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Archive for the ‘content marketing’ Category

Five ways to keep your message simple

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 — 


I recently heard Dr. Steve Duncan, Marcus Professor of Human and Molecular Genetics at the Medical College of Wisconsin and director of MCW’s Program in Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Biology speak at the Milwaukee Rotary Club. In 20 minutes, Dr. Duncan explained stem cell science, genetic testing, animal testing, and the FDA approval process. I actually felt like I understood everything he said. That’s a gift.

Most people think that in order to seem more intelligent, it is important to use bigger words and construct more complicated sentences. Actually, the reverse is true. People who are truly intelligent can explain something very complex in such a way that ordinary people can understand what they’re saying. This doesn’t mean that you need to be Albert Einstein in order to write clearly, but it does mean that good writing requires the willingness to get away from industry jargon and stick to plain English. That’s hard. It’s much easier to rely on buzzwords and generalizations.

The next time you need to explain something, try these five tips:

  • Think about the one thing you want the other person to do. Focus your explanation on achieving only that one goal.
  • Explain just enough for the other person to understand the basics, then stop.
  • Use short words.
  • Write short sentences.
  • Be specific.

When you’re trying to sell something, your prospect doesn’t need to understand EVERYTHING, just enough to ask the next question.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Pinterest.

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OK, Google, can you help me with marketing?


I’ve been seeing these “OK, Google” ads on TV and wondered what would happen if I asked Google to help me with marketing. Of course I know Google can help with marketing, so I thought I’d pass along a dozen of my favorite free Google tools (and descriptions from other online sources) — all accessible using one login.

These tools offer ways to get more out of your search engine and social media marketing experience.

1. Google AdWords

If you’re not getting good enough traction with organic search traffic, then you might want to consider a paid search campaign using Google AdWords. By bidding for the right keywords, you can gain a considerable amount of qualified traffic where the conversions will meet or exceed the value you pay for your ads. Be sure to use advanced targeting options for location, mobile or desktop browsers, and other criteria to get the target audience you want.

2. Google AdWords Keyword Tool

Need keyword ideas for your search engine marketing campaign or paid search advertising? Try the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. When you enter a term that offers a wide range of ideas, like SEO, you will get groupings of keyword ideas that you can dig deeper into. While the total of the global searches is not always spot on, it can give you an idea of whether one keyword is more or less popular than another. You can also see an approximate cost-per-click amount, if you were trying to target the keyword using Google AdWords.

3. Google Alerts

Want to keep on top of the latest news, mentions of your brand, or other items in Google search? Then set up your Google Alerts. When you enter a search query, you will get a sample of the results you would receive and the option to have them delivered regularly to your email inbox. You can use this to keep up with your competition as well to see where they are getting mentioned or are building profiles.

4. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is probably one of the most powerful Google tools that you can use a as a marketer. You can learn so much about your website’s visitors including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Demographics – Learn more about your audience, including their location and language.
  • Social Engagement – See what social networks visitors come from and how they interact with your website’s social plugins (custom coding must be implemented).
  • Technology Used – Find out what browsers, operating systems, and networks your visitors are using to view your website.
  • Mobile Information – Curious if you need a mobile website? Find out how many of your visitors are using mobile technology.
  • Traffic Sources – Analyze what websites, keywords, search engines, and other referrers send traffic to your website.
  • Top Content – Get a handle on how effective your content is by seeing your top entry and exit pages.
  • What Leads to Conversions – Set up goals in Google Analytics to find out which visitors complete conversions such as purchasing a product or signing up for a mailing list.

5. Google Books

If you love reading, then Google Books can be a good place to go to find books online in all genres, some of which you can read for free. But from a marketing perspective, if you have a book, then you will want to get it listed on Google Books so that you can sell it to an even larger audience, especially now that Google is competing with iTunes and other online media retailers with their new Google Play store for music, books, movies, and Android apps.

6. Google Docs

Want to share documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, and tables with other users to view online or download? Then Google Docs is for you. You can even create forms and send them via a link or directly in an email to collect survey answers, crowd source post information, and other data.

7. Google Display Planner

Need some quick traffic or demographics information for a website? Get it using Google Display Planner. The larger the website, the more information you will be able to find about it including the average visitor’s age, gender, education, household income, other sites visited, interests, and keywords searched for.

8. Google Trends

Google Trends allows you to search for keywords to see their trends over time. This way, you can see whether a keyword is gaining in popularity, see worldwide search trends over the course of a year to find popular months or seasons for a search, see search volume by region, and find a list of top ten related searches and rising searches.

9. Google My Business

Want your business to show up before organic search results? For some keywords, it can thanks to Google My Business. Be sure that you claim or add your listing on Google Places, complete your profile, add photos and videos, and encourage reviews so that your business will make it to the first page of search results.

10. Google+

Google+ is Google’s social networking channel. Google has not only created a thriving social network, but has incorporated it into almost every aspect of the Google experience, including Google search results themselves. Thanks to personalized search results, you can actually rank higher than normal in search results for those you are connected with on the network.

11. Google Voice

Google Voice allows you to create a phone number to make and receive phone calls and text. You can view your messages in an interface similar to your Gmail. It’s a good alternative if you don’t want to give out your office or cell phone number for particular contacts.

Another cool little trick with Google Voice is that you can set up a Google Voice number specifically for tracking how effective your phone number placement on your website is. Every time someone calls in using your Google Voice number, you can count the calls in your Google Voice account. This will allow you to test the size, location and color of your website phone number.

12. YouTube

Last, but not least, if you want to dominate the video market, then start with Google-owned YouTube. Not only will your video be available to YouTube’s millions upon millions of visitors, but it will also be on prime real estate for showing up in search results. Even if you can’t get your website on the first page of search results through traditional SEO, you might be able to get there with video.

Jackie Costa is the director of content marketing at Clear Verve. She works with clients to communication more clearly and create smarter, better, channel-appropriate content. Listen for her on Twitter as @JackieMCosta.

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In honor of Halloween: writing a blog is not as scary as you think


For some people, The Blog might as well be a new version of the 1958 cheesy alien invasion movie, The Blob. But, blogging shouldn’t scare you.

A client of ours recently asked us to blog (why, yes, it is a verb and a noun) for him. This happens all the time. He has good ideas and decent writing skills but he’s just tech-hesitant and time-challenged.

Though we’re more than happy to help him build his digital presence, writing for an online channel such as blog, is a skill he – and you — can cultivate. You need to find your niche and your voice and the tool that’s right for you. You don’t have to crank out your writing. You can move slowly. It might take you a while to familiarize yourself with the process, but before you know you’re thought of as a leader, a forward thinker who brings new ideas to the table and adds value.

But if you’re still a little spooked, here are a few tips we found for building fearlessness:

Tech is the means, not the end. The blogosphere, along with social media outlets, is just a spot for your message. Your message is what matters most. There a people who can help you make the technology work.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Writing is a process. So lighten up on yourself and move ahead.

Take a tour. Meet my friend YouTube. There’s an instructional tutorial (or 100) out there for anything with which you might need help.

Develop an outline. Planning and process might not be things you love to do but it will help you develop and repurpose your idea.

No worries. If the post just doesn’t look right in the preview mode, just upload it again.

Jackie Costa is the director of content marketing at Clear Verve. She works with clients to communication more clearly and create smarter, better, channel-appropriate content. Listen for her on Twitter as @JackieMCosta.

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Social media is the great equalizer for nonprofits

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 — 


I recently read an article written from the floor of the Social Media for Associations and Nonprofits Workshop that offered some key social media tips for nonprofit communicators.

The biggest takeaway (beside a few good tips) was that professional communicators working for nonprofit organizations face numerous budget and staffing challenges not seen in the private sector. However, social media can be the great equalizer in these situations, enabling communicators to open new avenues of outreach to donors, volunteers, partners and the media.

What a great point! We all get space on these channels to tell our stories; it just depends how social media saavy you are to make an impact.

Here are four tips to help you do just that:

Listening is key. It helps you learn what is going on in your community and develop content that is relevant. Listening also enables you to form relationships with donors and prospects.

Use content creatively. Content can add context to your work. It can also engage your community and bring them into the conversation. Be proactive about repurposing, altering and crowdsourcing your content to make it go further across different media platforms. Don’t repeat content verbatim, although it is sometimes worth repeating content on Twitter because it is a continuous feed.

Visuals are crucial. Use powerful imagery to engage your community and familiarize yourself with Pinterest and Instagram.

Measure your objectives. Pick relevant metrics to measure and analyze your communications objectives. Use this information to plan your social media strategy and make adjustments where necessary. And, take advantage of the free tools on Facebook, Twitter and Google, for example, to monitor your social media activity.

Jackie Costa is the director of content marketing at Clear Verve. She works with clients to communication more clearly and create smarter, better, channel-appropriate content. Listen for her on Twitter as @JackieMCosta.

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What dog-watching and marketing have in common

Friday, July 25, 2014 — 


It’s the dog days of summer, (well, July and August are supposed to offer the most sultry, high temp days of the year, anyway) and for me, recently, it’s been more like dog daze.

One cute, furry hamster aside, we don’t have pets. No dogs, cats, fish. Nada. So our schedule was in a bit of a tailspin last weekend when our neighbor asked us to watch his visiting son’s 5-year-old, blind-in-one-eye, American bulldog, Bianca, while they spent three days at an out-of-town golf outing.

Our experience with Bianca ended well and with a big bag of thank-you chocolate truffles. But here’s what three days of dog sitting reminded me about marketing.

Take time to learn your brand.  It was important for us to get to know Bianca before we started rubbing her ears and scratching her back. The same is true for your brand. Do your research. Get to know your brand’s personality. When you do that, you’ll know if your marketing fits appropriately.

Cheap, fast and mediocre doesn’t cut it.  Our sweet, placid bully deserved a good weekend too. One quick 10 minute walk wouldn’t do. We needed to spend quality time with her. Clients expect the same. There isn’t one in the world who wants fast, low quality results. So put your hours in and be awesome every time.

Be social.  It’s amazing what a dog on leash can do for your social life. We were out there pounding the pavement and ended up having conversations with neighbors we thought were afraid of daylight. It’s just about the same with social media. You have something to talk about; you have a story to tell (ours was no, we didn’t get a pet), so get out there and start talking.

Jackie Costa is the director of content marketing at Clear Verve. She works with clients to communication more clearly and create smarter, better, channel-appropriate content. Listen for her on Twitter as @JackieMCosta.

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Where does your content marketing go?


Last week, I made a presentation at Social Media University Milwaukee, speaking about how to determine the best way to mix online and offline marketing tactics. As part of the presentation, I shared this graphic from our Content Marketing Survey:

What does this graphic show us? First of all, more people post content to their Facebook page than they do to their own websites. I can’t give you a scientific answer that explains why this happens, but anecdotally, I can tell you that many people have websites that are fairly difficult to maintain. If that sounds a lot like you, look for a better solution when you update your website. Be sure to ask every  provider  consider  to show you how the content management system you’ll be using will work. Make sure it is flexible and easy to use.

What else do we see? Email is not dead. Direct mail is not dead. Print newsletters are not dead! Don’t give up on more traditional marketing tactics. Yes, I know it’s a lot of work to publish both a print newsletter and an enewsletter, but it can be done. Many people receive so much email that sending something on paper is actually a very simple way to break through all the clutter. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute reports that many marketers say that live, in person events are still among the most successful content marketing tactics.

Want to see what else we learned? Get the whole ebook here.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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Power point fail


Recently, I attended a large networking event that featured an out-of-town speaker who had been brought in to share research results on a very important topic. (Vagueness added to protect the not-so-innocent.) I had been looking forward to this presentation and was ready to take notes in hopes of blogging about the insights I gained.

Instead, the speaker committed two of the biggest power point sins – her slides had lots of words on them, and she READ them to us. This was a room full of approximately 600 intelligent, thoughtful people. I’m pretty sure we all knew how to read. After a couple slides, I looked around the room and noticed people were talking to each other, checking their phones, or daydreaming.

Power point has been around for many years and at one time, it was common practice to pack each slide with tons of data. Not anymore. We are a much more visual society. Speakers are competing fiercely with mobile devices for their audience’s attention.  Many times, they lose.

So how can you win? By leaving information OFF your slides! A couple months ago, I delivered a presentation at the Junior Achievement National Empowering Success Conference. My presentation is below. Notice anything? The slides don’t say much. If you want to know what I said, you need to download the presentation so you can read my speaker’s notes. Everything I wanted the audience to know was in my notes, not on the slides.  During this presentation I was not only competing with mobile devices, I was competing with LUNCH. But because the slides didn’t say much, the audience paid attention to what I said, the presentation got great reviews, and everyone stayed awake.

The next time you have to make a presentation, challenge yourself to leave much of the information off your slides. This more visual method will keep your audience engaged.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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You still need 1000 words

Friday, November 15, 2013 — 


I have 836 pictures in the camera roll on my phone. That’s a lot of photos. Most of them were taken so I could share a moment with someone else. There’s a reason for all the photos. Pictures illustrate a moment and convey more information faster than words. Although I can’t find any scientific evidence to back this up, I’ve read that people process images 60,000 times faster than words.

In today’s digital age most people are literally exposed to gigabytes of information on a daily basis. For this reason, many marketers are turning to more image-based communications such as infographics and visually-driven layouts for everything from annual reports to what used to be called “whitepapers.” Applications such as Instagram and Pinterest allow for easy photo sharing and help organizations connect with people on an emotional level.

We love image-based communication. It helps our clients tell stories and connect with emotions. Whether we’re working with an attorney, a bank, or a nonprofit, all our clients need to connect with their clients’ and prospects’ emotions. When someone can’t see what you’re selling, they must understand how they will feel after purchasing a service, attending an event, or making a donation. However, it’s important to remember that the photo can’t do all the work. A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but you can’t skimp on the accompanying text.  Think about your photo captions, social media posts, and the tags you associate with your images. Then YOUR pictures could be worth 1,001 words.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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Marketing and the unemployment line


The other day, a nice gentleman stopped by our office to drop off a resume. Unfortunately, we are not hiring right now. But even if we were, we would never hire him. Wondering why?

The guy was applying for a graphic design position. However, the layout of his resume was sloppy. Nothing lined up. On top of that, in less than one minute I found many typos including misspellings, double commas, missing spaces, and words that were partially bold and partially normal fonts. I don’t think he proofed his work even once. Don’t get me wrong, we all make mistakes. I’ve made plenty myself and shelled out lots of money to fix them. But the only thing I know about this guy is what his resume tells me, and his resume tells me he is not very careful.

Whether you are marketing yourself, your company, or something else, it’s important to be as careful and accurate as possible. Remember that people judge things they can’t understand based upon the things they can understand. You can’t really tell if your banker or lawyer is smart, but you can read their newsletter to see if they seem to know their stuff. If their newsletter is sloppy and full of typos, you would be likely to assume that they are not very careful in their work, even though your banker or attorney did not actually do the layout of the newsletter. Heck, your banker or attorney may not have written the article that was attributed to them! We ghost write for people all the time.

Whether you do your own marketing or pay someone else to do it for you, always remember to put your best foot forward, or you’ll end up like this…


And remember that just like with many other things, when you outsource marketing help, you get what you pay for. (So if you’re looking for some cheap help and love to proofread, I’ve got the guy for you!)


Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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Inspiration can come from anywhere


I was working with a client to write a blog post recently when we both agreed we needed some new inspiration.

Inspiration can come from everyday objects or from anywhere. Whether it’s from the pattern on your grandma’s China, the paint color in your kitchen or the buckle on your bag, I believe there is usually something I can take away from one spot and use somewhere else. Case in point, @susanschoultz, Clear Verve design director, often finds herself taking photos of patterns on buildings, interesting floor tiles or colorful artwork. I’ve been with her when she’s done it. She’s always thinking of ways to bring an aspect of those characteristics to her design work. (She posts her photos on Instagram, by the way.)

It’s all about figuring out what it was about these things that draws her to them.

Another blogger I follow wrote about how this persimmon pump inspired her to design this desktop wallpaper. Between the bold color, the detailed white stitching and the floral touches, the shoe gave her some good material to work with, she says.

For me, inspiration comes from some phrase I hear during an interview or a feeling I get while getting to know more about a topic. Writing headlines, picking themes for publications or creating marketing messages are usually inspired by something else.

Sometimes, sitting down to write something — anything — gets my creativity moving and motivates me to start that blog post or a case study I need to write.

Jackie Costa is the director of content marketing at Clear Verve and works with clients to communication more clearly and create smarter, better marketing materials. Listen for her on Twitter as @JackieMCosta.

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