Category: Content

The Power of the Story: For sale, baby shoes, never worn

By Sue Brady

“They Laughed When I sat Down at the Piano – But When I Started to Play!” John CaplesPiano

This headline, written in 1926 by John Caples is still quoted as one of the best advertising headlines of all time. Why? Because it promises a story. It lures the reader in. And that’s really the key to effective marketing. After all, who doesn’t like a good story?

Taking a ‘story’ approach when you write your next piece of content, commercial or ad is almost certain to deliver more success than presenting your product as, well, a product.

Stories are relatively easy to write in marketing. A good story has a beginning, middle and end. The steps to create a story are:

  1. Establish the setting and introduce your character(s)
  2. Set up the problem
  3. End with the solution

Here’s an old fashioned example:

Establishing the setting: Mom or Dad come home from work and enter the kitchen
Setting up the problem: The kids are hungry and the parents haven’t had a chance to figure out dinner

Providing the solution: Hamburger Helper to the rescue!

Michael Brenner, a great content marketing strategist, says that great marketing story telling accomplishes three things:

  1. Establishes your brand
  2. Turns your brand from a product into an experience
  3. Lures the reader into that experience so that the consumer wants to “build your product into their lives.

When you search for brands that have mastered this technique, you’ll find Nike, Budweiser, Dove and even Google.Nikes

Nikes are just gym shoes, no? Hardly. Air Jordans are the top selling sneaker of all time. How did they get there? Michael Jordan actually almost ended his contract with Nike because he wasn’t pleased with the first two iterations of Air Jordan. But ‘shoe architect’ Tinker Hatfield had a eureka moment. He realized that the shoes could tell the story of the greatest basketball player ever. He used what he knew about MJ to create a shoe he knew Michael, and the public, would love. It told a story and had style. And it worked.

Try writing some headlines for your product to make it an experience. You can create your story from there. It’s great practice. Here are some examples (not originals!):

Product: iPod

Experience: “An iPod is 1000 songs in your pocket.”

Product: Soap

Experience: “Dove. Be your beautiful self.”

Product: Beer

Experience: “For all you do, this Bud’s for you.”

And I leave you with perhaps the best short story ever written: For sale, baby shoes, never worn.*

Baby shoes*This story’s origin is an urban legend, with likely false attribution to Ernest Hemingway.


The #1 Way to Get More Reviews for your Business

By Sue Brady

It turns out that the easiest way to get consumers to review your business, is to ask them. And the best time to ask for a review is right after a customer has made a purchase.

Amazon is great at soliciting post-purchase reviews. Uber sends out an immediate request following a ride. Make it easy for your customer. According to BrightLocal, 68% of consumers will leave a review if asked to do so!

It’s no secret that consumer shopping behavior has changed in the last few years.  Almost 50% of shoppers seek out online reviews prior to making a purchase.  And 85% of consumers trust those reviews.

There are a few review sites where you need to make sure your business has a presence. 

  • Yelp
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • BBB
  • TripAdvisor (depending on your business)

As a side note, Facebook reviews are becoming more important. In fact, Yelp and Facebook are tied for being the most trusted review sites. Google comes in 3rd. is 4th (source: Brightlocal’s October, 2017 Consumer Review Survey).

Review sites from brightLocal
BrightLocal Consumer Review Survey 2017

As a business, make sure you have the review feature enabled on your Facebook page. Here are instructions on how to do that.

How can you ask for those reviews? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Send a ‘thank you for your purchase’ email and ask for the review there. You can include a link to the review site you prefer.
  2. If you aren’t comfortable asking at the time you say thank you, wait a few days and send a follow-up email that includes the request.
  3. Include a ‘review us’ on your company website that either goes directly to your preferred review site, or that offers choices.

Taking a few easy steps can make a huge difference in your online review presence.

  1. Identify review sites that are important to you.
  2. Make sure your company has a profile on those sites.
  3. Invite your customers to leave reviews.

This recent post focused on the importance of negative reviews. It’s worth the read!

“An SEO expert walks into a bar, bars, pub, drinks…”

By Sue Brady

Pub, bar, barroom

Not my joke, but it’s funny. And you marketers out there probably even snickered a little bit and perhaps have the urge to read on.

Does humor have a place in your content marketing? Using humor can help humanize your brand, create greater recall, and improve engagement.

Humanizing your brand.

Three years ago, the CIA sent out its first tweet. And guess what? It helped drive interest and followers.

CIA 1st Tweet

Some questioned if the CIA should be funny, but in the end that tweet (and others that followed) accomplished what was intended: it engaged an audience. They tweet on more serious topics now, and they have the reach they were after (almost 2 million followers as of this writing!).

Creating greater recall.

Does humor help you sell more? There are many mixed views on this. It turns out humor can help. Recall for funny and relevant ads is greater than for those without. My takeaway from the various studies I read is that if the content is important to the viewer,  humor only makes it better. That means that humor on its own won’t make for a better ad or post. Once again, the headline is that RELEVANT content is key

Consumers definitely remember funny ads and share those ads more on social media, so if you create one that works, you’ll be able to get some serious mileage from it.

Kmart’s Ship my Pants ad quickly exceeded 20 million views when its edgy, humorous approach went viral. And they quickly followed up with Big Gas Savings, another hilarious ad. The jury is out however regarding whether or not Ship my Pants created enough awareness of Kmart’s shipping service. Their goal was to move consumers from shopping at their brick and mortar stores to the much better experience of shopping with them online. I couldn’t find anything supporting that it helped sales, but it sure created a lot of buzz around a dying brand.

Improving engagement.

There is no question that humorous ads are viewed more and shared. Humor attracts attention, something all advertisers want. The Kmart examples above are a great example. Same for the CIA first tweet. Humor can engage, but it has to be really good to make the brand memorable.

Remember though: humor is hard. Humor translates differently with different audiences. As with all good marketing, understanding your audience and goals is the place to start. Your humor can work, but it has to be relevant to your audience and support your campaign goals.

Not everyone agrees with the use of humor, even where it may be appropriate. Derek Thompson wrote in the Atlantic Monthly 

“Ultimately, however, the sheer amount of the research into humor in advertising is another data point to tell us what we already know, which is that nobody has any clue what sort of advertising works until it works. “

Fair enough.


Content Gold Mines

Most companies these days post on various social media, or keep a blog as a part of their website. And it can be hard to decide what to write about. Last year I wrote a post about great places to find inspiration for your content.  That article mentions sources like

  • Talking to your sales team
  • Talking to customer service
  • Talking to other employees in your company

But there are other places to seek inspiration.

Senior Management. Interview senior management at your company and find out if it would add value to write content about something they know will be of interest later in the month/quarter/year.

Press Releases. Check press releases from your company and from your competition to see if there’s anything that would make a good topic for some timely content.

Twitter. Start participating in Twitter chats. You can search by subject for scheduled chats here You can actively participate in chats or you can just read the chat as it’s taking place. Twitter chats are a great way to learn about a particular topic and can also provide great ideas for content.

LinkedIn. LinkedIn groups are another great source for content ideas. By joining groups relevant to your business, you can read conversations taking place and gain insight into questions being asked.

Your competition. Do some web searching to see where your competition is turning up in the press. Perhaps they are participating in a ‘conversation’ where you also should be at the table.  Or maybe they do something really well. By writing your own post on that topic, you can start to position your own company as the subject matter expert in that area.


5 Sources for Inspiring Marketing Content

It’s notIdeas news that engaging, informative and interesting content is key to gaining readership. Many websites have blogs. In fact, the number of blogs in total has risen 25% since January 2015 to January 2016 to 276 million (source

And there are plenty of stats about how blogging can help your business.

Just these three stats alone should be enough to convince you that you need a blog on your website. Sites with blogs that have continual postings:

Have 97% more links to their site

Generate 55% more site visits

Have pages indexed <by search engines> 434% more often.

So where do you get the content for those blog posts?

The Competition – What does your competition post about? Reading your competitors’ content can give you a good sense for how they are positioning themselves. And, it can give you some good ideas for your own content.

Customers – Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. If you were in the market for your product, what would you want to know about?  You can even take the step of asking some of your customers what’s important to them. All great fodder for future posts! Plus, your customers post on social media, sometimes about your company. Stay vigilant in tracking those posts so that you can identify topics that are of interest.

Your Salespeople – Ask your salespeople what objections they hear most often when they are on sales calls. Use those objections as a way to formulate content that counters them. You wouldn’t want to say: “Our customers say our product breaks after 3 weeks. But our studies show…” Instead you’d write a post about how you build your product using the top materials available in the industry.

Your Customer Service Staff – These people are on the front-lines. They talk to your customers every day and have great insight. They may be able to identify potential issues that may come up on their calls, and if you can tease them out, you can write a post that counters an issue before it becomes a real problem.

Other Bloggers – Identify bloggers who write about your industry and actively read those blogs. They will be a great source of information that you can write about yourself.