*Write* Often

April 13, 2010

Yeah. I’m guilty.

I suppose we all are. We start this big adventure and when the shiny rubs off, we get bored with it. Or, maybe we sit and stare at the monitor but the words won’t come out. Or, heck, maybe we just *really* hate the product.At any rate… the clock ticks and nothing is getting written down.

Whatever the reason, there are times when we just can’t get it together to write anything cogent. In fact, we can’t keep still long enough to get past “The” first word. I mean, the sun *is* shining. It *is* 80 degrees outside. And it *is* baseball season….

So what do we do? Do we just give in to our carnal desires and run out to the ball park for some hotdogs, beer and baseball?

Of Course! But *not* before we write a bit about what we are going to do. (There’s always a catch ain’t there?)

We really have to write a little bit as often as we can, even if it’s crappy, or silly, or incoherent. The mere act of writing gets our juices flowing and keeps our minds limber. It provides us with the practice of getting our thoughts down on paper … er … on cyber-paper. It provides us an opportunity for free thought that is not constrained by our production schedule – and *THAT* my friends – is when some of the most creative and imaginative writing takes place.

So jot down those tidbits and scraps. Park them someplace and review them every so often. You might be surprised at how creative you are and, what’s more important, you might just find that tidbit that sparks your imagination and allows you to finish that production piece.

So – when you find you can’t write…. *WRITE!*

* The term “meme” is one first popularized by Dawkins, but I will admit that my usage is liked to Richard Brodie’s book: Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme.

Ideas or Memes, those most basic of ideas (the ones that we are biologically attuned to), are likely the most important aspects of a good marketing blog post (or any marketing copy for that matter). The reason why is incredibly simple: We (humankind) have been programmed genetically to pay attention to certain basic mentions in order to ensure our survival. (Okay, so some of you will find fault with these statements either as over-simplifications or as scientifically incorrect or even religiously or philosophically correct, but I ask you to just give me a moment to see where I’m going.)

There are just certain themes that *REALLY* get our attention: Sex, Crisis, Mission, Danger, Crisis, Opportunity, etc. (Again, thanks to Richard Brodie) and I think that many of us would agree – these themes really *DO* grab our attention for some reason (no matter the biological, teleological, etc., reasons).

I will not bother to go any further into explaining *why* these ideas are so attention-grabbing; I suppose that is a subject that Dawkins, Brodie and others are better-qualified to do. But, I will say that these ideas (at least one, but the more the better) *MUST* be present in your blog or ad-copy. Think about it: you have but a few seconds to grab the reader’s attention and convince her that she *MUST* pay attention to your post; that there is something contained within that is *necessary* or *required* – otherwise, why should she bother to read it at all? (unless your blog, like mine, is technical in nature, but those memes are present here, just a bit more subtle.)

“Okay,” you say, “I’ll bite. But why the Chinese words in the picture?”

“Ah, Grasshopper,” I say, “To illustrate that some memes might be more powerful than others.”

Huh?

Some ideas might just be *more* important or more attention-grabbing than others and I suggest that the attention-grabbing scale ought to be kept in mind when authoring your blog.

Let me explain what I mean by “more attention-grabbing.” There is a debate (I will not go into detail) among the linguistic community concerning whether the Chinese word (pictogram) for “crisis” is a compilation of the pictograms for “danger” and “opportunity.” If you look at the picture, you will get an idea of how the idea works. As many view pictograms as representations of ideas rather than words, I think they help illustrate my point a bit better.

Here, the idea “crisis” appears to contain elements of “danger” and of “opportunity;” as if the meme for “crisis” ought to be more attention-grabbing than the memes for danger or opportunity. So, let’s take a look at what the meme for”crisis” might entail: Where “danger” is a potential (i.e. that rustling in the bushes *might* be a tiger and is potentially dangerous) and there the meme for “opportunity” is likewise potential in nature (i.e. a “chance” to do something), the meme for “crisis” might be something more than *just* potential, it might be that the meme contains an actuality (there *IS* a tiger in the bushes, it sees us and it *IS* coming to eat us.)

Let me illustrate it another way: “Act Now! There are just a few of these wonderful products left! Don’t get left out!” or the ubiquitous “We can’t do this all day!”

Still not buying it? (sorry for the pun) Why do we post the minutes or seconds remaining before the advertised special ceases? Because we want to create an artificial crisis that will force the potential customer to act on instinct rather than wait and consider her decision (because our product might not *really* be such a good value?) At any rate, by creating this false crisis, we combine our memes in a powerful way that makes them more influential to our reader.

Ponder this for a bit. We will come back to it.

Okay, so I know that I was *supposed* to blog on about other things today, but I ran across this interesting blog post from switch 11 (What impact do page and font size have on reading?) and decided that it was a topic worth including here.

Most folks just never get around to considering something so simple as font size in terms of functionality. Yeah, I know we ALWAYS look at font size when themeing out pages, but that’s done more on the level of what *looks* good.

I think the important take-away from switch11’s blog post is that we really ought to show more consideration to our reader, if only because we want to make it easier for the reader to actually *read* the post. So, when we create our client/reader sketches, we should take a moment to consider their physical abilites in addition to their other needs / wants. As a sage old Bosun’s Mate once told me: If you want it done A*$hole, you gotta make it easy for ’em to do it.

There’s a lot of wisdom in that addage, don’t you agree?

*What* to blog about

March 31, 2010

Many marketing professionals will tell you that the most important things to focus on are the “four P’s” (aka “the Marketing Mix”, 1): Product, Place, Price and Promotion. And, you know, they’re right. These are very important things to focus on when writing the marketing blog.

Clearly, one’s product is important. I mean, it’s the reason you’re writing your blog, right? You want to tell folks how great your product is, what it can do, why it is important to them and (most importantly), *WHY* they ought to buy it.

Price is next as you’ll want to focus on the price point, consider whether to offer seasonal discounts or other discounts (such as bundling, quantity, etc.) Certainly, you’ll want your buyer to feel that she is getting a great value for her money. Place (Distribution) is important, but probably not what you will want to spend your time writing your blog about.

Place(ment) and promotion come next, but we can deal with them in later blog installments.

But, even though all these factors are incredibly important – and many business schools still teach the for P’s as the *FULL* “gospel” as it were. However, here I  argue that there is another, maybe even *MORE* important focus: the buyer. Because when you know your buyer, you know *WHY* they are buying your product. Once you come to understand the why of a thing, you’re halfway there.

Later, we will talk more about how one comes to understand her or his buyer such that he or she can write to *THAT* person specifically.

1. The Marketing Mix was more or less coined by Neil H. Borden in 1964, “The Concept of the Marketing Mix.” Borden began using the term in his teaching in the late 1940’s after James Culliton had described the marketing manager as a “mixer of ingredients”.

Different, doesn’t *ALWAYS* have to be *COMPLETELY* different.

What I mean to say is that, while we want our content to be different from the next blog’s, we certainly must realize that (at least for instance, technical blogs) there is only so much information. So, the information. itself, might not be different – it’s just presented in a new and different way. Look, I’m not going to pretend that there aren’t a bazillion (this is a very scientific number – the bazillion) different bloggers out there explaining to their readers how to write blogs. My blog about writing blogs must somehow be different than the others – otherwise – why on earth would I expect anyone to stop by and read my blog? They could get the information elsewhere…

I am hoping that my explanation of purposeful blogs is a bit simpler and more easy to understand for most *AND* I want to help those folks who aren’t professionals… those regular folks who need to write, who *MUST* write, but who just don’t have the time (or even the desire) to spend hours upon hours creating the *PERFECT* blog posts. I know I’m not a magician – I don’t have a magic formula…

So ask yourself, how is my blog going to be different from the (here’s that technical number again) BAZILLION other blogs out there? What will I do that’s different? What will my blog offer folks that they cannot get elsewhere?

Now write it down on a sticky note and stick it to your computer monitor. You will need to refer to it every time you write. The purposeful site *MUST* always have a purpose. And that purpose can’t vary – stay focused.

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Next: OMyGawd! I need a pretty theme!

They tell me that, if you *REALLY* want to work in the social media field, you *MUST* have your own blog. *AND* what’s more, the content in your blog *MUST* be interesting, witty, insightful and articulate *WITHOUT* being preachy, pompous, wordy or condescending.

*SIGH*

What I hear from *THEY* is that my blog writing must be all things to all people.

But, that just isn’t possible. Not for me, not for you, heck, not for anybody. The truth of the matter is that writing will not appeal to everybody, all of the time. It cannot if it’s going to be relevant and worth the reading.

And that, my dear readers, is exactly my point. When writing a blog, one *MUST* focus on the point of the blog. Go ahead, ask yourself: “why am I writing this?” If you cannot answer that question with something sensible and specific (other than the amorphous “well, I want to attract potential customers”), then you need to rethink your position *before* you start writing. Folks don’t want to read drivel. They don’t want to read OPM (Other People’s Materials). They don’t want to be preached to (well, okay, maybe they do, but unless you are writing a sermon and they are members of your congregation or some such, but I digress).

They want you to tell them something new. Whether it’s about you, your product, your service, your ideas, it doesn’t matter. Your blog visitors want to hear something *NEW* – or at least something that’s being told in a new way.

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So this is the first step: *WHAT* are you going to say that’s different from the next blog?

Next: *How* different is different?

The first thing you need to do is determine that current business’ needs – what does it NEED in terms of a web presence, blogging abilities, calendaring, catalog/sales, wiki, document/image management and so forth.

Once you have identified the need, you then must identify that business’ ability; can it support those needs (infrastructure, budget, manpower, etc.)

Having identified the need and ability, you can then move toward an explanation of how you (or your company) can meet that need (in a realistic fashion) while acknowledging the business’ strengths and limitations (it may be possible that your plan actually offers services that address those limitations).

Often, one will also provide a time line with a description of how such process would be implemented and (in more detailed versions) one might also address financing and budgetary concerns, infrastructure development and needs, personnel and training issues, etc.

Lastly, one ought provide a metrics / testing method to demonstrate that your product is actually meeting the needs / producing the outcomes that you promised and, if necessary, a remedial process by which any shortcomings can be rectified.

Please understand that this is a very general outline of what might be called a “proposal.” It is not unusual that such a proposal will be proffered in response to a company’s RFP (Request for Proposals). In such cases, one ought use the RFP as a guideline.

Good Luck.

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