How I look may determine my choices?

Oh good Lord.

From Warc.com comes this:

Brand owners such as Kraft and Adidas are considering making use of facial recognition technology in a bid to provide shoppers with more targeted information in stores.

What does this mean? Imagine looking into a mirror and saying, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, what is the best thing for me to buy?”

Essentially, this technology will read our faces, determine our gender and age range, and offer product suggestions. The plan is to use this recognition technology in kiosks, vending machines and digital signage.

Can you see how this could go Oh So Wrong?

I am a huge advocate for cross-selling. If a customer purchases spaghetti noodles, I’d be remiss not to offer garlic bread. It makes sense for me and my customer. Me because I’ve sold an additional product. My customer because she will enhance her dinner.

But that kind of cross-selling relies on relationships. Chatting. Listening. Knowing who my customer is and what she might want and why.

In this case, companies such as Kraft and Adidas will rely on technology to determine who I am and what might appeal to me based on how a computer says I look.

I’m hoping this technology is spot on.

If I were a 23 year old woman, I’d be slightly offended if this kiosk tells me I might need adult diapers. A forty year old man might not be thrilled to learn he needs beauty cream. And Grandma might be traumatized when she is directed to the Trojan aisle (on second thought, Grandma might be the only one who finds humor in this).

If I am hypersensitive about my 40-something appearance now, this will give me cause to really fret. I’m pretty sure I would avoid this technology, or if I somehow get caught in it, might consult my SmartPhone for the nearest Botox provider.

I get it. Technology can be our friend. I love the internet. Q Readers, social media and cloud computing has, for the most part, improved efficiencies and opportunities in business. But might Intel be taking this too far? Is this technology too assumptive?

What do you think?

In Social Media, the Golden Rule Rules

Talk to small business owners about social media marketing and you’ll often note signs of anxiety. They suck in their breath. They open their eyes a bit wider. They sweat a little.

Ya, I’m doing it, they say. But I don’t know if I’m doing it right. What do I tweet? How can I make my status updates work better? What will make people read my blog? The bottom line is this: How do I get people to buy? Because, really, that’s what we are all after in the end, right?

The Magic Bullet

So here is the secret. Wait for it.

Be yourself. Be honest. Be true.

It sounds so simple but we’ve all made it so difficult. I’ve read two great articles about this:

It’s not rocket science.Social media is not rocket science

In the 23 Things piece, I’d suggest someone was going for social media job security. 23 things. Really? Read these 23 things and then tell me how many of them aren’t common sense. Answer questions, highlight brands, start conversations, and never automate human interaction. Social media isn’t rocket science. It’s the same ole, same ole of Marketing 101–it’s just that social media is more efficient, wider spread, and seemingly less personal (although that could be argued).

In Why People Don’t Want the Real You, the author essentially argues that there is a Real You and a Poser You. Don’t be a poser. Don’t be That Guy, schmoozing for the kill. Talk to people like they are people. Remember who is on the other side of your screen. How would you talk to them in person? How can you solve their needs? What needs do they have?

Don’t let social media scare you. It can be your best friend and best marketing tool. With every update, every tweet, flick, toggl, whatever–Do unto others as you would have them to do you. What would you want to know? How would you want to be talked to?

Make it simple. Make it true. Make it interesting.


In Copywriting, Simplicity Rules

My first job out of college was selling advertising for a weekly ad paper. I knew next to nothing about real life advertising, especially when it came to small business. In college, we honed our skills copywriting for case studies with cushy budgets and established brands–not exactly how most of American small businesses operate.

I quickly learned that most small businesses didn’t know much about advertising either. What they did know were their products and services and how badly they needed to sell them to survive and how little money they wanted to spend to do it.

When I was fortunate enough to make a sale, the transaction usually involved an owner giving me a laundry list of detail to include in their postage stamp of an ad. Too afraid to offer my thoughts (I was only 23 years old!), I’d deliver my notes to my graphics department where I’d see eyes roll and hear, “What do you think we are? Magicians?”

Yet, we would deliver. But guess what? We didn’t often sell additional ads. Because those cram packed ads didn’t work.

Why your copywriting, web content and advertising needs to stay simple.

I love my garbage disposal. I believe in its ability to pulverize my family’s food waste. So much so that my husband has accused me of over stuffing. He asks, “How would you like it if someone opened your mouth and crammed it with food? Could you chew that fast?” Are we over stuffing our customers and expecting them to chew, digest and buy?

Consumers want simple. So says a survey by branding consultant Siegel + Gale. They found consumers would be willing to pay a 4-6% premium for brands they believe offer a greater degree of simplicity (defined as ease of understanding, transparency, caring, innovation and usefulness of communications, as well as interactions in relation to industry peers) over their competitors.

How does this apply to your website content and business communications?

Keep your message simple.

Ever been to a schmoozy networking event? Folks eagerly introduce themselves and fling cards at each other. We tend to talk fast and furious to make ourselves heard among the many. We might be tempted to the same in our business communications. But readers are bombarded with words, pictures, videos and graphics in newspapers, on their phones, subscription readers and desktop platforms. A simple message, a few well targeted words, surrounded by white space and CALM will gain more traction in a world of busy-ness.

Focus on one brand at a time.

You might sell five or twenty brands. And you want people to know about all of it.

But trying to convey every aspect of your offerings is a bit like pulling the trigger on a shotgun. You’ll spew a spray of bullets but, chances are, few will find purchase. Better to think of one product and one customer at a time. Solve one burning problem. During the next step in the consumer process, you will have the opportunity to calmly and simply introduce more of your offerings. I promise.

Ask for one action at a time.

Sign up. Show up. Press this. Join us. Call us. Buy. What do you want your web page or brochure  or ad to do?

Most of us wouldn’t dream of offering a marriage proposal after a first date. Why do we expect our customers to marry us after one ad? or one exposure? It takes time to build a relationship. Our goal should be to simply move to the next logical step in the process.

Craft your message to encourage that one action.

Bizziwriter Nugget: Because we pay for our content, it is tempting to want it to do too much. When creating your web content, copywriting and advertising, think of messages you respond to. Pare down. Keep it simple.

Freelance business writer in Redding, CA

Copywriting: Why Pay for It?

When I mention I am a freelance business writer, small business owners often stare at me–blank. I can tell what they are thinking. Okay, and why would I need you?

I get it. A yoga instructor teaches yoga. A bankruptcy attorney files cases. A bike shop sells bikes. Why would they need a copywriter?

Making the connection from small business to paid copywriting may prove elusive at first, but consider today’s marketing environment and especially this:

 Social media.

The web offers countless opportunities for businesses to connect with customers. But in the process, it offers countless opportunities for businesses to lose credibility–through poorly crafted sentences, weak messages, and misspellings.

Who wants to look like a hack?

You’ve spent years honing your expertise. Why blow it ? You might know your stuff, but if you don’t write well, your prospects might doubt your ability.

 If you aren’t absolutely sure you are a gifted writer, here is my suggestion: Back away from the keyboard. You could be doing more harm than good.

Still not convinced you even need written communication? Let me ask you this:

  •  Do you post status updates on your Facebook Page (because you do have one, right?) Are your fans interacting? Are you offering value in every update?
  • Do you write your own blog posts? Are they compelling? Keyword and SEO optimized? Have a point?
  • Is your website content understandable to even the most uninformed? Do the words represent your brand? Does the content move readers toward a call to action?
  • How about your print collateral (brochures, newsletters, case studies, white papers, and advertisements)? Is copywritAre you certain they say what you need them to say? Could they be more effective?
  • Do you have time to write for all these avenues?
  • Do you even like to write?

Crazy enough, some of us love to write. And we do it well. And we have marketing expertise to back up our reasons for writing what we do.

You think nothing of paying a mechanic to change your oil and air your tires. Could you do those yourself? Maybe. But you really don’t want to. Or you know it will take you half a day. And it’s messy.

Same with writing for your business. If I can write in one hour what it will take you half a day to write, does it make sense to pay for it?

 The questions you must ask are these:

  •  How important is my business brand and image?
  • Can I afford not to have every communication presented in the most professional manner?

Disclaimer: This post is a shameless plug for my services. If I have convinced you that you need a writer, let’s talk. Contact me at 530.638.3580 or email me at carrie@caschmeck.com. I also offer marketing and social media coaching, planning, and implementation.

Branding: The First Step in a Writer’s Platform

In writers’ circles, there is much talk these days about platform and branding strategy.

Established writers are being asked by publishers and agents to bear greater shares of the marketing burden. And with self-publishing and e-book sales on the rise, independent authors, too, must hone their message if they hope to make a splash in a crowded world. Social media has made inexpensive marketing accessible to anyone willing to suffer the learning curve. And it can pay off.

Unfortunately, while writers can lay down 60,000 killer words, they don’t always know how to make those words sell.

The first step in the journey is to establish a brand.

“Branding” is a new term for an old concept. Simply put, who are you? and what face do you want to or need to portray to your fawning fans?

You might be saying, “Well, I am a writer.” Beyond that, you are stuck.

But here’s the thing. Everyone has a story. You got inspiration from somewhere. You have unique experiences that contributed to your product. Your writing process is unique. You have passions. What can you take from your life that would be interesting to your readers?

Don’t know? Ask your friends. Think about what you would ask your favorite authors. What would you want to know about them?

I’ve watched a few writer colleagues perfect their brand.

Mary deMuth, a fiction author who has written with heavy themes of thriving after pain, discovered that fans were often surprised by her sunny disposition. They expected a heaviness consistent with the pain she’d experienced. Mary’s mission was not to focus on the pain, but instead, the deliverance and freedom she’d learned through her faith. Her brand had inadvertently defined itself.

Through research, self-evaluation, and lots of thought, Mary redefined her brand to reflect her passion: Live Uncaged and encourages her audience to embrace freedoms born of grace.

Lindsay A. Franklin, an author soon to release Army of Light, a young adult Christian fantasy series, discovered she had been mistakenly developing a brand for writers, not her audience of younger readers. Her blogs about the writing process were interesting but were not doing the job of establishing her as an intriguing and wise mentor to teens. She revamped her brand and now writes weekly short stories and tidbits that appeal to her audience. Her brand and what she offers through it is helping to establish trust with those she hopes will eventually buy her books.

How can you apply this?

  1. Understand your target audience. Like Lindsay, you need to connect with those who will buy your book. If you’ve written your proposal, you’ve already done some research. What do you know about them? What are they interested in? How can you add value to their needs and desires?
  2. Know yourself and be yourself. You are unique and have something to offer that no one else can give. The key is to slip into this persona (hopefully it’s authentic) and stay there. Address audiences with a consistent tone. Just as your characters need to stay true throughout your book, so do you throughout your marketing. We don’t want to confuse our followers by slipping from sister to mom to preacher to teacher. It might sound limiting, but you’ll discover there is still great latitude in your approach.

Bizziwriter Nugget: Brainstorm ten words to describe yourself. Jot down five things you are passionate about. Do you see any connections? Could you combine a few to establish yourself as a brand?

Branding: Four Steps to Changing Your Image

If you have been in business for any length of time, you have a brand image. But is it the one you want? If not, is it too late to change it? If you can change it, how do you?

Identify your current brand.

Ask customers, suppliers, and friends who they think you are. What do they believe you represent. What do they see as your strength in product or service? This can be scary because you might discover the impressions about your business are not what you expect. But it will be truth because, as we all know, perception is truth.

Consider the feedback.

You might discover your brand is exactly as you hoped. Or, you might find that, though it’s different than what you expected, the feedback points to aspects you do well but hadn’t considered a cornerstone of your operations. It might be time to rethink your direction. Are you paddling up a stream? Or are you going with the current of what you do best?

A church I am familiar with invested in consulting that gave demographic city results skewed toward a younger audience. To reach them, the church began young-ifying their services—ramping up the sound, redesigning the stage, and giving a nod toward hip dress and tattoos. While research supported the changes, the congregation remained largely 40ish family types with school-aged to teen children. Though the church desired a younger brand, they remained esconsed as a premier family church. Now at a crossroad, they must decide whether to stay with their desired brand or embrace the one that stands.

Decide who you want to be.

Armed with research and considering your own ideals, sketch out your desired brand. As in the example of the church above, you must decide whether it is worth pursuing what your brand isn’t or whether you should tweak your direction and go with what is working. Changing perceptions takes time. The more drastic the change, the longer you should expect to work at it. Think KFC. Do you think of them as a fried chicken outlet or a grilled chicken fast-food option? They’ll always be the leader in good, greasy fried chicken to me, yet they have dropped a bundle to change my mind.

Match activity to your desired brand.

What needs to change to achieve the brand perception you want? Customer service? Start training and look at your human resource practices. A different product line? Get great at social media and content marketing to show your audience you know what you are talking about. Look at your marketing messages and wonder how they need to change. Leave no part of your business communications untouched, internal and external.

Bizziwriter nugget: Changing your brand is difficult but not impossible. Clarity is key. Confusion is a killer. Know who you are. Believe in what you deliver. And do everything you can to communicate the message.