A love-hate relationship: 4 ways to build more writing love

love hate imageBy Meghan Bardwell, Marketing Consultant, Heinz Marketing, Inc.

I hate writing. It’s tough. It makes me want to smash vases against the wall. Even when I get to the level of ‘good,’ I can always get better. There’s always something to refine.

As vehemently as I hate writing, I also love it. It helps me make sense of my jumbled thoughts. It shows me how to connect with people. It’s cathartic. Even when I get to the level of ‘good,’ I always have something more to learn.

Despite the love-hate battle (or maybe because of it), I’ve learned a few things about writing better. Writing for business and marketing doesn’t mean anyone has free reign to be boring or stodgy. Instead, it challenges you to write clearly, directly, and creatively. Here are a few things to keep in mind when writing an email or the great American novel:

Read more. Just do it!
I know you’ve probably already heard this advice. It’s incredibly important, though. Reading as many books and stories and articles as you can is one of the best ways to improve your writing skills.

Don’t limit yourself to just business books and articles; narrowing your reading scope is the last thing you want to do. Try new genres like science fiction and historical non-fiction to force your brain to engage in different ways—challenging the typical way you view and write about the world.

‘Artistic’ forms of writing like poetry can be intimidating; I know that firsthand. I loved fiction books and devoured them growing up. But because I was intimidated by poetry’s limited words and unusual line structure, I didn’t spend much time reading it until I hit college.

When I gave it a chance, I could see the use of words (or lack of words) in a whole new way, which helped my college paper-writing immensely. What you don’t say can have even greater impact than what you do say. Poetry also taught me that it’s ok to play with words, even make some up (see E. E. Cummings and Lewis Carroll for examples), and have fun with sentence structure. Once you know the rules of grammar, it’s time to break them wittingly.

Stop using jargon and buzzwords. PLEASE.
Imagine wearing a huge hat and lots of bling. Shiny, sparkly, blinding bling. That’s what using buzzwords looks like. Buzzwords distract and hide what’s underneath. Throwing in big, smart words doesn’t usually make your writing look intelligent or unique. There’s no need to dress your thoughts up with bling; if your writing is clear and has depth, people will enjoy it for what it is, not for what it’s trying to be.

David Ogilvy, a well-known advertising executive, shared some fabulous advice with his employees: “Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.”

I know my writing sometimes shows the signs of being a pretentious ass. It’s something that slips in every now and then. But the more I’m on alert, the more I catch those pesky words and replace them with something clearer.

Phrases to avoid at all costs include ‘in my opinion.’ We get it. Your audience is smart—we understand that whatever you say is your opinion because you’re the one writing it. And if it’s not your opinion, then you’ll properly reference it.

To sum it up, just say what you want to say. Seriously. No fluff, no extra ornamental phrases to sound smarter. Your audience will thank you for it.

Stay away from long-winded and comma-riddled sentences.
In daily conversations, how often do you keep talking until you’re out of breath? (Hopefully never, because that would be awkward for your listener…) A person’s typical goal is to keep spoken sentences short and to the point so other people easily understand what he or she wants. It should be exactly the same for written sentences.

When I read a really long sentence, I always imagine the writer running out of breath as he or she writes it. My lungs start to ache in sympathy. Descriptive phrases can be fun in the right place and time, but only in moderation.

Find ways to be precise and direct in your writing. If you hate caramel apples, just say, “I despise caramel apples.” Don’t apologize. Don’t pack pacifying phrases around your statement to avoid offending someone or soften the blow. People appreciate polite bluntness much more than you’d think. And as a disclaimer, being direct or blunt isn’t the same as being rude.

P.S. I’m often guilty of using lots of long sentences in my writing (there are probably even some sprinkled throughout this post). It takes practice!

Think in pictures. Write visually.
I adore word-sensory experiences: Brisk air, fiery leaves. Crunch, smash, sprint, gulp.

Strong, active verbs add tons of interest to writing without bogging it down. With just one word, my brain starts creating a picture. The stronger the words, the stronger the brain-picture—which means I’ll have a better chance of understanding whatever concept the writer is trying to convey.

When you’re writing, try to think in terms of action. What happened? What action do you want your reader to take? Why do you want them to care?

Coda
What do you love or hate about writing? Any tips you’d like to share?

Need inspiration? Listen to these amazing entrepreneurs…

startupsignThere’s that moment when you have an idea.  For a new feature, new product or new business.

Most people never get any farther than that, of course.  Every step from that point forward is hard work, high-risk, fraught with stressful moments and sleepless nights and countless obstacles.

A few people see the end of the tunnel.  It’s near impossible to know which founders, which businesses, will make it as they’re growing, launching, doing the hard things about hard things that propel them forward and separate their work, their success, their path from those of others who gave up when things got tough.

Most work worth doing is tough.  The glory and tribulation of seeing your idea turn into something that changes the world, that puts a dent in the universe as they say, that’s the fun part.   It’s easy to ignore or skim over the blood, sweat and tears that got you there.

I had the honor of attending the Seattle TechStars Demo Day last Thursday afternoon.  Ten amazing companies and founders gave their short pitches to a room packed with mentors and investors.  I was honored to introduce one of the presenting companies, Touchbase, a company doing amazing work to improve real-time communication and collaboration between sales, marketing and product teams.

What has impressed me most about Touchbase’s founder, as well as the others I had the pleasure of hearing and meeting last week, was their energy.  Their enthusiasm.  Their unbounded confidence that they’re truly going to change the world with what they’re building.

Statistically, not everyone in the room is going to make it.  And the founders of these companies are all smart enough to know that.  But like any high-performance athlete or business leader or professional, they’ll run through brick walls to ensure it’s not going to be them.

Listening to these amazing entrepreneurs, hearing and feeling their energy, was a massive jolt of energy and inspiration for me.  I highly encourage you to find an opportunity to hear similar stories and pitches in your area.

If you happen to be in Seattle, I hope you can join me the afternoon of Thursday, November 20, 2014, for the 9Mile Labs Demo Day.  I love the work 9Mile Labs is doing in particular because they focus entirely on B2B start-ups.  They have an other impressive class of companies this year.  I look forward to seeing you there, and guarantee you’ll walk away with new ideas, new confidence and new energy.

Matt’s App of the Week: SEMRush

appoftheweek-300x284This is the latest in a series of weekend posts highlighting a wide variety of applications we think are pretty cool. Most have to do with sales, marketing and productivity. Check out past featured apps here.

I’m not entirely sure what animal Google is on with their frequent algorithm changes.  And even though keyword direct match appears to be passe, understanding keyword usage trends among your customers (and competitors) still delivers a significant competitive advantage in addition to acceleration of your search performance (paid and organic).

That’s why I like SEMRush so much.

This has quickly become one of my favorite SEO tools.  It’s super-easy to use, provides a ton of value in a daily basis relative to keywords, relative competitiveness and “accessability” of certain topics via Google, as well as competitive intelligence about where your competitors are focusing, what ad copy they’re using that appears to be most effective, etc.

Tons of value.  Worth checking out.

B2B Reads: rookies, coaching & dirty words

best-blogsIn addition to our Sunday App of the Week feature, we also summarize some of our favorite B2B sales & marketing posts from around the Web each week. We’ll miss a ton of great stuff, so if you found something you think is worth sharing please add it to the comments below.

In the meantime, here’s some of what we’re reading:

The key to business success – rookies? With Liz Wiseman
The business scene is constantly changing. How do rookies look at new opportunities? According to Liz Wiseman, they bring a completely fresh outlook. Good article Anita Bruzzese.

What you should know about leadership coaching
Coaching has become a recognized leadership skill over the past decade. It has proven to be a strong engagement and retention tool. How do you feel about coaching? Great article from Marcia Reynolds.

The sophisticated marketer’s guide to generating more leads with Slideshare
This great article from Ginny Soskey helps those who already understand Slideshare make it even better. It’s time to get a little deeper. Thanks!

Why your slide deck is killing your sales
Sometimes, the best way to sell your pitch is to do it without a slide deck. While you think your prospect wants all of that information, they really want to know how your product pertains to them. Great advice from Fearless Selling!

Sender’s remorse: the human side of email marketing
Every marketer knows that scary feeling right after pressing the send button on an email marketing campaign. Here are some tips to avoid these errors and not worry so much when sending the email. Good stuff Crawford McCarty.

5 lessons B2B marketers can learn from the World Series
What do baseball and marketing have in common you might ask? More than you think. Here are just 5 ways that baseball and marketing are similar. Thanks Rachel Balik.

How successful people handle toxic people
Some people are very unaware of the negativity they are constantly forcing onto others. Don’t let them affect your happy mood. Here are some great tips to not let them bring you down. Thanks Travis Bradberry!

5 tips to turn your employees into brand ambassadors
Some of your company’s greatest assets for your brand are your employees, as I’m sure you already know. How do they advocate for your company? Great tips Aseem Badshah.

Why do some people consider “sales” a dirty word?
A lot of people associate “sales” with a negative connotation. What is the reasoning behind this and why isn’t it that bad? Interesting point Jeff Shore.

Eight Secrets to Marketing Greatness in 2015 (links, slides & video)

Awesome webinar yesterday from Robert Pease, the new head of our CMO Practice at Heinz Marketing.  He wrote an eight-part blog series leading up to the event, and nailed it in front of a live audience of hundreds.

Below are all eight of his pre-event blog posts, a Slideshare embed of the presentation deck, and a recording of the webinar if you want to watch.  Enjoy!

Our eight secrets to marketing greatness in 2015 are:

  1. Demand Generation
  2. Content Marketing
  3. Database Health
  4. Process
  5. People
  6. Sales Enablement
  7. Technology
  8. Content, Search & Social

 

“How I Work”: Jeff Lowe, VP Sales & Marketing, Enterprise – SMART Technologies

Jeff Lowe“How I Work” is one of my favorite recurring features in Inc Magazine as well as via Lifehacker’s This Is How I Work Series, and recently several sales experts (including  Anthony IannarinoDave Brock and Trish Bertuzzi) participated as well.

Periodically moving forward we will feature a new B2B sales, marketing or business leader here answering what have become the standard “How I Work” questions.  You can catch up on everyone we’ve featured thus far in the “How I Work” series here.

This week I’m excited to feature Jeff Lowe who leads the development, coordination and execution of SMART Technologies’ global marketing strategies and oversees all marketing functions, including strategy, market operations, social media initiatives and marketing communications.  Jeff brings more than 23 years of marketing experience in technology and telecom sectors.  Others describe him as a brilliant marketer.   Jeff, suffice it to say, gets stuff done.  Here, in his own words, is how he works.

Location:  Calgary, Canada. (Global HQ for SMART Technologies)

Current computers:   Well, how much time do you have!? I’m fortunate to work at a company that has a number of options for great collaboration devices. Here’s the rundown:

  • SMART kapp (reinvented dry erase board) – allows me to capture contents from brainstorm sessions, save them to my phone or iPad, and share with remote participants
  • HP Ultrabook laptop, plugged into a 18” SMART Podium that allows me to write and annotate over my meeting materials
  • 84” SMART Board Interactive Flat Panel which is great for high-res images and meeting with a group in my office and with remote participants

Current mobile devices:   iPhone 5; iPad; Microsoft Surface Pro 3

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

  • SMART Meeting Pro software. This collaboration software allows me to make notes and annotations over any application in all my meetings – either on my mobile device or my SMART board – so whether I am presenting to customers, working with agency partners or meeting with colleagues internally, we can make markups and changes and actually work in the meeting instead of talking about the work! The other thing about Meeting Pro that I love is ability to pan/zoom in an unlimited workspace – it’s great for brainstorming sessions.
  • SMART kapp application – on my iPhone and iPad – pairs with my kapp board so I can capture, save and share the board’s contents

What’s your workspace like?  It seems like I have a different workspace every day – so I would say “dynamic”. Sometimes my workspace is my office as described above, but often it’s in a customer or partner office, a hotel meeting room, at home, or seat 12C on Air Canada! I really believe in the adage that work is what you do, not where you go. The technology available today allows people to work anywhere, anytime.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or lifehack?  I spend a lot of time planning and prioritizing my work. At the beginning of every week (and then every day) I write down the things that must get done. This helps me to focus on the important tasks, not just the urgent things that inevitably come up every day.

What everyday thing are you better at than anybody else?  Probably organization.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?  I’m a strong follower of the Steven Covey methodology, including the monthly/daily planning binders, and the “important vs urgent” matrix

What do you listen to while at work?  Highly variable depending on my mood. I listen to playlists on Jango; I would say my fallback is alternative/hard rock, but sometimes I’ll go to easy listening or even country (my daughter’s influence!)

What are you currently reading?  I read marketing & sales blogs and magazines to keep current on industry trends and directions. For personal interest, I read a lot of books on fly fishing. I like to read fiction when I get a chance – I like Steven King novels – I also just  finished reading an interesting book called The Dog Stars, where a flu pandemic has killed almost everyone except a guy, his dog, and a few fish left to catch.

What’s your sleep routine like?  I like to get 7 hours. Typically 10pm – 5am

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?  My dad had some great one-liners that stuck with me. One of my favorites is “Plan your work, and work your plan”.  Another one that I try to live by from my father-in-law is “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life”

Fill in the Blank.  I’d love to see:  David Fuller, President, TELUS answer these questions.

The Eighth Step to Marketing Greatness in 2015 – Content, Social, & Search

bagofmarblesBy Robert Pease, CMO Practice Lead for Heinz Marketing

This is part eight in an eight-part series on the keys to marketing greatness in 2015.  Part one focused ondemand generation, part two focused on content marketing, part three focused on database health, part four focused on process, part five focused on people, part six focused on sales enablement, part seven focused on technology.

We’re featuring these keys leading up to our webinar on November 6 where we will cover them in greater detail.

Today’s topic is content, social and search execution.

This may seem a bit broad but it is actually very focused on how you are broadcasting yourself and how you are being found.

We all know at this point that buyer’s do research (and often make up their mind) well before engaging with a salesperson.  That means this process is not really under your control and you have to be found in the places where your prospects are looking then deliver interesting and credible content to get them further engaged.

Traditional approaches to marketing campaigns of audience, offer, action don’t quite work here but can be leveraged.  You are still very much trying to reach your target audience made up of the the buyer profiles you are seeking.

How you do it has changed a bit.  You must include social in your marketing plan but don’t just publish and pray.

Engage, share, and be a value-added participant to the conversation.  You should know more about the problem you solve or benefit you deliver than anyone else so theme your content, social, and search strategy around that.

Avoid search optimization gimmicks as they are a moving target and are not a substitute for projecting a quality, authentic, and knowledgeable voice into the marketplace.  Think about where your prospects are, who they trust, and where they get their information – do they use Linkedin?  Then be active there as a value-added contributor versus an interest group spammer.  Nobody likes that.

Social media has given us what we always wanted as marketers – a direct, one to one channel to engage with current and future customers.  You can actually deliver on the promise of one to one marketing and improve the relevance of that engagement along the way.  Have you tried a promoted tweet in Twitter?

You can target based on what or who people follow.  People have come together as self-organized segments where they are broadcasting their interests so why not factor that into your engagement plan?

Blogs like this one are amazing places to share ideas and generate debate.  That is what the comments are for (so please use them:) ).  Beyond that we can use Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook to further share this content across different channels.  We can then include it in an email marketing campaign to push it to those who have signaled an interest in content like it.  We can then connect with people we’ve never met before by being found in searches or seen from a friend or colleagues like or share.

If you are not doing this type of thing you are really missing out on a way to connect, share, and collaborate with prospects, partners, and influencers.  Remember to focus on the outcome, not just the activity so don’t just count the number of posts you make but look at how they are benefiting you through shares, likes, and increased search traffic.

Join us November 6th for more on this and seven more keys to marketing domination in 2015.

The Seventh Step to Marketing Greatness in 2015 – Technology

Businessman and business sketchBy Robert Pease, CMO Practice Lead for Heinz Marketing

This is part seven in an eight-part series on the keys to marketing greatness in 2015.  Part one focused ondemand generation, part two focused on content marketing, part three focused on database health, part four focused on process, part five focused on people, part six focused on sales enablement.

We’re featuring these keys leading up to our webinar on November 6 where we will cover them in greater detail.

Today’s topic is technology.  Technology is an increasingly popular topic when talking about marketing these days and there are no shortage of interesting, amazing, and complex tools, systems, and platforms available out there.

Just take a look at Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic.

Or at LUMA Partner’s Marketing Technology LUMAscape.

Just looking at all those logos squeezed into all those boxes is enough to produce anxiety in any marketer.  Before you get there, relax a bit and think again about your process and measures of success.  Frame how you look at technology and the roles it plays in your organization in that way and you will avoid the anxiety trap.

Remember, technology is just an enabler.

An enabler of process and a process you define. Do not let technology dictate how you do things.  There may end up being a gap between what you want to do and what is possible but that is a much, much better way to approach things versus trying to jam the way a systems works into your organization without any business requirements defined.

It is indeed true that marketing is experiencing a level of automation and technological evolution that has already changed the way other functions like manufacturing and accounting operate so burying your head in the sand will not make all this go away.  The skill set of the modern CMO will be technically savvy just as modern CFOs have command over the financial systems that power the business.

Finding the right “marketing stack” for your organization is not impossible.  Go back to the discussion on process and think about how you interact with customers, what role content plays in your lead generation and sales pursuit efforts, how you want to use reporting and predictive analytics in your organization, and how you choose to operate and manage your team.

If you want to send email campaigns out then invest in an email marketing tool.  If you want to nurture and score leads through the sales process, spend more for a marketing automation system and understand the skills your team needs to operate the “marketing stack.”

Make technology work for you and be sure to take advantage of all the amazing innovation in the marketplace along the way.

Join us November 6th for more on this and seven more keys to marketing domination in 2015.

The Sixth Step to Marketing Greatness in 2015 – Sales Enablement

salesenablementBy Robert Pease, CMO Practice Lead for Heinz Marketing

This is part six in an eight-part series on the keys to marketing greatness in 2015.  Part one focused on demand generation, part two focused on content marketing, part three focused on database health, part four focused on process, part five focused on people.

We’re featuring these keys leading up to our webinar on November 6 where we will cover them in greater detail.

Today’s topic is sales enablement and what you as a marketing leader need to be doing to about it.

The first step is to go meet the sales team. All of them.  Any time a process crosses functional groups there is the potential for mis-communication and friction.

 The intersection of marketing and sales in an organization is a natural point of friction so understand that and you are on your way to removing it.

Sales says the leads marketing generates are weak and they don’t know what they do all day.

Marketing says sales never follows up on the great leads we create and is only concerned about their commission.

The truth is sales and marketing have much in common and that all comes together around sales enablement.

Both teams are focused on lead conversion and successful customer acquisition so unite behind those objectives and you are well on your way to marketing greatness.

Both teams need to understand they are working to enable the buyer’s journey.  Marketing must be laser focused on attracting and engaging the right type of prospect at the very top of the funnel.  The “right type” is one aligned with the target customer profile who has an interest in engagement.  Simply passing contact information to sales for follow up will lead to frustration and wasted time.

As a prospect enters the middle of the funnel, sales and marketing must work together to nurture and engage a prospect in the right way.

As a prospect becomes a true qualified lead and sales pursuit begins, marketing must stay focused on getting sales what they need to get deals closed – battle cards, competitive positioning, customer referrals – the list is lengthy but all efforts focus on the sale pipeline.  Marketing effectiveness is measured by what is in the sales pipeline, how it got there, and how successful both teams are at driving conversions.

Join us November 6th for more on this and seven more keys to marketing domination in 2015.

Brian’s App of the Week: @Kapost’s Content Auditor

appoftheweek-300x284

 

From Brian Hansford, director of client services and marketing automation practice lead at Heinz Marketing

 

This is the latest in a series of weekend posts highlighting a wide variety of applications we think are pretty cool. Most have to do with sales, marketing and productivity. Check out past featured apps here.

With the evangelism on content marketing, there is very little talk or availability of practical tools that help with intelligent content efforts.

Enter Kapost, with their fantastic Content Auditor.  I love this tool and use it with our clients to help develop an intelligent content strategy.  And it’s free. This tool is a fantastic starting point which is nicely designed to parlay up to Kapost’s valuable content platform solution.

Discovering the Assets

Marketers need to know what they have published through online and social channels.  Simply focusing on quantity production (the Content is King Camp) is unfocused and random.  Plus, marketers may not know the high-value content they already have that can be re-purposed in other ways!

Start Smart

Marketers need to critically evaluate what they have, who they intend to focus on, where content fits in the buyers journey, where content is available, the themes, types and formats. That’s a big effort and it’s strategic to any marketing strategy.

Kapost’s Content Auditor is a fantastic resource to get this effort started the right way.  The Content Auditor will scan and compile content assets published through these channels:

  • Websites
  • Slideshare
  • Youtube
  • Google+

The Content Auditor thoroughly catalogs everything from images to blog posts to eBooks to videos. Each cataloged asset can be sorted and assigned a customized attribute.  (For example, data sheets, case studies, etc.) All of this is captured in one portal.

Where the Content Auditor gets really cool is how marketers can track where content maps:

  • Personas
  • Buyer’s Journey
  • Go to Market or Campaign Themes
  • Buyer or Product Centricity

Kapost Content Auditor Dashboard view on mapping to buyers journey and personas.

Kapost Content Auditor Dashboard view on mapping to buyers journey and personas.

All of these attributes are customizable.  They require that marketers truly understand their customers and how they engage.  This is the point where most marketers get tripped up with their audit efforts because it’s tedious and takes too long and usually involves a static spreadsheet.  Kapost takes the pain out of the effort.

The Content Auditor does a nice job with a dashboard display that shows the results.  And the audits are saved and can be dynamically updated as more content is published.  That’s so much better than a static spreadsheet!  The visual representation gives marketers an idea where the content gaps are and how to build a strategy that focuses a strategy in the right direction.

Note: The Content Auditor does not currently scan unpublished storage channels like Box folders. Content consumption isn’t tracked either. Considering this is a free (and high-value) tool, that’s OK.  Marketers can map this audit to the most popular assets using Google Analytics and their Marketing Automation Platform.

What is your experience using the Kapost Content Auditor?  If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it.