The Sterling Cooper Guide to Overcoming Copywriter’s Block

Mad Men HalloweenI’m hooked on Mad Men (as you can see by the Halloween costume photo to the left). If you haven’t seen the television show, it’s about people who work in an advertising agency on Madison Avenue in the early 1960s. Don Draper, the head of the creative department, saves many client relationships by coming up with brilliant concepts at the last minute when his clients are about to walk. However, you don’t need to wait until you’re almost screwed to create great copy.

Simply read on to learn the top 5 ways that Don, Peggy and the crew overcome writer’s block.  

1. Take a Break In one episode of Mad Men, Don’s boss accuses him of looking like he’s never working. However, Don demonstrates that if you step away from your work, you’ll come back full of creative ideas that will impress even the most difficult client. Although Don’s favourite ways to clear his head involve drinking and womanizing, you may want to try exercising or going to a nearby coffee shop for some caffeine.  

2. Do Your Most Important Writing First Thing in the Morning At Sterling Cooper, the brightest stars arrive at the office early to focus on their most important projects before the rest of the staff is around to interrupt them. Tackling your biggest project first thing in the morning can give you a sense of accomplishment and save you lots of stress later in the day.  

3. Brainstorm At the beginning of a new project, you should ignore your inner critic and let your ideas flow. The creatives at Sterling Cooper know that brainstorming can jumpstart the creative process, whether you prefer jotting down notes or dictating ideas to your assistant. Plus, it’s always fun to watch the characters try to one-up each other with the best ideas.  

4. Take a Nap There’s nothing like a good nap to refresh you, and more than one employee at Sterling Cooper has been caught sleeping the job. However, if you decide to take a nap remember to …  

5. Keep a Notebook Nearby for Ideas Don’t be like copywriter Paul Kinsey. He had a brilliant idea during an office all-nighter, fell asleep without writing it down and forgot it. Although Peggy covered for him, you might not be so lucky!   Try some of these tips the next time you struggle with copywriter’s block. You might even finish your project early enough to enjoy a long lunch with your co-workers (just don’t eat the oysters).

Discover How to Use Case Studies to Get More Customers (Live Presentation)

BNI logoCase studies or customer success stories serve as powerful endorsements for your services and can help you turn more prospects into customers. However, they are also one of the most underused marketing and sales tools. Join me as I identify why you need to add case studies to your marketing mix. I’ll also explain the key components of a compelling success story and give you an insider’s view of the case study writing process.

Date: Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Time: 7:00 AM – 8:45 AM
Location: The Pickle Barrel, Yonge Eglinton Centre, 2300 Yonge Street
Cost: $15 for breakfast

This presentation is part of a Business Networking International (BNI) Prosperity meeting. Last year, the Prosperity chapter generated almost $1 million in referrals among its members. By attending this networking breakfast, you’ll have the opportunity to pitch your services to a diverse group of professionals and form valuable business connections. Be sure to bring 30 business cards.

To reserve your spot, email by November 9th at 3:00 PM.


7 Proven Ways to Create Credible Sales Copy

Credible Sales CopyI recently spent 3.5 days in Tad Hargrave’s Radical Business Intensive marketing workshops. The weekend was billed as a marketing weekend for hippies. Although I am by no means a hippie – I don’t drive a microbus, hang beads in my doorframes or wear tie dyed clothing – I do believe in running an ethical and community-minded business. I left the weekend with pages of notes on how I can improve my copywriting business. Since the information that I learned is way too valuable to keep all to myself, I asked for Tad’s permission to share some of his secrets with my e-newsletter subscribers.

One of the most interesting, and most overlooked, aspects of marketing that we discussed dealt with the idea of risk. Specifically, the risks that buyers assume when they purchase your product or service. Everyone has questions and concerns before they make a purchase, for example:

  • What if this contractor takes all my money and trashes my home?
  • What if this car salesperson sells me a lemon that breaks down constantly?
  • What if this cell phone company locks me into a contract that I can’t break?

All of these doubts, whether they are real or perceived, can create what Tad refers to as a “wall of risk” between you and your customer. Unless you address the buyer’s concerns and remove this “wall of risk,” you will be unable to build relationships with customers and grow your business.

The first step in eliminating risk is to identify the risks your buyers assume when they purchase your products or services. Here are 3 simple steps you can take to identify the frustrations within your industry:

  • Think about what would prevent customers from doing business with someone in your industry. What are their fears? Include both reasonable and irrational fears, since perceived risks can have a huge impact on whether or not someone does business with you.
  • Make a list of the things that typically go wrong in your industry and your common industry stereotypes.
  • Consider how your clients would feel if something went wrong during your transaction.

After you write down your answers to these questions, ask others for their opinions. Your current customers, friends, family, employees and consultants can provide you with more perspective.

Once you have identified the major risks within your industry, make a list of the top 3 risks that you feel prevent customers from doing business with you. Then, identify specific ways that you can address their concerns to eliminate these risks.

You should also edit your current marketing materials to show your customers that you run a trustworthy business. The following 7 ways to create credible sales copy will help ease your customers’ concerns and build their belief in your company.

  • Remove the hype – Most dieters have realized that no product will give them rock hard abs in 3 days. Unsubstantiated claims – even mild exaggerations – will cause you to lose credibility faster than you can say, “But wait! There’s more!”
  • Show your credentials – Post information about your professional certifications or degrees on your website. If you belong to any professional associations, you can also add their seals to your website.
  • Use Testimonials – Testimonials from satisfied customers are one of the most powerful ways to gain your prospects’ trust. Make sure to state the full name of the person who wrote the testimonial. It is also a good idea to include the name of their organization and their photo. Don’t use testimonials that say things like, “Fantastic,” K.T. from Ontario. No one will believe it’s real!
  • Are you newsworthy? In addition to testimonials, you can also post positive reviews of your product or service. If your business was recently featured in your local newspaper or on television, you can include links to the article or video.
  • This may seem obvious, but … you would be surprised how many companies fail to put basic information on websites, including their contact information. Your prospects want to know that you are a real person running a real business. Include your full contact information on every page of your website. Your prospects will thank you.
  • Can you make a promise? Including a guarantee is one way to help customers overcome their concerns about purchasing a product. Clearly explain your return policy, money-back guarantee, free trial offers or any other guarantees.
  • Stop selling and start helping – A great way to gain your target audience’s trust is to provide them with valuable information about your industry. If you run a moving company, you can offer your customers a special report called, “The top 10 things to look for in a moving company,” or “How to have a stress-free moving day.” By providing advice, your customers will look at you as a helpful expert, not a pushy salesperson.

What about you? How do you convey your credibility to potential customers? Please share your comments below.

Boost Your Business with an Online Newsroom – Even if You Don’t Have Any “Real” News

Online NewsroomMedia coverage is one of the best forms of free advertising. A news story by a credible source can help you generate more sales and become recognized as a leader in your industry. Since journalists work on tight deadlines, you must make it easy for them to locate all the resources they need to develop informed and accurate pieces about your company.

An online newsroom is a low-cost and effective way to share your latest news with the media. Instead of printing and mailing expensive press kits, simply direct journalists to your online newsroom to grab up-to-the-minute information.

According to Ibrey Woodall, Vice President of Web Communications Services at Business Wire, “98% of journalists surveyed believe an online newsroom is important. And over 70% want social media within your online newsroom. This is great, but you should also use your newsroom to target ALL audiences – consumers, evangelists, investors, analysts, employees, and more. Just make sure to categorize your content.”

Your home page or primary navigation menu should contain a link to your online newsroom, allowing journalists to quickly find information. Here are 9 key items to include in your online newsroom – even if you don’t think you have any “real” news.

  1. Social Networking Content. Edward Lallo, Partner at Newsroom Ink, says “today’s new type of corporate newsroom must be a place to listen and interact with your audience, as well as use all the popular social media tools.” Savvy companies are incorporating social media into their PR to build relationships with customers, discuss industry trends and distribute news. Journalists also use social media sites, such as Twitter, to research stories and access breaking news. Your online newsroom should include links to all your social media profiles. You can also post your latest blog entries, tweets and YouTube videos.
  2. Media Kits. Post both an online and downloadable version of your media kit. Standard media kit content includes press releases, fact sheets, backgrounders, product reviews and your most frequently asked questions (FAQs).
  3. Graphics. Make it easy for reporters to download high-resolution logos, product images and photos of your key personnel.
  4. Basic Company Information. Reporters and shareholders will use your online newsroom to research your company. Include your annual report, stock information, company history and executive bios.
  5. A Subscription Tool. Create an RSS feed that allows journalists to sign up for automatic notification when your online newsroom is updated. A study by TEKGROUP International determined that “more than 60 percent of journalists want to subscribe to company information in online newsrooms via RSS feeds.”
  6. Outside News Coverage. Journalists often like to review your recent news coverage. An “In the News” section can contain articles, news footage and other media coverage.
  7. Educational Resources. Post your latest white papers, e-newsletters, published articles, industry research and podcasts. A reporter may pick up on one of your resources, increasing its chances of going viral and generating massive interest in your company.
  8. A Search Tool. Allow journalists to easily search your newsroom archive.
  9. Your Contact Info. Many companies fail to include contact information in their online newsrooms. If a reporter needs to verify time-sensitive information, but can’t get through to anyone, you may lose an opportunity for publicity. Always post the full contact information for at least one PR representative, including their direct line and e-mail address.

Do you need inspiration? Check out these examples of informative and creative online newsrooms:

Also, feel free to share a link to your online newsroom below.

Recommended Reading: Jaime Almond’s Social Media Blog

Jaime Almond's Social Media BlogToday, I’d like to recommend one of my favourite new blogs – Jaime Almond’s social media blog. Whenever I have a social media dilemma – like Facebook featuring photos of my husband in ads without his knowledge – Jaime has a solution on her blog.

One of my favourite posts on Jaime’s blog is “The Secret to Getting Great LinkedIn Recommendations.” Testimonials from satisfied customers can work wonders in helping you establish credibility with new audiences. Jaime says, “A good recommendation can be an extremely powerful marketing tool because it can highlight things about your product, service or company that you couldn’t say yourself without sounding overly self-promotional or salesy.”

Since I work in corporate storytelling, I also appreciate how Jaime shares “7 Questions that Guarantee Great Recommendations.” These questions were designed to draw out the story about your customer’s experience working with you. Use these questions the next time you interview a customer, and the testimonial will almost write itself.

Click here to check out “The Secret to Getting Great LinkedIn Recommendations.”

7 Ways Case Studies Can Help You Attract More Customers

Use Case Studies to Close More SalesCase studies are one of the most powerful – yet most underused – marketing and sales tools. While most people place advertising low on their credibility list, they will often believe information about your company when it comes from a third party. That’s why sharing your customers’ success stories is crucial to helping others see the benefits of using your products or services. Although many marketers take the time to interview their customers and write up success stories, they often fail to use the stories to their full potential. Here are 7 places you can use case studies to shorten your sales cycle and turn more leads into customers:

    1. Sales conversations. Drop a few statistics from a customer success story into your sales conversations and watch your prospects take notice.
    2. Direct mail. Case studies can help you raise awareness around a new product or service. Include text from a case study in your next direct mail campaign to increase your response rates and generate more leads.
    3. Email to a prospect. The next time you touch base with a prospect, email some highlights from a success story. You’ll be more likely to get a response.
    4. Voice mail to a prospect. Make your voice mail memorable by citing a measurement from a recent case study.
    5. Newsletters or e-newsletters. Do you want more of your subscribers to read your newsletters? Try condensing a longer case study into a short article and sending it to your list. People enjoy learning how others are solving similar problems and will be more likely to read your newsletter.
    6. Proposals. Include a few case studies in your next proposal to increase your odds of winning the project.
    7. Your website. In addition to posting case studies on your product and services pages, you can feature a case study on your home page. Just be sure to rotate the case studies frequently so your site’s regular visitors don’t get bored.

Whenever you send out case studies, make sure the content is something your prospects care about. Otherwise, even the most compelling case study won’t get read.

What about you? Where else have you used case studies, or where would you like to use case studies, in your B2B marketing communications? Leave your comments below.

Twitter Profile Cheat Sheet

How to Create a Twitter Profile - Twitter BirdHow to Create a Twitter Profile that Attracts Targeted Followers

The quality of your Twitter profile plays a huge role when others decide if they want to follow you. A focused profile can mean the difference between building a large network of targeted followers or failing in your Twitter marketing efforts.

Below are 6 tips on how to create a Twitter profile that attracts quality followers:

  1. Enter your real name, even if you tweet on behalf of a large company. People who use social media sites want to connect with other people, not companies.

  2. Complete your profile. Fill out all the information in the profile form, including your location and website. Many people won’t follow someone unless they have a complete profile.

  3. Write an intriguing bio. Many professionals on Twitter make the mistake of treating their bio like a 160 character resume. While you should include keywords related to your professional background, you can also have a little fun. Since Twitter is a social networking site, mention something about your family or your hobbies. You never know when a future business contact will enjoy some of your interests.

  4. Do not protect your tweets. Twitter gives you the option of locking your tweets, so only people you approve as followers can read them. Don’t check this option. Whenever I receive a follow request from someone with locked tweets, I never follow them back.

  5. Include a professional headshot. Since you are tweeting for your business, your profile picture should be a high quality headshot. Use the same headshot in all your social networking profiles to maintain consistency.

  6. Select a strong username. Here are some points to consider when choosing your Twitter username:
    • If you are a solopreneur or consultant, use your real name. Your name is your brand, so use it. If your name is not available on Twitter, try a combination of your name and your profession.
    • If you tweet on behalf of a company, you can try your name combined with the company name. This option is also good if several staff members tweet for your company.
    • Use your company name only if your company is well known and you plan on opening just 1 Twitter account.
    • Try to keep your username consistent between all your company’s social media accounts. This consistency reinforces your brand.

To determine if your profile needs improvements, visit This free service grades your profile and even informs you of specific areas to fix.