old technology equipment

The Reasons Even Top IT Companies Struggle to Market Themselves

Digital marketing is crucial for IT companies to hit their B2B goals.

But marketing requires many skills that don't come naturally to info tech teams.

Digital marketing enables IT companies to connect with potential customers via the internet and other forms of digital communication. Also known as online marketing, digital marketing utilizes blog content, email, social media, web-based advertising, and website copy, as well as text and multimedia messages.

Modern-day marketing is all around us. Every day, we jump into our social media world of Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, sharing blogs dutifully written by experts in various fields while “selling” ourselves and our lifestyles with pictures, posts, and reels. No wonder everyone thinks marketing is easy. 

But does having access to marketing tools mean you know how to use them? If you hand over your car keys to an emu, would you trust it to drive on a cross-country road trip safely? Probably not. So maybe you shouldn’t let a team of engineers start a TikTok account in the hopes of finding your target audience.

The ubiquity of marketing tools makes everyone believe they know how to run a marketing campaign. From the CEO and the CMO to the accounts payable department supervisor and their spouse and children—everyone thinks they know exactly what the company needs to do to sell a product or service. 

The reality is that marketing is about so much more than posting a photo at the right time or jumping on a viral TikTok dance. Marketing is actually a data-driven effort built on strategic messaging and a solid, targeted content strategy. And just as engineers should be handed the reins of tech design, professional digital marketers should be relied upon to pilot all-encompassing marketing campaigns.

Why Marketing is Important for Tech Companies

Taking a 30,000-foot view of marketing, the goal is to inform and engage with your target audience so that they conclude your product or service is the best solution for the problem they’re trying to solve.

In B2B marketing, business buyers are catered to specifically, with the goal of improving lead quality, sales acceptance of leads, and conversion rates. 

For the information technology industry, the need for a superlative B2B marketing strategy is as crucial as ever. Global IT spending is projected to total $4.5 trillion in 2022, an increase of 5.1 percent from 2021, according to the latest forecast by Gartner, Inc. This massive dollar amount reveals that while competition is at an all-time high, so is market opportunity. 

There’s a good chance that if you get in front of your target audience at the right time, with the right message, you will succeed. But how?

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What is Digital Marketing?

First, it’s vital to understand what digital marketing is. Some might think that marketing simply equals advertising—web ads, social media ads, print ads, radio, and TV spots—but that’s not quite what we’re talking about. Paid advertising is just one channel for increasing reach or amplifying elements of a more extensive marketing campaign or strategy.

Digital marketing, on the other hand, is all about marketing efforts that flourish on the internet. 

An end-to-end digital marketing strategy leverages digital channels such as social media, search engines, web pages, email, text, multimedia messages, and other collateral to connect organizations with current and prospective customers. 

For business growth and brand awareness, digital marketing is one of the most effective tools you have at your disposal. The purest way to get your story out there, digital marketing connects you with customers where they spend the majority of their time: on the internet. 

So, while digital marketing is about the message, it’s also about how it is presented and the different channels used to spread that message.

What Happens when IT Designs Websites

Nobody knows more about information technology than those who work within the industry—and no one knows your business better than you and your team. 

But while you should leverage in-house expertise, it can often take the form of a raw and unfiltered knowledge drop. Which, unfortunately, could turn out to be a detriment to your success. 

Like many other industries, IT is loaded with jargon and technical speak that doesn’t exactly constitute a universal language. It’s true: The companies that require IT assistance do not necessarily speak that same technical language. This leads to marketing messages being lost in translation and potential customers going elsewhere for technical assistance. 

When an IT company writes and designs its own website, there’s always a danger that the end product will rely too heavily on that in-house expertise without any of the digital marketing finesse. One common feature of this kind of “expertise-heavy” site can be referred to as “tech messaging.”

Tech Messaging

The minute you start sounding like you’re merely trying to sell a batch of products and services, there’s a good chance you’ll steer some customers away from your company. 

A winning digital marketing strategy begins with identifying your customer’s problems, explaining why they are worth solving, then relating how you can go about solving these problems. This approach leads to engagement from your target audience, extending the conversation and growing your business. 

Conversely, bad content marketing will try to pitch products and services without mentioning problem-solving or anything else that might make a prospective customer’s life easier. This prevents any engagement—if customers wanted to read a sales pitch, they would subscribe to a product catalog.

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Why Only One Marketing Channel Can Hurt You

There’s a reason why people still say, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” That old idiom crams a lot of wisdom into only a few words, especially regarding a digital marketing approach for IT companies. 

The IT landscape is crowded, and, as mentioned earlier, companies are willing to spend a lot of money on information technology. Fierce competition only increases the need for an agile, robust, and diversified digital marketing strategy.

A single-channel marketing strategy is tenuous at best, mainly because:

 

  • It takes time. Different digital marketing tactics require different amounts of time to generate results. For example, without additional channels to support it, an “organic” content strategy can take anywhere from 12 – 18 months to generate ROI.
  • It overlooks potential customers. What happens if your main customers don’t frequent the one marketing channel you’ve chosen? You miss out on those customers, that’s what. There are too many options for customers—if you miss your opportunity to hit them with your message, it’s over. 
  • It’s one and done. When you invest all of your marketing dollars in one channel, the fate of the marketing department (or team) tends to ride on the success or failure of that single initiative.

A more holistic approach to digital marketing is safer and, overall, more effective. Utilizing a marketing strategy segmented across an array of channels helps tailor your message to more customers at all stages of the “buyer’s journey.” The most common marketing channels include:

 

 

All the channels listed here are time-honored digital marketing tools leveraged by millions of companies across thousands of verticals—with IT no exception. However, these tools are just that—tools. A successful digital marketing program isn’t just about the tools you use; it’s about the strategy they support.

Focus on Marketing Strategy, Not Just Marketing Tactics

Tactics are simple tools you can learn and deploy without knowing what you’re doing. 

Describing the tactics inside of the marketing toolkit doesn’t sound all that complicated—there are emails, social media posts, videos, blogs, and maybe even a cute infographic or two. 

Strategic marketing constitutes a business’s overall plan to reach prospective consumers and transform them into active customers. Any solid marketing strategy will leverage your company’s value proposition, brand messaging, customer demographic data, and other elements.

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Why Brand Management is Important for Tech

A successful company reaches a broad audience, converts prospects to leads without blowing the budget on advertising, grows revenue, and is scalable. 

The good news is that you can achieve all of those goals through brand management—an offshoot of your greater strategic digital marketing efforts. 

Brand management goes beyond your name, colors, and logo. While it includes those three crucial details, it also encompasses your customer touchpoints. Successful brand management takes great care in calibrating how your brand looks, sounds, and feels across all marketing channels, content, customer service, and communication.

There are a lot of moving parts involved in brand management, but perhaps the most essential points in the process include:

  • Ensuring brand positioning and values are aligned
  • Monitoring brand reputation
  • Centralizing brand material
  • Measuring and analyzing brand performance

For tech companies, increasing competition makes brand management imperative. In a highly competitive marketplace, IT companies with a strong brand presence and promise to deliver value have a better chance of leaving an impression. 

Now, there are excellent brand management examples and some not-so-great brand management examples.

In fact, some of the biggest names in tech have fallen completely flat in the brand management department. The mere mention of some of these big tech companies—Facebook, Yelp, Amazon, for example—often elicits groans of resentment. These are some of the most profitable tech companies of all time, yet their brand management has been arguably awful.

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The Consumer Decision-Making Process for Technology

Recent history saw a drastic change in the consumer decision-making process for technology. In days past, a consumer would read an ad, see a commercial, or pass a billboard. Then, the consumer would seek a quote from the company, mull over the purchase, shop around with competitors, think about it some more, then decide whether or not to fork over the cash for the product or service.

It was a long process, often with a decreasing chance of a sale with each step in the path.

In the era of digital marketing, the consumer’s decision-making process has been streamlined. Consumers can access a wealth of online information that helps them research quickly, find precisely what they need, and make a snap purchasing decision that’s greatly influenced by customer reviews.

While customers are more informed than ever, some industries like IT are still characterized by impressively long sales cycles.

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The Long Sales Cycle for Technology

A 2018 Gartner survey of more than 500 corporate technology buyers demonstrated that buying teams could spend close to 17 months on average to complete a new IT purchase. According to the study, there are a few factors at play:

  • Buying teams are often comprised of more than ten individuals, all bringing a complex set of priorities, ideals, and perspectives to the buying decision.
  • These teams perform extensive research with partners, analysts, vendors, and external peers, leading to more diverse opinions.
  • Examining cost and risk causes buyers to frequently change plans, altering the business case and requiring multiple resolutions.
  • Buyers typically juggle multiple projects and are often forced to make numerous purchasing decisions simultaneously.

Making individual sales and building overall revenue are undoubtedly among your primary business goals. So the question becomes, how do you align those goals with your marketing goals of website traffic, likes, and clicks? And what happens when your business goals are not aligned with your digital marketing efforts?

 

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When Marketing is Not Aligned with Business Goals

If the connection between marketing and business goals is severed, it will be impossible to measure the success of your digital marketing efforts. Without clear benchmarks, the chances of launching a successful marketing campaign is slim to none. Aligning the two requires elevated communication and diligent planning.

Marketing Should Build Toward Business Goals

A strong marketing campaign might not lead to immediate, measurable results. However, a sustained digital marketing effort can help build forward progress toward your ultimate business goals. 

In digital marketing, there’s a constant stream of new information about strategies that work—and don’t work—with your target audience. Unfortunately, making split-second decisions based on data that hasn’t had a chance to mature can make you lose sight of your business goals. 

This is why a digital marketing team must know the importance of data and how to measure Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in service of your long-term business goals.

Let us do the marketing; you take care of IT.

Click here to get started.

Falling stocks

5 Simple Steps to Prepare for Success During a Recession

As of the time that I am writing this (March 2020) unemployment is on the rise, manufacturing is slowing down and both a worldwide pandemic and environmental collapse of Biblical proportions (hyperbole?) are triggering fears throughout the financial markets. This recipe of woe has been of course sparking the notion that we are on a crash-course for a catastrophic global recession.

Naturally, the thought of an economic downturn has you fretting about the cash reserves that your company is sitting on and how it has the potential to become a squandered fortune. Your strongest competitors are undoubtedly having the same concerns. OR they could be doing what you should be doing and taking the necessary steps to weather the market dip like a champ. It’s important to remember in times of hardship or stress that change is the only constant and where you are now is not stationary. It will change and this panic is temporary.

I invite you to get off that ledge and leave the prayers for the pastors. It’s time to act fast and to start making better decisions for your company! You didn’t choose to start a business and captain your destiny only to be subject to the whims of the panicky, toilet-paper-hoarding masses, did you? I didn’t think so. Take a deep breath and let’s re-examine your fears and evaluate this opportunity. It is time to start preparing to be one of the success stories today – not by luck, but by intention.

 

 

1. Find Out Why People Have Said “YES” To What You’re Offering

Here is a great place to start preparing your company: getting good actionable feedback. You can send out a simple survey to current and past customers asking them why they chose your product or service and even if that is the only question you ask, you are bound to get some helpful input.

This feedback could enlighten you (if you weren’t aware already) of your business’s “unique value proposition.” A unique value proposition is what your business AND ONLY YOUR BUSINESS can offer to buyers. And by offer we don’t mean, “customer service,” or, “trust.” Any competitor can claim those and oftentimes they do. You need to figure out what your competitor can’t offer, and what your business can. If you can’t find a unique value proposition, find a non-unique value proposition. While not ideal, sometimes just existing and being an option is enough.

If you want to dig deeper into your customer’s motives, you can always take a look through your analytics and see which pages they are viewing the most or you can look at what pages visitors from Google are looking at most to understand what questions your site answers in internet searches. Unsure how to go about doing this? No sweat! Because we are stellar people, we would be happy to help you out with this for FREE! (Sure, we might see some opportunities to enhance your business with marketing in the process, but that is for another time.)

2. Spend While You Have the Resources!

NOW is the time, while you have the money, to make those marketing and sales decisions that you’ve been waiting to seize for a while. If your competitors are putting their dollars into reserves, it’s likely that they are pulling back on marketing or advertising to create those reserves. Good. Let them create a vacuum in the marketplace that will be replaced by your messaging. No more following in their footsteps and letting them make the mistakes that you learn from – now is when you step into the lead and put distance between you and your closest competitors.

How do you get started?

  1. First thing you can do is start by opening up your Google Analytics account. On the left hand menu, click on “Acquisitions”, then click “All Traffic” followed by “Source/Medium”. This page will show you the sources of your sites current traffic. Don’t have a Google Analytics account? We can assist you with that.
  2. You’re going to be looking for the channels that could be giving your site traffic. Some examples of these channels are: Direct (this is any traffic from a source that is unknown or with no referring website URL) Organic (this is the traffic coming in from a search engine result, or the traffic coming in because someone “Googled it”), Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Email, Affiliate links, Display, etc.
  3. Now that you have all this information available in Google Analytics, you can begin to think about what sources ARE bringing traffic in, and which ones ARE NOT bringing in traffic. If you aren’t running any ads, you can start by running ads through the sources that already bring you visits and see if you can expand that audience. Perhaps you’re getting a lot of traffic through Facebook? Is there more audience there to capture? Or is that audience tapped out and maybe you should be thinking about LinkedIn? It could be beneficial then to go ahead and consult an agency to help you capitalize and run some targeted ads.

If you’re serious about this and you’re ready to take this step for your business, please take us up on our free consultation because we want to help you reach your business goals.

3. Become a Necessity: Turn “Want” Into “NEED”

During the Great Depression, consumer product companies were thrust into a terrible predicament. The prosperous roaring twenties did a swift Charleston swing off the stage, and the disposable income that was once flowing so freely had dried up. This didn’t stop a company like Proctor and Gamble from realizing that people would still need soap in a time of depression. So rather than cut back on the costs of advertising, P&G doubled down, spent while they still had the resources and began to explore new marketing avenues including commercial radio broadcasts. By creating a need and successfully targeting homemakers using episodic radio serials, they were able to successfully thrive a massive economic catastrophe. This is a fantastic example of reaching beyond desire and focusing on need.

Integration is key. You need to offer help in some way, shape, or form. Let’s pretend you run a spa – convince your current and future customers to focus on self-care so they can remain together while everyone else is falling apart. Selling chocolate bars? Dive into the positive effects on the brain that are produced by eating chocolate. Selling new, expensive oven ranges? Think of how much money your customers will save by eating hot meals at home and how feeding your friends and family’s bodies translates to feeding their souls.

4. Get Aggressive With Those Messages!

The word “aggressive” can often conjure up images of people behaving negatively, inappropriately, and excessively, all while causing harm. But when it comes to your business, being aggressive doesn’t mean being a loathsome jerk, it just simply means being active, confident and willing to take risks. Being aggressive means recognizing opportunities when they arise, knowing when to grab the low-hanging fruit, and being able to focus your energies into making people aware of your product or service.

In today’s post-digital world, the playing fields have been leveled and small businesses now have the same ability as large corporations when it comes to reaching customers. You can get the message of your company out through paid ads, blog content, social media, email and remarketing all while being everywhere for your customers and future customers. In today’s digital landscape, it’s easy to create the illusion that your small business can hang with all the other big-shots, by acting like a successful business you may be able to convince the world that you’re the only game in town. If you can gain these skills, get after it. They are valuable. If you want to just rely on experts,  this is what we do and we want to reiterate that, yes, our expertise is at your disposal

5. Become the Only Option

There is a phenomenon where people, given a set of choices, will make a choice without actually choosing. This phenomenon happens to all of us whether we recognize it or not and it is referred to as the “default effect.” Your only goal as a business is to be the default choice.  Rather than keeping up with the Joneses, it’s time to BE the Joneses that everyone strives to be.

In the 22 immutable laws of marketing, Ries and Trout discuss the importance of being first to mind for your customer and future customer. Let them never know your competition so that when they reach for a name, yours is closest and easiest to grab.

How do you do this? By following the steps above. Your focus (almost sole focus) should be to gather as much audience as possible so that your brand name and the market you serve are synonymous. The risk to leveraging yourself in this way cannot be understated. It is risky. It does require more of you and your business than you may be comfortable giving. But, you may also be in a unique position to break off a larger audience for yourself and if it’s uncomfortable for you, it’s definitely uncomfortable for your competitors. They are all doing the safe, protective zig. Will you seize this opportunity to do a trusting and growing zag in their absence?

There’s likely an audience out there today that needs your solution and has never heard of you or your competitor. They are just waiting to find you. Be the first to mind.


Subway escalator

No, Advertising and Marketing Are Not the Same Things

From the outside looking in, advertising and marketing can appear to be synonymous. They both present consumers with a message in hopes of hacking the brain and burrowing deep inside, and they both share the same goal of relieving people of their hard-earned disposable income. But in truth, the very real differences between advertising and marketing should be recognized and honored. Sure, their distinctions may be smaller than the period at the end of this sentence, but knowing the difference is what separates the pros from the rubes.

Advertising is What You’re Selling:

Long before sharp-dressed, hard-drinking ad men on Madison Avenue started pitching “healthy” cigarettes, merchants in ancient Pompeii would inscribe mosaics on their amphoras in order to draw attention to their product and attract consumers. For as long as humans have been providing goods, ideas or services, there has been a need to make others aware of them through snappy presentation or promotion. This is advertising.

 

Pictured: Subtlety

Now let’s put our paranoids caps on! Did you know the average American is exposed to anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements in a single day? As a matter of fact, you’re looking at a few ads right now. We’ve become pretty adept at blocking out all of the advertisements, but go ahead and disable that mental AdBlocker for one minute and look around you. Soak in all of those brand names leaping out at you from your phone or laptop, or all of the images of products splayed out on billboards and buildings. Take in all of the commercials and product placements in your magazines or during your podcast, or all of the labels in your pantry or fridge or on your desk at work. How about all of those brand logos on your clothes which essentially turns you into a walking billboard?

During the waking hours, people are inundated with an overabundance of display ads, social media ads, outdoor ads, video ads, radio and podcasts, newspapers, magazines, direct mail, email whether they recognize it or not! Unless you’re living the beatific life of a hermit in the remote mountains, you are feeling the powerful influence of advertising in your daily routine. Life is essentially one big commercial! Unfortunately, sleep is really the only refuge from the deluge of advertisements (for now.)  But where do all of these ads come from?! Well, they are the outcome of a lot of hard work called marketing.

Marketing is What You’re Buying:

Marketing is an umbrella term that basically describes the activities and the processes of figuring out how people think and behave so that companies can successfully create and deliver catchy messages to the person, in the right place, at the right time, and for the right price. In order to accomplish this, marketing teams will dabble in some mind control and hypnotism, aka market research. By utilizing tools such as market research and the “marketing mix” (or the 4 P’s: Product, Price, Promotion, and Place) businesses are able to help identify a targeted audience and increase their chances of acquiring new customers. Advertising is just another component of the marketing process.

 

You never knew you wanted something SO much!

Good marketing is rooted in strategy and the better companies out there don’t even sell you a product; they sell you an idea or an experience like the fear of missing out. It’s the reason why we don’t question our sudden impulse to go out and try an Impossible burger from BK or why we will join the hysteria and wait in line for an incredibly scarce chicken sandwich from Popeye’s. It is the reason why we will rush to the store to pick up some Daytrip CBD-infused energy drink while wearing a Topo cross-body sling bag despite having spent decades snarking on the absurdities of fanny packs. Getting us to spend money, and to spend it on things we think we NEED but will no doubt roll our eyes at down the road is a true marketing masterstroke.

Marketing is an activity, advertising is the outcome. Marketing is the experience and advertising is the exposure. They’re not the same, but they rely on one another and you can’t possibly have a successful business without incorporating both.  If this helped you, please let us know in the comments and be sure to share this post with someone who could benefit from a little enlightening.


Reading a marketing book

Marketing is Actually a Subset of Digital Marketing...

…Or at least I am fairly certain it is. Look, I know what you’re thinking…in this day and age, it seems to be fashionable to make bold, outlandish statements that can be easily proven false. Attention is the new currency, and it can be a totally manipulative hack to grab your attention by simply making a BS claim just to earn a click. Well, let me assure you that my intentions in this article are just, and I ask that you give me a few minutes of your day so that I can make the case that marketing is, in FACT, a subset of digital marketing and not the reverse. Now is this a hill I want to die on? Eh, probably not, but at least hear me out.

Digital Distribution is Generally a Critical Component

Okay, let’s start with the basics. (Cue cheesy 70s public information film music) The dictionary defines marketing as, “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.” Digital marketing is basically any form of marketing that exists online. You’re probably thinking, “well, doesn’t that make digital marketing a subset of marketing then?” You would think so. But let’s dig a little deeper and think about marketing prior to the digital age.

Ever since the first commercial aired for a watch in 1941, the ideal marketing mediums for decades had been tools like billboards, flyers, radio and television commercials, or ads in magazines and newspapers. These were some of the primary methods when I was a kid back in the totally radical 80s of the last century.  Who could forget such advertising gems like Wendy’s, “Where’s the Beef?” catchphrase or Domino’s Avoid the Noid campaign? And don’t even get me started on those Motown-singing California raisins! Pure genius! But while these 80s pop culture footnotes were everywhere and being repeated at work or on the playground ad nauseam, the companies churning them out had to be relatively in the dark when it came to understanding their return on investments. Within these distribution channels, segmentation of your audience was fairly sophisticated given how basic these mediums were. Want to engage unemployed people? Run ads for your trade college during Price Is Right. Want to sell Jane Fonda aerobics videos to moms? Run your message on a commercial break for ThirtySomething. Trying to sell Dad a new home computer? Get that ad in the evening edition of the paper. That’s not even considering segmenting by geographics.

There is a massive advantage digital mediums have over traditional mediums; digital can be inbound and targeted in places where everyone is already spending a disproportionate amount of time…online. We have a working generation that grew up without newspapers and the next generation joining the workforce grew up without over-the-air or cable television. These are your audiences and their analog experience is generally secondary to their digital experience.

Let’s take a look at Facebook as an example. Facebook isn’t simply a tool used explicitly to connect old casual acquaintances and weaken democracy (heavy sigh); it’s a platform where businesses hire marketers to target and tap into prospective consumers. Go ahead, log into your Facebook account right now, take a look at the first ten things that pop up into your feed and chances are, somewhere nestled in between the memes, the misinformation and the minutiae of your elementary chum’s everyday life, you will see targeted ads that are tailored specifically for you! Based on how you react to certain posts and behave on websites that you’ve visited, Facebook is able to pinpoint your interests accurately and deliver ads that you are most likely to engage with.

Digital Marketing Is More Than Just Message Distribution

With message distribution based on the audience’s affinities and behaviors rather than being based on the broad preferences of the platform’s users, businesses are able to affordably get the maximum return on their ad spend using reporting, tracking, monitoring, and analysis. In this case, Facebook’s AI is likely doing some of the marketing for the marketer, attempting to learn from the audience who’ve seen and been active with a brand’s ad(s) to extract better results from the campaigns.

Facebook is merely a single example and if you’re a marketer you probably already know that. Thanks to our modern abilities to house, manage, and leverage the insane amounts of information about any given American and their behaviors, marketers can use these digital platforms to communicate finely-tuned, personalized messages to our audiences where and when they are most likely to act on them.

It will probably escalate, too. What if every digital billboard changed on your way home, precisely when you approached it, to remind you that it’s been a couple of weeks since your last Arby’s Beef N Cheddar? And you’re going to get that ad because the marketer already knows when, where, and how many times you need to see that messaging before you take action.  That future seen in Minority Report is probably coming, or is it already here?

Now when you are propagating a message that isn’t easily measured or cannot be measured at all, is that really marketing? It kind of sounds just like advertising (and there IS a difference between marketing and advertising, but that is a subject for another time.) Just like traditional marketing, digital marketing is entirely data-driven; it’s all about measuring the research and optimization of a message. Chances are pretty likely that you’re not getting any solid marketing feedback without it being viewed as a digital measurement.

There’s a simple, sure-fire way of measuring whether or not your business’ advertising, PR and marketing programs are even effective and that measurement is basically this: are you making more money or not?

Of course, this bottom line is really only evident at the end of the journey and in order to arrive at this destination there is a long, hard road you must travel. Have you ever seen one of those “iceberg illusion” graphics that vacationing celebs love to post on their Instagram page? You know, the ones where there are two parts to the iceberg: what people see (the tip of the iceberg above the surface) and what people don’t see (the giant mass just below the surface.) Well, marketing is much like that iceberg: the small tip represents the profits, and that giant mass just below the surface represents all of the strategies that were put into it. A healthy bottom line is, of course, the raison d’être of any business, but in order to get there, you have to put in a lot of hard work, persistence, dedication and other iceberg illusion buzzwords.

If you’re sending postcards, are you making sure your site is getting visits from the zip codes you sent the postcards to? Are you tracking calls from a unique number that exists only on that postcard? Are your branded searches increasing on Google and Bing? Is your click-thru rate increasing on non-branded searches?  Let’s face it, it is next to impossible to prove the value of your hard efforts when you are still in the dark ages of marketing. The emergence of digital measurement has caused archaic methods of untraceable marketing to go the way of the town crier in a tricorn hat. If you aren’t tracking at least some of these digital metrics, it’s likely you aren’t measuring the important key progress indicators, and, in fact, aren’t actually doing marketing. You’re probably doing advertising on par with sign twirling and crossing your fingers, hoping that it’s effective. Hope is a fantastic campaign slogan for effective leaders, but it is NOT a marketing plan.

Aren’t The Research Tools of Yesteryear Still Marketing?

Cocoaine vintage adOf course they are, but many of those libraries and focus groups and much of that front end research are experienced online. Unless, Science forbid, the world has been reduced to a post-apocalyptic society where the remnants of humanity live in a dystopian wasteland without internet and computers, marketing technology will continue to advance and evolve with great leaps and bounds. We’ve come a long way from the days of full-page ads for Burnett’s Cocoaine hair tonic in The Saturday Evening Post, or biplanes scrawling out a message in the sky to buy Lucky Strike cigarettes. Nowadays, in the post-digital revolution world where just about everything is done online, there is virtually no separation between marketing and digital marketing.

Your audience data collection, research, distribution, and measurement are probably all taking place in a digital space because they simply must. Marketing IS digital marketing.

Well, there you have it. I think I have done an adequate job making the case that marketing is a subset of digital marketing, even if it was just by stating that marketing has come out of the dark ages and into the age of enlightenment. Now I’m curious…what are your opinions on the matter? Agree? Disagree? 


Lightrail at night

How to make a more effective light rail ad.

Bar Louie is a chain gastropub with several locations in my fair locale of the Denver-Metro area. In all, as best as my research could reveal, they have 133 restaurants nationwide, so it would be a fair assumption that they have this whole marketing and advertising thing pretty well locked down. By and large, I’d agree with that assessment. I’d say that they were almost perfect in a recent campaign… almost.

When I came across a light rail car with multiple ads for Bar Louie, they caught my eye. This isn’t that rare since I make it my job to assess the marketing and advertising that I’m exposed to, looking for both strengths and opportunities. To be honest, most ads don’t stick. I don’t love them or hate them – I just forget them. But Bar Louie’s ad was different. It required my attention.

Sitting in my light rail seat, the images below represent my view.

Would Bar Louie have demanded your awareness as it did mine?

Why did this Bar Louie ad stick with me?

If I could only choose one thing that made me “lean in” to this ad, I’d have to say that it was a giant QR code. Perhaps in the same way that a cassette boombox or any other recognizable relic of the past would jump out at you for seeming so out of place in the present, devoting that much real estate to a sign of what once was practically grabbed me.

Now, when it comes to QR codes, I think Bar Louie has it right and conventional thinking has it wrong. QR codes only went out of style, in my opinion, because they were inconvenient upon release. Yes, they were meant to create convenience, but between searching for a reader app, downloading it, launching it…. I’d have rather just been given a URL to type in at that point.

But, that was also prior to Apple’s iOS 11. The age of practical convenience for QR codes had arrived. It arrived late, but it arrived. Now, all you have to do is open your phone’s camera, point it at the QR code and your phone will ask if you’d like to visit the website. It’s extremely easy. Lest you think this is only for iPhone users, Android already had that feature before iOS did with Google Suggest turned on. It really couldn’t be easier for the wide majority of smartphone users to use a QR code. Just in case you weren’t aware of how easy it is, Bar Louis conveniently added instructions to the bottom of their ad:

 

A QR Reader is built in to your phones camera.

If I had to choose another reason that I believe this ad worked, it’s because they leased multiple prominent placements in the light rail car. I absolutely love this. I know clients (and account managers) who would say “We only have budget for four ads? Let’s put them in four different cars.” In this scenario that Bar Louie has created, while they’re reaching fewer people, they’re immersing those fewer people in your message, rather than reaching a larger audience who will more easily ignore them.

But, what about the messaging?

I am not Bar Louie’s target market. I know it and, almost certainly, Bar Louie knows it. So, the messaging about getting paid to party rolls off of me like beads of sweat off of a sangria glass (I tried).

 

I’m also a small business owner surrounded by a city of small business owners, some of who own gastropubs. If I intend to be loyal, I will be loyal to my fellow business owners who rely on that loyalty to maintain and grow. So, their second message of “Loyalty Always Pays Off” is again, a miss for my lifestyle.

 

That’s ok because I’d assume that with 133 locations, this brand knows their audience and the prospect of being rewarded for drinking a pineapple martini with their friends after work is a strong motivator.

The messaging doesn’t attract me and it’s not supposed to, which likely means that it speaks clearly to a person who’s not me, aka, the regular Bar Louie customer.

Alright, Tyler. Where’s the missed opportunity?

I’m on a train and there are two ads, each ad has its own color and its own message.

One of these colors is more attractive to my fellow light rail passengers than the other.

One of these messages is more attractive than the other.

One of these placements is better than the other.

Bar Louie still doesn’t know what’s working best for them on this campaign.

As you can see, these QR codes are identical.

 

Overlayed Bar Louie light rail ads to show that the QR codes are identical.

Identical QR codes mean that there’s no variation in what URL you’re going to be visiting, which means you can’t track which ad people are pointing their smartphone cameras at.

Phase one: Were I in charge of leading the strategy for this campaign, would be to create URLs with different UTM codes indicating which ad was being scanned. Is it the pink ad promising a payday? Or is it the olive-colored ad promising a reward for loyalty? With UTM codes, a review of my analytics would reveal this information.

Phase two: Once I’ve determined which ad is working best, I’d see if the locations could be swapped to determine if it’s still the messaging or color that’s prompting the scans or if it’s simply the ad placement.

If it was ad placement, I’d ask if we could remove the other ads in the non-producing placements to see if that affects the volume of scans I get on the placement that is producing scans.

If it wasn’t the placement that prompted the scan, I’d swap the messaging on the posters to determine if it was the color or the offer that prompted the scan….

The ideas of what could and should be tested continue on and on… with each test getting Bar Louie closer and closer to creating an optimal ad with optimal placement. When those optimizations are put into practice, they will find that they have more budget to reproduce these winning campaigns in city after city.

Marketing is nothing if it’s not testing and the reason we test is to make sure that we communicating as effectively as possible to our audience. If you’re not testing, you’re gambling. Sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose, and sometimes you’ll break even. If your aim is to win, having a thoughtful marketing partner on your side can sway those odds in your favor. I can help you win and when you’re ready to see how, book some time with me.

 


Price tag

What Does SEO Cost?

Before I answer what SEO costs, I think it’s important to talk about what the wrong price to pay for SEO is. I recently met with a small business owner who had been paying $275/month for 3 years. His site was a mess, his domain name had little to do with his brand or his services. Google has 9 pages indexed for his site. He’s not receiving monthly updates from his SEO provider and when I inquired as to what keywords he’s ranking well for, he wasn’t sure. On top of this, while the site had some minor optimizations, it left a lot to be desired from an SEO of even intermediate skills. This man had spent close to $10k on search engine optimization services and he was, apparently, getting little to nothing for it.

These bad actors ask for minimal investment and deliver next to nothing in return, or worse, they achieve quick and unbelievable results through black hat SEO tactics including low-quality link networks. While this might be initially great news, these tactics can (and likely eventually will) result in Google delisting your website, which will cost you quite a bit more money to recover from. Let’s call these people what they truly are: Spammers and scammers. They reach out to a business owner and suggest a price that undercuts the market while promising the world. What happens when the SEO service doesn’t deliver? Almost nothing. If the small business owner recognizes how little is being done on their behalf, the cost has been so minimal that it’s not worth it for that business owner to hold anyone accountable.

The true end result of hiring a cheap search engine optimization servicer is that the business owner has just lost time, budget, and faith in digital services. The only party this is good for is the cheap SEO, who has already moved on to his next mark.

SEO can be too cheap. Anyone who doesn’t have a vested interest in your success and offers you inexpensive SEO is likely not worthy of your trust or your budget.

Now that you know what you shouldn’t pay for search engine optimization services on your website, let’s get to the reason you arrived at this article in the first place:

How much does SEO cost per month?

According to a 2018 article on ahrefs.com:

 

  • The majority of SEOs charge between $75 – $150 per hour.
  • Monthly retainers will generally run you between $500 – $1,000/month in the US.
  • The more experienced an SEO, the more they’ll charge.

Let’s follow up those hard numbers by answering a question a prospect recently asked me:

 

How does an SEO agency justify their monthly cost?

Technical Search Engine Optimization

Technical SEO is all about making sure that your site is visible, in full, to Google and Bing, communicating your site’s pages and relevance to search engines, meets Google’s Best Practice Guidelines for SEO, is visible and functional on all platforms, including (and maybe, most importantly) mobile devices. All of the work in the world won’t be worth much if Google doesn’t know it exists.

Key Query and Competitive Research

You can absolutely achieve with a rudderless SEO campaign, in the same way that a rudderless boat can hit land. It’s mostly out of your control and relies on an abundance of luck. Upfront key query research can help give some guidance around what content should be created, including what questions are being asked that you can and should answer, and where your best competitors are earning search traffic.

As your content matures, Google will start ranking it in search. Your SEO practitioner should be able to inform you for what queries your pages are actually ranking at volume and recommend some adjustments for continued upticks in search visibility. Remember that your website is a living and ever-evolving library of information. A website is always under construction.

Content

I’ve said it before – I will continue to say it: Poorly optimized content that’s great can rank all on its own, while well-optimized content that’s poor may fail to provide results.

The clients that I’ve achieved the best results with are also those clients who are continually creating new written content. This can be content that they write themselves, that they have outsourced to a copywriter or a combination of both. Your investment in SEO should partially go to creating new content and/or adding markups and refinements to new content.

Reporting and Analysis

This is really what you’re paying for – proof of change. I’m still amazed by the number of people paying for search engine optimization services that aren’t having regular check-ins with their agency. Website traffic and analytics reporting, ideally, is where the rubber meets the road and your learning how your rankings are fluctuating, discover trends in your traffic, and review what upcoming work should include to maintain or improve upon your existing rankings, and find new opportunities.

Off-page SEO

Your companies trust with your audience or relevance with search engines isn’t solely built on your website alone. There are a host of websites that can reference your content, provide categorical context for your services, and furnish customer and employee reviews of your company. All of these entities are important to the search experience and should be tended to in part or wholly by your search engine optimization agency.

This includes ensuring that all of your social media profiles include accurate and complete information, that your Google My Business and Bing Places for Business are kept up-to-date and include frequent updates, and, if included in scope, that backlinks from highly trusted sites are secured, when possible.

Another consideration to be aware of is that if your search engine optimization agency finds that you have received poor reviews which are breaking trust with potential customers, they should recommend a reputation management program meant to address negative reviews and generate reviews from happy customers.

And if everything is going right, they should come back after a while and ask for a bigger budget.

You probably don’t want to hear it, but justifying an increased budget is the mark of an SEO and/or marketing program that’s going well. Your investment should result in improved results. Your agency should want to build and continue a relationship with you. Eventually, be it a quarter or a year down the road, your SEO company should be able to show you how far your investment has taken you so far and where additional budget should allow you to go in the future.

Whether your hire 4B or not, you deserve to get the best search engine optimization for your business. For that reason, we strongly recommend that you invest the 12 minutes required to watch this video from Google on how to hire a good SEO service and avoid a bad SEO service. If you’re ready to get started improving your velocity of search traffic, get in touch.


Standing in the spotlight

Does Your Brand Even Deserve Attention?

It’s now been a week since I attended the Denver Digital Summit, and it’s been just a little over two months since I made the leap from unfulfilling government work into the deep waters of content writing and search engine optimization.

My primary care physician thought this move was some mid-life, manic episode, however, I assured her this was a thought out (err…well…as well thought out as possible) transition into a career where my skills at and passion for writing would no longer be going to waste. It just seemed that simple. So why aren’t we all doing this? Why isn’t EVERYONE working in SEO and copywriting and making bank? How hard could content writing and SEO really be?! Well, from what I gather, it shouldn’t be that hard at all and there is no excuse as to why I can’t succeed in this venture. I say this now…

So much of what I heard at the summit seemed rather obvious. Especially for anyone who has ever had a social media account, which is, in essence, advertising yourself and attempting to increase your visibility. Attention is the new currency; it’s scarce and everyone is trying to get yours, but our collective attention span is shrinking. The challenge isn’t so much reaching an audience; the challenge is keeping the audience (as demonstrated in Rachael Sperling of Facebook’s “Building Ideas for the Attention Economy” session) by catching their attention, inviting them to interact and then allowing them to dig deeper into your service. Oh yeah, and obviously all while avoiding giving the audience a shitty experience. In all, marketing is basically the equivalent of dangling your keys in front of a giggling baby to keep it happy and engaged. Right?

A week later and it seems my biggest takeaway from the summit was the importance of providing a feeling your customers can’t get anywhere else and ultimately having the courage to go all-in to ensure that your purpose intersects and has an impact with the passion of the audience. In the “Marketing Trends That Matter in 2019” session, Leigh George of Freedom presented us with a value-driven ad campaign by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. I am still thinking about how effective it was in gaining my attention, and how impactful taking a deep and authentic perspective can be. If every brand were willing to connect with their audience at such a meaningful level, marketing could be much easier. Most brands won’t…. And there’s your opportunity. I will leave you with that ad by John Jay. Marinade in it, like I have been for the last few days now. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

John Jay University - Top Five Reasons Why You Need To Go To John Jay ad


Online sales

How can I tell which keywords are driving my sales?

Very recently, I showed you how to find which keywords were driving traffic to your site from search. While this can prove very important to understand where your site is providing value for searchers, it also assumes that all traffic is created equal. It’s not all equal.

Your site isn’t some amorphous blob (I hope) that somehow ranks as a whole? It’s made up of pages that are ranking individually for a myriad of keywords and key phrases. It does a disservice to your efforts to view your site’s top keywords and end your research there. Let’s go further.

While I speak to these examples in terms of completed and submitted contact forms, you can modify this to your own goal. If you’re a B2B company, you may want to use this information to find what keywords are driving leads. If you are a restaurant, you may want to learn what keywords are driving reservations. If you know the goal of your website, following these steps should help reveal what people are typing into search engines to get there.

Step 1: Make sure you have Google Analytics setup on your site.

This is essential for revealing this data. If you don’t have Google Analytics firing on every page of your site, go get that setup and then ask Siri to remind you to revisit this page in two months.

You can find instructions for setting up Google Analytics here.

Step 2: Get as close to the conversion as you can.

What prompted me to write this piece was a company asking how I’d know where to start their PPC campaigns from. I tried to explain this multi-post series in a span of about 2 minutes. The client looked perplexed as to the words I’d just vomited out. I decided to take this step by step to help them (and you) better understand what was driving their conversions.

In their case, they wanted leads in the form of completed contacts, either by phone or from a contact email form on their site. For the sake of making this example easier to follow, we’ll focus on the contact email form. With that goal in mind, I’m considering any visitor who sees the “Thank you for contacting us” page after they hit submit on the contact form a conversion. Let’s pretend that the URL of that page is www.example.com/contact-thank-you/

I have another client who doesn’t sell directly to their customer. Instead, they provide links to local retailers, in their case, visits to the “Find a retailer” page or a button click to “Find a retailer near me” might be considered a conversion, since it’s the closest to a conversion we can get with website interactions (we can’t track the visitor once they leave the site.)

Step 3: Source the entrance page of your convertors

Now that we know the conversion URL (which, as an aside, should be set up as a Goal in Google Analytics), we want to visit Google Analytics, select Behavior on the left-hand menu, select Site Content, and then click All Pages to see visits to all page on the main portion of the page.

Google Analytics > Behavior > Site Content > All Pages

On the right hand side, below the graph of pageviews, you’ll see a search bar. Type in the page name of your conversion page. Using our example, I’ll type in “contact-thank-you”

 

If everything has gone correctly, you should now only see that page in your list of pages.

Below the graph, you should see a drop-down menu labeled Secondary Dimension. Click that drop down menu and type Landing Page in the search box.

Select Landing Page, and you should now see a new column below, just to the right of Page column. This new column shows you the entrance pages of visitors who ultimately landed on the URL in the Page column.

In case that wasn’t clear (it happens): The URL under the Page column is your goal page. The URL under the Landing Page column is the page they entered your site on that ultimately led those visitors to your goal page.

There’s a lot you can do with this information, including optimizing your page for key phrases that drive even more converting traffic. You could even set up a really well researched PPC campaign, couldn’t you?

Leave a comment below if you have any thoughts on this article and be sure to let us know if it helped you. We’d love to hear from you.

Memorize or write down the URL(s) of that page or pages that are driving the bulk of your traffic!

Step 4: Find the keywords that are driving your converting traffic

I hope by this point, you’re excited. I’ve done this a lot in my career and I still think having this kind of information is so cool and it energizes me to write about it. We know there’s a treasure, we’ve found the X on the ground, now it’s time to start digging!

Remember how I showed you how to find the keywords that were driving traffic to your site? Now we’re going to find the keywords that drive search traffic to the page that drive conversions on your site.

Go to Google Search Console and login.

Once you’re logged in, click Performance from the left-hand menu.

 

Once you’ve clicked Performance, click Pages on the right-hand pane below the graph.

 

With pages selected and a list of your most popular pages in search by volume of clicks in front of you, scroll down until you see the URL of the landing page of your converters that we found in the previous step. When that landing page URL is located, click on it. This will filter your view to only focus on that single page.

Now that that URL is isolated, click back onto Queries below the graph.

 

Voila! These are the main terms that are driving converting traffic to your site in search.

There’s a lot you can do with this information, including optimizing your page for key phrases that drive even more converting traffic. You could even set up a really well researched PPC campaign, couldn’t you?

Leave a comment below if you have any thoughts on this article and be sure to let us know if it helped you. We’d love to hear from you.


Traffic

How can I tell which keywords are bringing traffic to my site?

Search engine optimization is a weird beast to most business owners. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a room with a successful proprietor who wants to rank #1 for a term no one is searching. “Get me to the top page for ‘poly-fabric textile distributor Wisconsin!'”

What drives that thinking? I’d assume it’s because that’s how the owner talks about the products she sells. I’d also assume that the fine people at Kellogg’s refer to ‘dehydrated and compressed corn cereal’ internally, but receive far higher traffic to their site for the term ‘corn flakes’. The industry jargon may or may not be how your best customers talk about your business, but how do you know? A better question might be:

How can I find out which keywords bring traffic to my site?

        1. Make sure you’ve claimed Google Search Console for your site. (This might seem daunting initially, but the payoff of information that exists inside of this tool is invaluable.)
          • If you’ve just claimed your search console, you may need to wait a couple of days. If you’ve had it claimed for a while, you should be seeing a performance overview.
        2. On the left hand side, click the word “Performance” in the menu.
Google Search Console Menu > Peformance

This page is so cool, isn’t it? For the reporting period, it shows you how many clicks you’ve received in Google, how many search impressions you’ve received, your click-through rate (how many impressions resulted in a click), and your average position (which page of Google you show up on, on average)

 

  • If you scroll down, you’ll see queries that Google has been ranking your site for. If you click on the word “Clicks”, this page will sort those queries by the terms that have received the most clicks in Google. Better still, search console will also show you the terms that you’re receiving impressions for in search but aren’t winning clicks on.

 

If you’re wondering why all of the clicks that you long for elude you, I’ll tell you why: You just haven’t earned them yet, baby! Start writing some content around those terms.

 

Search Queries in Google, sorted by “Clicks.”

Better EVEN STILL, this is the actual language searchers are using in Google. This is their voice, spoken to Google and whispered back to you verbatim by Google. Mirror the voice of your audience and you’ll have a better opportunity to succeed in search.

Now that you know which keywords are bringing people to your site, you should take the next step to learn which keywords are driving sales or leads on your site.

One note about Google Search Console: This isn’t accounting for every click you receive in Google. As once heard a fellow marketer say, ‘This isn’t an exact science, it’s just the best science we have.’. Go have fun with this tool and let it shape your efforts.

If you need help on this or have questions, please leave them in the comments below.


Typewriter

The frugal guide to becoming a marketing copywriter.

Making a career change is a marketing problem – and one that has a solution.

While it might feel initially like a stretch to make this claim, I encourage you to embrace this notion and approach your new journey with a marketer’s mindset.

Problem: People need good writers. There is an abundance of content being created each day and this is the minimum that businesses need to do to be present on the web. They need good writers to help them create effective “leave behinds” for potential customers on in-person visits, to have engaging social media accounts, and to construct concise narration in video scripts. Now, more than ever, every business needs good writers.

Solution: You love writing. People love reading what you write. Why would they pay some bored zombie to churn out clinical crap when they can have someone with passion write interesting stories that grab attention from their audiences? They wouldn’t if they knew about you and felt confidence in your abilities. But, they don’t know about you and they wouldn’t trust you if they did. Not yet, at least.

No wonder you’re stressed out.

These are two problems that we’re going to solve by the time you get to the end of this blog post.

One of our mottos at 4B is “Everything Is Marketing”, and that includes your current desire to change professions. Let’s connect your solution with someone’s problem so we can all have a better tomorrow.

A friend, we’ll call him Jim, recently confided that this year was going to be the year that he made some significant life changes, including transitioning from his drone-like government job into something new.

“What is it that you want to do?”, I asked Jim during the text conversation we were engaged in.

“Well, ideally write or ANYTHING creative. But realistically…anything outside of menial customer service work. Thought about PIMA for radiology tech certification, but that’s 40k a year. Coding boot camp…outrageous costs.”, he replied

Jim also intimated that he felt like he needed some kind of certification at minimum, and very likely, a degree, neither of which (he assumed) he was able to afford.

Luckily, I was able to sympathize because…. well, I’ve been there. When I moved on from being the Vice President of a web hosting company, circumstance practically demanded that I refine my career, which I viewed as a career change. While I had enjoyed a lot of success in that capacity, I had also felt like that role and industry chose me. If you had asked any version of Tyler, including that version, if that’s what I wanted to do with my life, the answer would’ve been ‘No.’ Beyond my own personal desire to occupy my time differently, no one is looking for someone who says that they can do everything from server maintenance to product management to running inbound call centers to writing help documentation to making advertisements. The market wants to hire someone with a specific set of skills at which they excel.

Personally, I’ve always found finding a new job, outside of my entry level days, a defeating journey. Compound that with switching industries AND trying to prove you’re worthy of a job that you don’t have experience doing full time… that’s enough to depress anyone.

While I considered Jim’s request, I thought back to a video from TheFutur that discussed the interviewee’s desired goals and the abundance of resources she had to realize them. (At least, I think that’s the video I mean to reference.) The conversation reminded her, and me, the viewer, that no matter the outcome she desired, there was a path to it.

With that in mind and knowing that my friend was already a talented writer, I was able to envision a path he could take to reach the destination he sought.

I began to draw the line from where he was to where he said he wanted to be. “So, consider copywriting for an agency like mine.,” I wrote. “I don’t want to be your boss – but the world needs more great copywriters. You’d be researching and writing blogs and website copy – shit like that. It’s not creative writing, but it would be closer to what you need. “

Jim seemed interested. So began a deluge of further advice.

Free and Low-Cost Resources to becoming a Copywriter

Now that I’d defined a clearer version of what I saw as Jim’s next steps, I first considered the lack of financial resources that he’d said he had. Luckily, we live in the age of information. If you want to take courses from MIT, you can start that today and for free. Are you kidding me? With no money and no process of acceptance, with a little bit of self paced learning, you can walk into an interview and honestly say these words: “I successfully completed an MIT Sociology course last year.” or “I completed a course on Literature from Harvard.

With resources like that available to everyone with access to a computer, your excuses for failure are dramatically lessened. If you want it, there’s a path to it.

While I did ultimately recommend the Harvard course to him, I wanted to start with an easier goal to complete. I wanted Jim to prove to himself that he was willing to do the bare minimum to better his life. If he wasn’t willing to do that, I wanted him to stop wasting everyone’s time.

So, what requires minimal effort to take those first steps?

I began with Udemy copywriting courses. I’ve used Udemy in the past and find to be an amazing resource. These courses are taught by self-identified experts in whatever field they’re teaching. The courses are usually based around video content and exercises to put the content into practice. Upon completion, you’re awarded a certificate. Whether having a Udemy certificate on your resume is a positive or negative badge is in the eyes of the beholder, but you’ll know you did it – and confidence may be, in the end, everything.

When evaluating which Udemy course(s) to take, be sure to not only look at the relevance to your goal, but also consider the star rating and volume of reviews that the course has received. Also, not that you likely will ever have to, but never pay full price for their courses. It’s not that they aren’t worth hundreds of dollars – but there are always blanket sales that allow you to get almost any course for around $12. Also, every once in a while, you may even find some free access to courses in sub-reddits around copywriting.

The next resource I recommended was Lynda’s instructional courses on copywriting. Lynda’s courses are taught by Lynda appointed subject matter experts, which may provide you with more confidence that you’re getting a better education than on Udemy. Like Udemy, the Lynda courses will also provide you with a certificate of completion once you’ve finished a course. The deal gets even sweeter when you find out that many library cardholders have free access to Lynda courses. The disadvantage is that the courses you find aren’t as varied as they are on Udemy, so I recommend taking courses on both platforms. It certainly couldn’t hurt to have a more well-rounded education from multiple instructors, even if the subject matter isn’t as precisely dialed in as you’d like.

The next resource I recommended were local writers meetups on Meetup.net. This is a pretty important recommendation for a few reasons.

  • Firstly, what better way is there to break out of daydreaming about being a professional writer than to associate yourself with professional writers? They exist and you can pick their brains.
  • Secondly, I’ve seen strong evidence that suggests that your next job isn’t going to come from craigslist or Google, but from your own network. People like helping other people that they like. They appreciate seeing themselves in others and helping them to overcome hurdles. These groups are essential for finding people who have progressed deeply in the journey you’re just beginning, to learn from their mistakes and discover their shortcuts.
  • Third, you will not be any worse of a writer from attending these meetings. The only way to go is up.

Easy ways to get real-world experience as a marketing copywriter

Telling people that you can write and showing people that you can write are two different things. In order to land that next job and speak about your skills with confidence, you’ll need to know that you can make an impact for your clients or company. Here are a few ways I’d recommend doing that:

Step 1: Find someone who needs your help.

This is so easy. Do you know a business owner? Reach out to them and offer to write blog content for them. Does that sound daunting? You can rely on Hubspot’s blog topic generator to give you some solid ideas of what to write about.

What do you do if they don’t have a blog? Offer to re-write their product or services pages. Almost every business needs a good writer to improve their key pages. Neil Patel offers some amazing tips on writing a great product page here.

Offer to write or re-write their “About Us” page and make it absolutely slay. Susan Greene offer tips for doing that here.

The only things you’ll ask for in lieu of payment are:

  1. A reference from the client.
  2. The ability to use their business name and logo in marketing yourself.
  3. The opportunity to track your results.

I’m too afraid to ask a business owner if they need my help. Now what?

I recommend asking friends and family if they could use your help. Let them know that they’d be doing you an incredibly big favor in giving you a chance.

If that doesn’t produce results, post on Facebook or Twitter and offer to write for your friend’s businesses, free of charge. Again, tell the story of why you’re doing this so your friends understand that not only will you be helping them, but they’ll be helping you.

Still no one? Hop on these sub-Reddits and offer free copywriting:

https://www.reddit.com/r/business/

https://www.reddit.com/r/ecommerce/

https://www.reddit.com/r/Entrepreneur/

https://www.reddit.com/r/smallbusiness/

Be genuine in your request, don’t bloviate or get spammy. Be authentic in your offer and appreciative for the opportunity to help make someone else’s business better.

Final steps in making your career change become your writing career.

If you’ve followed our steps you should now have the following:

  • Training on becoming a copywriter.
    • This may include certificates of completion and/or education from Harvard.
  • At least one peer group that meets with some regularity.
  • Real world experience in developing effective content for businesses.
  • Results from that real world experience to show your effectiveness.

Congratulations! Think about what you’ve accomplished and feel proud about it. Add “self-starter” to your resume and reference all of this work in the interview. Remind them that you accomplished all of this just so you could help the company you’re interviewing with succeed.

Oh, right, I guess you’ve got to get an interview now. If you can think of 10 companies you’d like to work for, write the names of those companies down. Connect with their heads of marketing on LinkedIn and let them know you’d love nothing more than to be a part of their team. If they don’t accept your invite, send them a letter in the mail. It might not hurt to include a gift card to Starbucks and ask them to meet you for coffee. Run ads on social media targeting the company and make sure they know your name and what you do.

Review the websites of those companies and see if you can re-write key pages for better readability or conversions or search engine optimization. Send the updated copy as a freebie and let them know that you’re available if they’d like more.

Don’t wait until they have an opening to reach out to these decision makers.

Additionally, find out where these decision makers play. Are they checking in at marketing meetups on social or guest speaking at conferences? Are there industry events where you can begin to enter their network? Be where they are – but, you know, don’t be a creep.

Rely on your existing network.

Let your network (through social media and in-person interaction) know how hard you’ve been working on your writing career and that you’re looking for work. Ask for introductions to cool people who are doing cool things.

Your network already knows you. They already love you. They will be happy to give you a job or refer you to someone who needs your services.

My final bit of advice….

…is to treat all ups and downs as gifts. You know where you’re going. You know you’ll succeed. Believe in that. Expect adversity on this journey and make it your mission to find the silver linings. It has been scientifically proven that if you take this perspective, your outcomes are likely to be better than if you didn’t.

Hopefully, I’ve offered some direction so that you can improve your life. I now want to ask you for four favors:

  • Share this article with on social media.
  • Share your story with me about how this helped you in the comments. No matter how big or small.
  • If there are resources you’ve found that aren’t in here, please let me know.
  • Remember to refer 4B when you meet someone who needs an agency’s help with marketing.