Tip the Scale to Sales with Case Studies

Case studies powerfully demonstrate claims made through a sales funnel.

It’s nitty gritty time and prospects want proof.

Keyword-rich webpages did their work. The sales team made their pitch. You might have what they need. But one critical step remains. Proof.

That edge between interested, convinced, and purchase order is one-sided. Your side. And it begs for proof.

Social proof.

Proof your prospect will get what they think they will.

Proof that others got what they thought they would.

Proof that you’ve really addressed and solved similar problems.

Proof they aren’t about to waste their money.

Proof to convince their boss your solution is worth the investment.

Proof they won’t look like an idiot for not doing their homework.

And they don’t want to hear it from you.

Show. Don’t Tell.

9 out of 10 people want social proof

For B2B companies, where the buying cycle and potential relationship is much more complex than a one-click e-commerce transaction, simple product or company ratings won’t hold much value. Your prospects need to know who you’ve helped and how.

On the brink of a decision, case studies are invaluable for telling your stories, building feature awareness, proving your value, and offering proof that you are and will be the real deal.

What is a case study?

Case studies document the development of a situation over a period of time.

Educators have used case studies for years to present real life applications of theory. Instead of just talking about ideas, case studies show them in action, helping readers make connections between  opening scenarios and the process of moving toward outcomes.

Early B2B case study adopters used the same situation/process/outcome model to record, remind and train internal teams of company successes.

SMBs use case studiesMarketers recognized the power of those stories and, coupled with the explosion of digital marketing channels offering instant distribution and access, made them a key ingredient to content marketing strategies. In fact, case studies are the fifth most important element of B2B content marketing strategies for small business marketers. Fully 76% of small business marketers include case studies as a tactic.

What do case studies look like?

Case studies can range from a few simple sentences to technical and in-depth but good ones include:

  • Some context regarding the company and industry.
  • A brief outline of the problem that needed to be solved.
  • How your company specifically addressed the challenge.
  • A statement regarding the experience or value. Was it the product itself or the implementation process or meticulous follow-up?

Case studies can be short and simple.

Brief testimonial quotes are powerful when used alongside corresponding website pages. The good news is that short customer testimonies are the most informal and easiest to get.

Case studies can look like feature articles.

Instead of presenting a case study as a mere business proposition, write it as a narrative story, similar to a feature article in a magazine.

  • Feature article case studies entertain while informing and position your brand as more personable as they depart from industry-speak and employ a more informal tone.
  • Feature article case studies work well for weekly or monthly newsletters and custom publications.

Case studies can be in-depth and technical.

If your product, service and buying cycle is complex, it may make sense to write more in-depth case studies. Be sure to develop a template so all case studies follow the same format. For instance:

  • Benefit-specific title
  • Company and scenario introduction
  • Challenge
  • Solution
  • Key features (or value propositions) used in solution
  • Outcomes or results

Getting case studies written

We hesitate to ask for them because:

  • It seems like a burden — we look at our own to-do list and figure, who has time?
  • We’re not sure who to ask — do we ask the CEO, whom we suspect barely writes emails?
  • We fear the answer — will they say something nice?
  • We think customers might not want others to know what they are doing.

Any of these could be valid hurdles but none are so detrimental as to avoid asking, but be sure to make your ask as simple and easy as possible.

Send a follow up email thanking customers for their business and ask if they would take just a minute to write two to three sentences about their experience with you.

Develop a simple template prompting the answers you need. For instance, We sought out your company because we needed _________; Your company helped us by __1) 2) 3)__; What we most appreciated about the experience was ___________; We would recommend your company because ___________.

Assign an internal customer experience representative to contact customers and ask for a verbal testimony (using a similar pre-scripted template as above).

Hire a contract writer to write your case studies. A copywriter can be more objective and is often better received by a customer who may feel more comfortable offering their experience opinions to an outside party. A copywriter will write professionally and should be able to deliver your case study in any format — short, feature narrative, or longer form.

Plan case studies around business objectives

No matter who writes your case studies, be sure to have a plan or you’ll end up with vague case studies that will not meet your brand or sales objectives. Here are three strategies for making case studies more powerful:

Highlight specific value propositions. Which aspect of your brand, product or service do you need to build awareness for? Who has benefitted from that aspect? Approach them for stories.

Write case studies for key industry verticals. Companies want to read about companies like theirs. Produce a library of case studies highlighting different problems within one industry.

Build case studies around particular pain points. If you solve the same few problems over and over, write case studies around those. Case studies will highlight the different ways you’ve approached a similar problem for different sized companies or industries.

Once you have a pile of case studies, use them! Produce an email campaign introducing one company or problem per email. Add a call to action click-through to the story on your website or blog. Add a case studies tab to your website and use key quotes on appropriate pages. Post teasers to case studies on social media and be sure to print them in a one-page format for sales teams.

Take your cue from 76% of SMB marketers and make them a critical piece of your content arsenal.

Shuck status quo and go big.

2012/13Goodbye 2012. You’ve been fair.

You’ve given me fair results for what I sowed.

You didn’t surprise me with high-highs or low-lows.

You ended as you began, slightly better but no worse.

You didn’t suck, but you didn’t delight, either.

As I look back on the year, I feel mildly successful we slid sideways. After a four year recession and subsequent financial bloodletting, I can appreciate status quo victories. Sideways isn’t backwards.

Still.

Is that enough?

I’ve been happy to get work and build my writing business. Thrilled to explore industries and establish relationships with editors and marketing managers. Satisfied to call what I earned an income.

But as the year ends and I look forward into 2013, I find I’m less satisfied. I’ve been living safe, working and asking for just enough.

I’m not a fan of hype touting abundant living and shoot-for-the-moon thinking. Barnes and Nobles has entire sections devoted to bigger living and, honestly, I’m repelled by the gusts of hot air emanating from these aisles.

Yet here I am, pondering abundance and how I might achieve it.

It’s very simple, really. I don’t need a book to tell me what I need to do. (And neither do you.)

I need to believe that more is possible.

And I need to believe I am capable of more.

Then, I need to live and work like I believe.

So for 2013, I’ll be working to expand my expectations. To shuck status quo and accept a little more than what seems fair. I’ll battle my own worst enemy–me.

Stay tuned and see how it goes. Will you join me in this simple resolution?

 

file0002129665280

5 Surprising Ways a Teenager Can Easily Help Your Business

In a press release issued in early 2012, Renee Ward, founder of Teens4Hire.org was quoted as saying, “For the past decade, statistics show 3 out of 4 teens who wanted work could not land jobs.” He points to a lackluster job market and competition with older adults as culprits.

Creative bosses can create opportunity for this demographic and tap into young minds by hiring them to do what they already do best.

 Five Things Teens Already Do That Can Help You

1. Make videos. Businesses need cool images and visual content on web pages. Who else has the mad video skills and editing prowess to help establish YouTube Channels and embed video streams?

2. Take photos. Check Facebook to see that teens’ photo perspectives are fresh and interesting. Let these perspectives shed new life on a tired web page.

3. Manage social media. Teens Tweet, update status’s and pin photos all day long. Hire a teen to help your up your online cred by sending regular posts (approved by you, of course) to all the usual sites.

4. Design logos. Turn a teenaged doodler free to design a new logo.

5. Ride a skateboard. Why not put the dude skateboarder grinding in your parking lot to work as a delivery service? Pay him to fetch and deliver packages or run errands.

Whether it is your own teenager or someone else’s, you can be the hero by showing a young person how the capital system works by offering meaningful work for pay. It’s a win-win.

My work has appeared in USA Today College, Clubhouse, Next Step U, GreatSchools.org and Entrepreneur as well as regional publications such as Enjoy magazine and the daily Record Searchlight. View more clips and samples of my work here.

 

5 Ways to Avoid Having a Repellant Website

If you are any kind of shopper, you know the difference between a store’s inviting first impression and an immediate turnoff. Navigation, lighting and an appealing selection make the difference whether you stay and shop or turn and run.

Website Repellant for small businessIf you are any kind of web surfer, you know the same impressions hold true for websites. The only difference being, you can hit a back button faster than you can turn on your heel.

If you are any kind of business owner, this should matter. A study by 1and1 Internet Inc. found that 46% of US consumers have cancelled plans to spend money with a small business after discovering a poor quality website. Twenty-nine percent of Americans feel local business websites look “unimpressive.” Forty-five percent of consumers believe that a bad website makes a worse impact than a business having no website at all.

Yikes.

What is an SMB to do?

Limited budgets, limited time and confusion over what qualifies as valuable content makes web management an end-of-list task for many small business owners.

The good news is that websites don’t have to be complicated to be appealing. Simple but compelling graphics, a platform compatible with desktop and mobile devices and well-thought out primary content will at least appease, if not impress, even the most web-savvy surfer.

5 Ways to Spiff your Site

  1. Be your customer. Load your site and pretend you are a first-time customer. What is your first impression, visually? Can you tell within 15 seconds what your company does? Is it obvious where to go to get more information? If not, there is work to be done.
  2. List your most important pieces of information. At the very least, you will want to have a home page that summarizes your business, an about us page that gives a brief history of your company and introduces the owners or key players, and a products or services page. Consider also adding a testimonial or portfolio page to show successful jobs and happy clients.
  3. Load a simple website program. Developing a simple site requires a learning curve but it doesn’t have to be super steep. I use WordPress.org for Bizziwriter and found that through tutorials, I, a virtual website newbie, could publish a respectable and aesthetically pleasing site all by myself. As my business has grown, I’ve employed help to fine tune search engine optimization but the bones are mine. WordPress offers thousands of free customizable themes and does a good job prompting you to include what is most important.
  4. Add content on a regular basis. The worst thing is an old, tired and static site that looks like no one loves it. Just as successful retailers change and freshen displays, web masters need to update websites with industry news, business announcements or blog entries that offer a window into your business’s passion, direction, personality or new products and services.
  5. Use photos and videos. Smart phones make it easy to snap quick shots and make short informative videos. Embed tutorials or post photos of happy customers. They’ll add to the currency and appeal of your site.
Your website is an active, evolving tool, not a one-off yellow pages ad. From the survey results, it is clear your website is as important as your place of business for today’s tech-savvy world.

Neiman Marcus, Walmart or an empty warehouse: What Your Web Content Says About You

True confessions. I’m not a big shopper. But if I were, where would I rather shop?

I can tell you, it wouldn’t be Walmart.

In fact, I haven’t been to a Walmart for over two years. Why? It’s garish. It’s huge. It’s exhausting. The products are cheaply made. Even if they are of quality, I’m pretty sure they’re not quality because they sit on the same shelf as the cheap stuff. And, they’ve dumbed down the clerks to the point where they know how to consult their handheld inventory checkers but can’t tell you anything about their products.

Does your website look like Walmart?

If cheap, smorgasbord-type business is your game, then cool. Your’e where you need to be.

For the rest of you, a little review may be in order.

Is your website garishly presented? Bright colors? Lots of colors? Boxes all over? Scrunched copy? These are all signs that you’ve got a Walmart website. It’s there. You’ve got content. But are you attracting the client you want?

Empty building

Meaningful content should fill your website shelves.

Does your website resemble an empty warehouse?

Maybe you paid a pricey sum to get a super cool web framework. It’s got sliders and fading testimonies and a few really compelling photos. But does it say anything? Or does it just look great?

Is there a call to action? Are you offering a viewer anything of value? What’s hanging on your racks?

Wouldn’t you rather be Neiman Marcus?

Neiman Marcus has it all together. The look. The products. The experience.

That’s what your website needs, too. It should be a place where your prospects can 1) find what they need, 2) get help if they need it, and 3) feel proud they got it there.

A great looking website is lovely, but if it doesn’t do the work, it doesn’t do any good.

Great content is great, but if it is presented poorly, it’ll never be read.

You need balance. Well-designed website + great content + search engine optmization = a useful tool.

Don’t pay for a website it you can’t get all three.

It just so happens that Bizziwriter can hook you up. Call us or contact us (see the nifty tab to the right) and we’ll show you how to go from BigBox to first-class.

 

 

 

Content strategy vs. SEO

SEO vs. Content Strategy: Strange Bedfellows or What?

My SEO partner and I have these funny conversations.

SEO Man: You’ve got a catchy title there but where are your key words?

Me: Well… I care more about the content than the keywords.

SEO Man: But you won’t get found.

Me: But it doesn’t matter if I don’t provide interesting, relevant and high quality writing. 

Content strategy vs. SEOIs content marketing and SEO mutually exclusive or can the two find common ground? Let’s unpack the argument.

SEO’s function

SEO, or search engine optimization, thrives on pleasing autobot algorithms that drive search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Everyone knows that no one looks past the first page of search results so getting placement in the top 10 is, and should be, a high priority. It’s akin to the days-of-old Yellow Page listing. If your business wasn’t listed, you were anonymous–and anonymous is bad in terms of commerce and profit.

SEO specialists urge content creation around keywords and keyword phrases. Their approach is to choose a medium to high traffic search term and build content around them.

Content marketing’s strategy

Content managers approach content as art. Words, flow, tone and branding language make for engaging and relevant copy–sometimes witty, hopefully informative and useful. Content marketing managers would rather play with cadence and pulse than boring key phrases that threaten our artfully arranged words.

We understand our titles need to catch attention, that we have just seconds to engage readers and move them through a seamless bucket brigade that ends with a clear call to action.

Which strategy wins?

Both and neither.

Just as a quarterback cannot claim the glory of the game without the grit of linemen forcing plays and opening clear paths of play, neither can a content marketing manager hope to achieve web content strategy goals without the heavy lifting of a good SEO evaluation.

By the same token, SEO managers can kill great copywriting if they ignore the art content managers bring.

Bizziwriter now offers both

I’m excited to note that my SEO partner and I have avoided fisticuffs and found our way to a mutually beneficial partnership that, ultimately, benefits our client base.

We both recognize the need for high quality SEO reviews as well as killer copywriting. Neither of us are complete without the other.

That said, I’d like to introduce Matt Morgan, CEO at Optimize Worldwide. His SEO and web design company will extend the benefits I offer my clients while my marketing, copywriting and business communication skills will add value to his. It’s a win-win, in my opinion.

Matt’s skill at the confusing backend SEO strategy and his knowledge in how to “make it so” are impressive. And he has endless patience for those of us, like me, who know only enough to be dangerous. He lives in meta-tag world.

I dream in words. He dreams in code. It’s a perfect pairing.

How will this work?

Both Bizziwriter and Optimize Worldwide will continue to operate as unique entities. But when I hand off a client’s copy for web publication, its work is only half done. It needs to find the goal–its audience. I will suggest Matt’s services and feel good about extending tools to move my copywriting down the field. Optimize Worldwide offers a variety of SEO packages, from basic SEO practices review and evaluation to ongoing, monthly SEO management.

And vice versa. I’ll offer his clients an artful portrayal of brand. I’ll tell their story while working key phrases and keywords into the copy where they fit.

Stay tuned for Matt’s SEO dedicated page on Bizziwriter’s website and look for more compelling posts that will increase our understanding of magical SEO powers.

For more information about SEO or copywriting today, please click on the Contact button to your right or sign up for our newsletter at the top right of this page.

What do you think?

Is SEO more important than content marketing? Is copywriting content more vital than SEO? Weigh in on the comments below.

 

Video blogging: Add uumph to your content marketing strategy

When copywriting isn’t enough to jumpstart your marketing

It might surprise you to know that not all content needs to be written. In fact, a Nielsonwire’s Global Report notes that watching video content on computers is just as common as watching video content on television. And mobile video consumption growth is biting at computer consumption’s heels.

Think about it. After a long day in the office, staring at mountains of text-driven documents, you open your Google Reader and have a choice between visually stimulating videos and photos or more text. Add a bustling subway ride and the choice is clear. Video wins. Entertain me. Don’t make me work for this.

Video-driven content marketing, though lacking the ever-important keywords, gives you an opportunity to tell your story. And though Google swears it doesn’t give ranking preference to video content on say, You Tube, my experience has been that it kinda does.

Types of video content

Your video, like your blog, can cover different territory. Changing it up keeps your content interesting and allows you to be creative, straightforward or business-like.

Emotional video content

Emotional video content focuses on experience. What experience does your product or service promise? This goes beyond peace of mind. Think lifestyle. What might your client be doing instead of worrying about not having your widget? How will their life be better. Show this story using texture rich images. Here is an example of a low-budget but very effective emotionally-rich video by Cyclopedia of Redding:

Interview video content

Interview video content can be one-sided or two. For a one-sided interview, activate your laptop or iPhone video and start talking. Do check your lighting and background image but don’t worry so much about it being professional grade filming. Just talk. Tell why you do what you do. Be human. Here is one of my earliest and most popular video offerings.

Testimonial video content

Similar to interview content, ask your happy clients if they would be willing to let you film them using your product. Intersperse clips of them telling why they made the decision to go with your company–what did they get with you over your competition, how did you solve their problems?

Here is a great example of a testimonial video for a local high school:

The Shasta Experience by Carson Schmeck

 

Disclaimer: The videographer for The Shasta Experience was my son, Carson, who is available for video projects. Contact him at CS Photography.

 

Instructional video content

How-to video content can be one of your most valuable tools. If your product isn’t tangible, consider how you might show your steps using PDF screen shots. Or, simply make your video using Prezi, a free presentation tool.

Variety is the spice of life. Give your readers some visual delight. They’ll thank you for it and you might just find your video posts, because they are so engaging, inviting, humorous, relevant or interesting, go viral.

What do you think? How might you use video blogging to enhance your content strategy?

Copywriting Case Study.

Improving content improves your marketing message.

Copywriters don’t invent every word. But copywriters wrestle content into submission as they consider your goals, your audience, the timbre of your message and the type of document they are creating.

Done poorly, content can have the following effects on your readers:

  • Disinterest
  • Confusion
  • Unfavorable assumptions of professionalism
  • Total turn off
  • No action
It’s that last one that really hurts. Because isn’t that what your content strategy is all about? Getting results?
How you communicate your message can mean the difference between having an opportunity to move a prospect to the next step in the sales chain or not.
A good copywriter helps you understand your objective, considers your current content and suggests or rewrites copy to achieve your goals.

A copywriting project unpacked

The best way to show you how the copywriter I know best (me) works is to, well, show you.

For this copywriting project, my client needed help with a funding packet that would, hopefully, attract significant donations of $1 to $12 million.

The packet I received was a cobbled collection of informational content, all important, but written by numerous committee members and laid down with no particular sense of order. They needed help organizing their document, adding clarity and making it more persuasive.

Here is a sample of what I received from them. A few things stood out to me immediately:

  • It doesn’t create a story for me–a reason that I, as a funder, might want to be emotionally or financially connected to the project.
  • The blocked paragraphs are hard to read.
  • There were few, if any, subheadings throughout the document. This audience is comprised of busy people who won’t want to comb through blocks of copy to discover what it is this foundation is asking.
  • Passive voice dominates the paragraphs which adds a slogging, flat rhythm. Passive voice robs sentences of any hope of excitement.

Revised draft adds persuasion and ease of reading.

I didn’t have to write from scratch but it is often more of a challenge to use and transform copy that is already written. It’s akin to deconstructing a poorly spun spider web and reweaving it to resemble something worthy of Charlotte’s Web.

To accomplish this client’s copywriting objectives, I worked with their document and mine, side by side in Scrivener (my favorite writing program), where I mined their details, grouped them, summarized where needed and determined an effective way of ordering their case for $12 million. I also chose stronger verbs, attempted to build their story and offered compelling reasons for this project in an easily digestible format. When they print this document, I will recommend they use schematic drawings as graphic alongside their content to build the visual piece of the story.

Here is what I delivered:

 

It might all be there, but it might not be good. But that is Okay.

Often clients know what they need to say, they just need help saying it. A good copywriter will never laugh at you for not waxing eloquent. We understand that not everyone dreams in word pictures and plays Words with Friends with relentless vigor.

There is nothing we love more than a good challenge such as this, where we peel away the extraneous and help clients find the gems within. Then, like an artist, we brush at our keyboards with generous doses of deletions and copy and pastes to, ultimately, present you with a shiny new brand that sounds way more bitchin’ than you ever thought possible.

It would be my pleasure to help you say what needs to be said. If you have one of “those projects” hanging around, please contact me using the button on the side of this page or by calling me at 530.638.3580. Let’s talk.

 

 

Wordle for SEO and Content Variety

Now that you’ve got your web pages optimized with keyword phrases and engaging content, have some fun adding variety. This Wordle tool is a great way to test whether you are using enough descriptive and SEO rich words on your website. Does your Wordle communicate what you do and the values you most want to communicate?

You might find your Wordle is cool enough to use as a graphic for additional collateral (brochures, business card, email signature).

Check out the Wordle website and they’ll walk you through a few very simple steps to get yours. Once it is created, you have options to change the size, shape and color. Here is Bizziwriter Copywriter’s message in a Wordle:

Let’s see your Wordle! Please share it with me.

Writing, Branding & Content Marketing: Blogs Worth Your Time

There are zillions of bloggers. Not all bloggers are focused and informative. Even when they are, only a handful write well enough to deliver their blogs in a form worth reading.

These blogs passed muster this week for me:iStock_000009604087XSmall

Writing Blind: How Blind People Manage to Write, a guest post by Maribel Steel on Robert Brewer’s My Name is Not Bob blog. Talk about inspiring. This woman talks about how she has tackled an industry that would seem to rely heavily on our sight. Instead of letting that scare her away, she found tools to help. We could all learn a little lesson here.

Why Consumers Dislike Corporate Brands that Get Too Familiar I don’t like it when a clerk calls me “Hon.” I’m not their “hon”– I’m a customer. But when my husband calls me Babe, I’m fine with it. Why? My husband has earned the right. Apparently, consumers feel the same about corporate messages that use too familiar terms. Find out if your company is making this off-putting blunder.

3 Components of a Content Marketing Calendar that Works by Copyblogger. Content marketing seems to have been the buzz topic of the week. If we had a pyramid of content, this one would be hanging out on top.

Persuade with Silky Smooth Copy by Neuromarketing. Tactile rich words make more of an impact on your readers. Instead of merely processing words, they’ll experience texture. Who knew?

How to Build a Reputation as an Expert with Content Marketing by Small Business Branding. Copyblogger posted about content marketing. I posted about content marketing. And so did this blog. Each one has a slightly different angle. All worth browsing.

Happy Memorial Day weekend. Hope you abandon your electronics for the weekend and have some fun.