more Funny Quotes

02 September 2011

Success Stories aka Case Studies

This time we're looking at Success Stories, which are also known as Case Studies. You'll see these on most websites usually right next to the option to either download a white paper or go to the white paper section of the website.

Success stories are just exactly what they sound like: the client / customer has a problem, you help with client / customer with your product or service to solve the problem, client / customer problem solved and their clients and customers are happier, their sales are better, or whatever the clients / customers definition of success for the issue was accomplished. 

Success stories are STORIES which everybody loves to hear. I think it's some kind of innate human quality that loves to hear stories. As a trained hypnotherapist, I can tell you that stories speak to us on a subconscious level. They speak to our inner child, the part of us that loved stories as a kid and the part of us that learns from stories. Stories speak to our soul, and that's why nearly every marketeer out there will tell you to frame your marketing materials in a story form if at all possible. Success stories do just that and they star someone with a similar problem to your prospects.

Start the success story using a benefits-oriented title, concise client / customer quote, and a summary of the benefits. Include photos and/or video if possible. Human factors engineers have verified we respond better to things that have faces, even if it's just a smiley face on the computer screen.

Here's the quick list, then below we'll go into details about each item. 

  • Title
  • Client / Customer Quote
  • Benefits Summary
  • Tell the Story 
  • Emphasize the main benefit.
  • Use action verbs.
    (For example: improves, reduces, streamlines, etc. Writing in active voice regularly helps keep these verbs in the front of your mind.) 
  • Keep it short.
Client / Customer Quote
  • Include a concise, benefits-oriented quote, ideally 20 words or less. 
  • Make it sound like dialog, and request permission to attribute  the quote to a high-level exec (include the name, title, and company with it).
    This can usually be handled via e-mail, then the person you're attributing the quote to can easily make it their own. 
  • Focus on results, benefits, and overall satisfaction, not what was done or how it was done. (What and How can be addressed in the white paper and data sheet.) 
Benefits Summary
  • Highlight the key qualitative and quantitative benefits in a few concise bullet points at the beginning of the doc.
Tell the Story 
In this part, use interesting subheads to help guide the reader. 

  • Describe the general challenge, problem, issue, or opportunity faced. Keep it short and down to a few sentences.
  • Smoothly transition to a description of the specific challenge, problem, issue, or opportunity this specific client / customer faced.
  • Remember to define terms readers may not be familiar with.
  • Describe the solution.
    First discuss the specific solution for the specific problem the client / customer faced. Then smoothly transition to a description of the more general ways this solution can solve industry problems, issues, respond to regulatory requirements, or take advantage of business opportunities. 
Finish Strong 
Finish strong with the benefits of the solution. 
  • Provide more information on the benefits of the solution. Remember to map the benefits back to the topics discussed in the problem section to close the loop for the reader.
  • If the benefits are quantified, describe the assumptions (including any financial ones) and methods used to calculate them. This helps clarify for the readers how the benefits were determined.
  • Provide contact information (name, phone, e-mail, and website).  
That's it! Sounds easy, doesn't it? :)  Now you have a checklist to make sure all the elements are there the next time you have to whip up a success story.

Until next time,

21 August 2011

Newsletters, where "brevity is the soul of wit"

This time we're talking about newsletters in detail, where (to quote Shakespeare) "brevity is the soul of wit." And this is truer in newsletters than in other forms of writing.

When I worked in technology transfer, we published a quarterly newsletter that ran 8-10 pages. In those pages, you had a feature story that covered the entire front page and then the rest was filled with smaller stories from the 6 staff writers. Basically, we had 3 paragraphs to tell you (1) what the technology was and what it did, (2) what the SDI or "star wars" funding was that was the tie-in we needed to cover the story, and (3) the commercial applications. 

That little newsletter found its way to a number of other publications because they could re-print and use the stories. For example, one story found its way to the cover of the Wall St Journal.... the one on laser eye surgery, and yes it was born from the laser research done for SDI. Another story was on the "smog dog" sensor that could tell by looking at car emissions whether they were within established guidelines or not. That technology I now pass routinely on the highways of Colorado in the form of "rapid screening" sensors. A third was the material used to fix the Hubble Telescope (remember, it needed "glasses"?), another was the Blue Lasers which gave birth to blue LEDs and Blue Ray disc. (Blue light can hold more information because of its longer wavelength.) The material the pizza guy uses to keep your pizza hot also came from the SDI research.

So, although I had been writing and working on my skills using information from places like Writer's Digest and books like Write Tight, working on that newsletter staff helped me hone my brevity skills even more.  

Newsletters are one of the easiest marketing tools you can use and one of the cheapest, right behind your business cards. These days, there are services like AWeber where for less than $20/month you can set up your newsletter opt-ins and auto-responders so the visitors to your website who would enjoy seeing information from you on a regular basis can. And at least w/ AWeber, you can set up a whole bunch of newsletters for different sites or different blogs, each with their own e-mail lists. 

This regular contact with your customers and clients is invaluable as you build a trusting relationship with them. Because b2b products and services are so much more expensive than b2c and because they involve more than one stakeholder, the more you can build this relationship the better. It is not unusual for buying decisions to take months before the final purchase is done, and chances are the customer will also purchase a service contract of some type along with the product.  Especially if it's IT-related in any way, shape, or form. 

The trick is to make sure that the information you are sending in your newsletters is indeed helpful to the recipient and that you are not just annoying them on a regular basis with "buy now" messages. The other trick is to make sure that your newsletters are frequent enough to inform but not frequent enough to annoy. 

I get e-mails from some places daily. Sometimes more than daily. And unless the subjects are *really interesting* I tend to cancel these mailing lists pretty quickly because I just don't have the time to spend on them. Some places send newsletters weekly, others monthly, and even others bimonthly or quarterly. 

So what frequency is the right frequency? That depends on a lot of variables, not the least of which is your audience. Like other forms of writing, you must NAIL your audience and know who you're talking to. How busy are they? How much time do they have? What are their greatest concerns? What are you sending in the newsletter? Is it helpful information? The more the newsletter is helpful to your audience, the more likely they are to "click" with you and your services or products.

So once you have a pretty good idea of who you're talking to, try and include more helpful information than selling information in your newsletter. 

Yes, tell them about sales and special promotions, but also share industry information with them and links to current developments. For example, HP announcing last Thu that they're looking to sell off their PC division is kind of a big deal as is Google buying Motorola's device division. How is that going to impact the rest of the industry? How is that going to affect your client/customer's business? How is it going to affect your business?

I guarantee that if you share that kind of valuable information with your newsletter subscribers, they will indeed stay on your list. Your name will stay in the front of their mind, and when they are ready to purchase, you'll be one of the first they will contact for a quote. :)

until next time,

14 August 2011

re-focus: b2b marketing for high tech companies

Welcome to our relaunched, refocused blog! The website has changed focus, so we thought it only natural to change the focus of our blog as well. We're transitioning from strictly doing technical writing to focusing on technical copywriting. What's the difference? Well, there are a lot of differences and a lot of similarities for the longer marketing materials.

For one, technical writing is much more involved with the end user of the equipment or the application. And that's not a bad thing. In fact, that's a good thing because we can easily take our "user advocate" skills and apply it to creating b2b technical copy. The WIIFM factor or "what's in it for me?" It's only a bit more complicated because we have to address the WIIFM factor for not only whomever will end up using the product or service, but also the manager's WIIFM and the accounting department's WIIFM, and the senior managers WIIFM, and so on. These additional WIIFMs must be addressed in addition to the primary WIIFM somewhere in the marketing materials, and for technical marketing it's often in the success stories, white papers, and on the website. All of those are naturals for the technically-inclined writer.

Success stories, white papers, and websites along with newsletters and social marketing are where we're focusing our b2b efforts. These longer marketing materials (success stories, white papers, and websites) are a natural for one who's been writing the longer-form technical documents (installation and configuration guides, procedures, policies, online help, IT department newsletters, and so forth).

So over the weeks to come, we'll examine those longer forms in this blog. We'll start with newsletters next time only because we have a long history of writing newsletters of all kinds --- IT department newsletters, professional technology transfer newsletters, even neighborhood HOA newsletters.Then we'll move on to white papers and success stories. 

Lastly, we'll start delving into websites because that's a rather large subject area because the way a page is crafted depends on what it is exactly you want it to do, as well as what you want your reader to do. Buy something? Subscribe to a newsletter? Sign up for your e-mail list? Just like in technical writing and any form of writing really, you must nail the audience first and what it is you want them to do. Then craft the page or document to persuade them to do just that. 

Persuasive writing is marketing writing. And building relationships build trust. In the b2b world, your client or customer is going to spend thousands of dollars (not just $29.95) on a purchase that may last them several years. You're also going to try and get them to purchase a service contract for that piece of hardware of software, so you'll have an on-going relationship with them. That's why building that relationship on trust is so important. And that's why this type of marketing is so different from b2c. 

What's that? Social Marketing? FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter?  Yep, we'll look at that after working through the details of a b2b website because what you're usually trying to do at that point is drive traffic to your site. At least from a b2b perspective. You may also want to have your Help Desk or a "social marketing director" monitoring all the chatter because one tweet or remark about your "bad" service or product can quickly go viral.  :) 

until next time,

27 July 2011

Taking quotes out of context

One of my biggest pet peeves is taking quotes out of context, which any self-respecting writer will tell you is dishonest. It misrepresents the person being quoted and is basically LYING. So I totally understand those folks who do not grant interviews unless they get to review the final piece because they're afraid the writer (if they're not hones) will take them totally out of context and misrepresent their meaning.

Same with plagiarism--oh wait! That would be the VP who's an admitted plagiarist (and which should have disqualified him from public office IMHO).

I guess the big O's speech writer was the one lying the other night........ this blurb also addresses several other liberals who have been taking quotes out of context as well.

"President Obama is the latest Democrat to try to enlist Ronald Reagan in a campaign to saddle Americans with more taxes. Last week, MSNBC host Chris Matthews took some of Reagan's quotes on taxes out of context and chided, "Would Reagan even be a Republican today?" No doubt the 40th president is in..."

24 July 2011

so much writing, so little time :) Let's talk about web writing...

You may have noticed there was some streamlining going on over at the main writing website. The focus is changing from technical writing and general writing and editing to web writing, technical copywriting, and technical writing. Yes, there is a difference.

Web writing, nearly everyone is familiar with these days. It's the content you find everywhere on the web. However, what you don't always find is websites that are doing their jobs. There are many "informational" web sites that just seem to be someone talking into space. A number of blogs are like that. They don't really want you the reader to do anything...just read and maybe comment, maybe not. There are plenty of sites like that, but these days most of us expect them to be a little more interactive. Let us at least share you on FB & Twitter! lol

There are sites that are informational but that also direct you to do something. Usually you'll find these types of sites on the geeky or technical end of things. There will be plenty of white papers, product information, and help available. But to get to the "meat" of the content, they'd like you to sign up for the newsletter, please. And that isn't a bad deal. That's what our writing site does now.

Then there are those really interactive blog sites where everyone can comment on the main story. They're everywhere. The one place I find them quite annoying is on what's supposed to be my objective, local news websites. Yes, I'm one of "those" who usually turns those comment pages off when I'm just really trying to scan the headlines, see if there's anything I need to be aware of, and get back to whatever type of writing I'm working on at the moment.

It's easy to suffer from "information overload" these days.... so learning to practice moderation here, as well as with your food is a pretty good policy. And always, always, always --- consider the source and the spin!  To make sure you're getting a balanced view somewhere in the middle, remember to check the story on "the other side" of the fence as well.  Remember, there are at least 2 sides to every story, and the truth lies somewhere in between.

Until next time... write well & be well!

04 June 2011

time to write...part 2

Whether you've noticed it or not, the writing site has under gone a big overhaul, putting more of an emphasis on the copywriting and business writing side of things. That's taken place over the last few months in the "spare" time mostly on weekends.

Big changes were removing our writing and editing pages; these are now available in the Writing and Editing Tips booklet sent to those who sign up for our newsletter. Other big changes were overhauling the Portfolio page and adding some testimonials from past clients. Anything to make use look more professional!

We're not done yet --- over the summer expect to see a design change with some new images and probably a new logo as well.

Baby steps...little pieces in the little time available. :)

31 May 2011

17 February 2011

Finding time to write

If you work in another industry, finding time to write may be easier than you think. Before I became a "professional" writer, I worked in the environmental industry as an analyst and product manager. And at that time, I started polishing my writing skills again by taking some "fun" creative writing classes.

How did I find the time to write when I was working 50, 60, and at times 80 hours a week? Simple. I started taking a lunch hour, for starters. :)  And then on weekends, there were some late-nighters as well. (Unlike many  writers, I'm a night owl by nature and the quietness of late night seems to feed my imagination more than the rushing energy during the day.)

Then I landed my first professional writing job, where I actually did spend all day writing. And guess what happened? Spending all day word-smithing zapped my creativity (and my brain!), and so my own creative projects started suffering. I mentioned it to some of the other staff writers, and ya know what?  Their own writing projects also moved to the back burner after they started writing professionally, full time, day after day. Hmmmmm. A common problem....

I guess I shouldn't really be so surprised because by the end of the day my eyes are dry and scratchy from starting at the computer screen all day and my brain is fried and the attention span is all but non-existent. :) I'm good for about 6 hours in front of the screen, but after that I need to do something else and let my brain rest!  On the other hand, this type of daily writing keeps my skills sharp, because the more you write, the easier it becomes, just like any other skill. Writing is a craft and a skill.

So what you'll be seeing in the blog over the next several months is how I find the time to finally finish several writing projects in my personal projects folder. I'll share with you here the ways I find to fit in my own writing projects, and that's not including my 2 websites and 2 blogs!

What? You didn't know about those? There's the writing site:  http://www.MelodieHawkins.com and this writing blog. Then there's the wellness center site:  http://www.LunaWellnessCtr.com where you'll find information on hypnosis, energy medicine, spiritual healing, angels, demons,  intuition (it's more of a creative site), and the Luna Wellness blog: http://www.lunawellnessctr.com/blog/ 

The wellness center site has been coming together nicely over the last couple of months. I changed hosting providers because I just didn't have the time to finish a re-design (using Dreamweaver) I had started. This way,  I can just concentrate on the content using pre-fab page designs.  But, if you want to see some of my own design work paired with some writing, visit the writing & editing site.  :)

So, next time I'll let you know what kind of progress I've made on the book. Until then, please think about what you say, how you say it, and write it well.