Dec 01

What’s up with the ellipsis?

I have a client who insists on using an ellipsis, for no apparent reason, at least once in every email she sends me.  At first I misunderstood what she was really trying to say and assumed she was impatient or implying “Um, come on… get it together!” (For example, “Hello…  I need the newsletter sent out today…”)  Now I realize it’s just her, let’s say, particular style of writing.


But perhaps we all have our own “ellipsis” of some sort.  Try to look at your email and other written correspondence with a new eye. Do you use some form of punctuation way too often? Do you capitalize constantly? Do you fail to capitalize anything? Do you use exclamation points when they are not necessary!? Do you add an extra question mark for no particular reason??

A simple tweak to your writing style could mean the difference between turning a potential business relationship off or relaying your message exactly as you intended.  Know what I mean…

Nov 30

The new project triangle of marketing and web development

Posted by Mandy Minor, marketing strategist and copywriter   I’m sure you’re familiar with the project triangle: fast, cheap, or good, where you have to pick two.  It’s fairly ubiquitous; heck, it even hung in Stump’s Supper Club when I worked there in college.

Project Triangle

But with good marketing and web development projects the conversation should be about rushed, inexpensive, and perfect instead.

Fast vs. rushed: All good marketers will get you what you need as fast as they can.  But if you need it yesterday, that’s an issue of rush services.

Cheap vs. inexpensive: Cheap isn’t a word you want associated with your marketing and web development.  But inexpensive – that’s different!  We all want what we need to be inexpensive.

Good vs. perfect: Again, good marketers and web developers will deliver good work all the time.  Perfect, on the other hand, takes your project to a higher level and consequently requires a higher level of service.

So there you have it, the new project triangle of marketing and web development – and graphic design, copywriting, resumes, and all other professional creative services.  Rushed, inexpensive, or perfect.  Which two are most important to you?

Oct 01

When push marketing isn’t so bad

Posted by Mandy Minor, marketing strategist and copywriter   I resisted starting Twitter and Facebook accounts for awhile, but now I’m on both and like them.  They are two small parts of the new social-media-as-marketing applications.  I like them so much because they represent an economical form of push marketing.

TV ads are traditional push: Show your stuff on TV and the right customers for you will respond.  Works great, but takes a big budget.

Guerilla marketing came in to save the bucks but took a lot of time and required you to do a lot of work to ferret out a few “good fit” customers and get them to listen to your message.  Not so fun.

Now social media combines the best of both – push marketing, but to the right people with less effort!  Don’t get me wrong; your messaging must be relevant and meaningful, which takes work.  But you just write it once, post it once, and watch people respond.  Love it!

Every day I get a new follower on Twitter, and who knows?  They – or someone they know – could become a client.

Just be careful what you post.  Before hitting “post” or “update,” think about who might see your words; realize that they will likely live on the Internet forever.

Mar 01

Pick your focus: positive or negative

Posted by Mandy Minor, marketing strategist and copywriter   The other morning in the shower I happened to notice something about my shampoo and conditioner bottles that I think is significant.

While most products’ marketing messages focus on the positive, hair care product messaging focuses squarely on the negative.

Diet pills proclaim, “We will shed those pounds!” not “You’re fat, you really should take these pills.” Magazines advertise that they’ll help you get more organized, find the perfect outfit, or date like a pro – not that you’re hopeless in these departments without them.

But the hair care bottles advertise their contents for “weak, lifeless, or dull hair” and say they are “lengthening for hard-to-grow hair.”

Wouldn’t it be more customer-friendly to say something like, “Luxurious formula for the length and sheen you crave,” rather than, “Hey you with the pathetic mop, over here!”

Apr 01

Tickle me SEO

SEO is hot, smokin’, on fire.  Everybody wants it, even if they don’t know exactly what it is or how to do it.  It’s coveted almost as much as Tickle Me Elmo was a few Christmases back – we’ll call it Tickle Me SEO.

Thing is, SEO is just another marketing tactic.  It’s not a strategy or plan, but an actionable pursuit that you can – but don’t have to – use as part of your larger marketing strategy.  So when companies rush to jump on the SEO bandwagon before evaluating if SEO really belongs as part of their marketing strategy, they’re not doing themselves any favors and may be wasting money.

Before you pump oodles of cash into your website and press releases getting them “optimized,” follow this list of action items to make sure you’ll get the best of what SEO has to offer.

1. Know the purpose and goals of your online marketing.  This means spending some time determining what you want your website to do for you and what level of return would deem the SEO a success.  After all, if you don’t know where you want to go, how will you ever get there?

2. Know your audience, what makes them respond and take action (also known as psychographics in Big Words Land).  You may know that women between the ages of 18 and 24 want your product or service, but those women have a few different reasons for buying.  Only if you know those reasons can you appeal to them.

3. Create relevant content.  You need your website or press release to pique interest and motivate people to take action.  What does this is information, not flashy ads and declarations of how many years you’ve been in business.

4. Present your content well.  If you have a pot of gold on your website but it’s buried in a fourth-tier page, no one will take the time to find it.  People want to find what they’re looking for with as little effort as possible, so make sure your site delivers that.  If you need to bring in a navigation expert, do it – the investment is well worth it.  This step also means designing and arranging your site for your visitors, not the search engines.  People first, machines second – it’s the people who buy!

5. Test it out.  Have employees, clients, and friends spend some time on your website or read your press release.  Take their questions and comments to heart, because if they’re wondering something you can bet other people will too.

After you’ve built and tested an easy-to-use site with lots of great content you’re ready to optimize – if you even need to at all.  And now you know you’ll get a great ROI instead of just guessing and hoping like those poor souls who stood in line for hours to get a doll!

Jun 29

Accentuate the positive

You know how people come up with solutions to problems in the shower?  Mandy comes up with questions – specifically, questions about marketing and why companies present their marketing the way they do.

And since this pontification occurs in the shower, the subject matter often revolves around personal care items – soap, body wash, shampoo and the like.

Some of her questions are plainly weird.  To whit: “Is this razor really supposed to make me feel like Venus?”

But other questions are quite good.  Like this one: “Why are hair care products marketed so negatively?”  Her query is simple.  Why, when most products and marketing messages focus on the positive, do hair car products focus on the negative?

Diet pills proclaim “We’ll shed those pounds!” not “You’re hopelessly fat, you really should take these pills.”  Yet hair care bottles advertise their contents for “weak, lifeless, or dull hair” or say they are “lengthening for hard-to-grow hair.”

Wouldn’t it be more customer-friendly to say something like “Luxurious formula for the length and sheen you crave,” rather than “Hey you with the pathetic mop, over here!”

Mar 19

Manipulation for Profit?

Copywriting is more than putting words on paper. It’s really reaching someone with the written word – so much so that they want to do what you suggest. So naturally it involves a basic knowledge of human motivators and using those motivators to elicit a response. If copywriters aren’t careful, this can become manipulation – something we at J Allan Studios do not condone.

Unfortunately, there are marketers out there who have no problem manipulating people, and in fact are quite proud of doing so. To whit: in a recent Target Marketing magazine article about using emotional drivers to improve response, the author recounted how Bob Hacker of The Hacker Group told him direct marketers are really psychologists whose job it is to manipulate readers into responding – without getting caught.

For us, the “without getting caught” part screams foul. We may be marketers, but we’re also consumers. And as consumers, we don’t want to be manipulated. Sure, we want to be informed of products or services we might want or need, and even enjoy being entertained in the process. But then leave us to make a decision; don’t play mind games or grossly exaggerate just for the sake of a sale.

Of course marketers need to make their offers attractive, but to go so far as to claim manipulation tactics? That’s sleazy. Mandy wrote as much on the article’s discussion board.

The article I got this link from (Dec. issue) says the copywriter’s job “is to manipulate readers into responding – preferably without getting caught in the act.” I have to say I don’t like this approach, don’t agree with it. If you’ve got a relevant, quality offer and are presenting information that readers want, there’s no manipulation involved. I am a copywriter, and never, EVER think of myself as a manipulator. I take on jobs that I believe in and do the best I can to get people to respond. But manipulating them into responding is never on my mind; providing value – to them and my client – is. I think of it this way: I am not just a marketer, but also a consumer. I do not want to be manipulated by anyone, so why would I take that approach to my work?

Jul 30

We need a new mark

Trademark (TM), registermark (RM), and copyright (“circle c”) are all well and good for their respective intentions, but they no longer meet the needs of sales and marketing messaging.  Sure, common phrases can be used very effectively to sell/market, but does that mean no one else, ever, can use them?  It’s like the Happy Birthday song; they should be public domain.

Of course, Donald Trump should be able to trademark “The Donald,” because he is the object of that particular phrase; there is no ambiguity about who The Donald is.  But trademarking “You’re fired!”?  Please!  It’s a phrase that’s been in use forever, and is used daily.  No one person/company should “own” it.

But wait – then that means other businesses will use it, piggy-backing off of The Donald’s immense success and diluting his brand.  So he has to trademark it, right?

Not if there were a messagemark, or MM – a protection that allowed only the registering person/business to use that phrase in their sales and marketing efforts.  The key to a MM would be that the phrase is still fair game at your family gathering or company party, but no other business or person could use it in sales and marketing.

So, The Donald is the only one who gets to say “You’re fired!” in a commercial, the only person who can say it to promote his businesses.  But Mr. Magoo in Human Resources can say it when cutting staff without worrying about a lawsuit.  Doesn’t that make sense?