ask? Because such blogs get noticed much more than the same content updated on a static web site. See Why Blogs Rank High In Search Engines by Fredrik Wacka. This tip is really is a prerequisite for the rest.
  2. Write about stuff that people (your target audience to be exact) will want to read and share. As I highlighted on this past SEO post, SEO is really all about maintaining quality content. See How to get traffic for your blog by Seth Godin
  3. Establish your site as a trusted authority for your target audience. And market your content. See
    Search Engine Success Through Article Marketing
    at the flyte blog.
  4. Understand the fundamentals of SEO and hone the technical details of your site to accommodate. See
    SEOmoz | Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization
    by Rand Fishkin
  5. Attract people who will link to your site and concentrate on creating interest. See Generating
    Buzz with Link Baiting and Viral Campaigns
    by David Wallace
  6. Embrace the Social Media . . . create a site that is more relevant, more easily linked to, and openly shared within your social web communities. See 5 rules of Social Media Optimization (SMO) by Rohit Bhargava.
  7. Make your web site a platform for launching viral marketing. What is viral marketing? It’s any method that encourages others to pass on your marketing method to others. See The Six Simple
    Principles of Viral Marketing
    by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

So there you go, you just read the document that turned the Internet count to 800 billion and one. It’s not too late to start the transformation of your site from that old-school stale brochure to a vibrant broadcasting and interactive
blog based site that will keep you site in the thin quality segment as the internet continues to explode. As always, I encourage you to comment or share other fundamental strategies that should be included in ones short list.

Growing your business with blogs

October 3rd, 2007

Here’s a good article on the potential relationship between blogging and increased sales. A lot of basic information provided here and some interesting references like the South African wine producer Stormhoeks’s who doubled sales in less than twelve months through a blogging campaign. >>Read the full article

Focus On Your Customer, Not Your Product

March 16th, 2007

I’m in the process of designing a PowerPoint presentation for a major technology firm, it’s entertaining to discover how the company’s engineers are fixated on describing every little detail about a product. To begin my design process, I researched some internally developed presentations built by the engineers so as to gain an understanding of the product virtues … let me just say the slides had more flying bullets than a war zone. These presentations were product-orientated smorgasbord of technical diarrhea.

Although I like to rag on engineers and their linear approach to life, companies often fall into the same mistake of focusing on product rather than market value, on top of over-messaging attributes rather than building a brand by emotionally captivating the customer by relating a solution to their need.

As Doug and I continue to learn and grow with our business, we’re finding out that the customer doesn’t care about how big, fancy, and powerful our product is, they only want to hear what we can do for them in terms of making their life better. Unfortunately, I’ve learned the hard way that my audience doesn’t have the time or interest in learning why I’m so great. And who could blame them? Their lives are complicated and busy, they want to cut to the chase so I better be ready with a strong, precise message that is emotionally appealing, easy to understand, and beneficial in terms of solving a problem or issue.

Going back to the technical engineers, I’ll be ingrained in a lengthy battle to shape these presentations into concise messages that actually mean something to the customer. My job is simply to communicate the three pillars customers look for in why they should consider a product; namely that it is available, easy, and affordable.

P.S. One last tip … avoid talking above your customers’ heads and boring them by using vague and uncommon terminology, your attempt to look smart will probably lose you the deal. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way.

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