Monday, May 27, 2013

The Best Letter Types for Advertising

Advertising letters promote your products and services through text and visuals. Advertising letters promote your products and services through text and visuals.

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Promotional writing requires a careful balance between grabbing the reader’s attention, presenting the information in an appealing format, and marketing to the needs of a specific audience. Successful advertising comes in both written and visual formats, and many types of advertising letters contain both text and images. While advertising is a creative business endeavor, some copywriting letters produce results on a consistent basis, earning them top spots in the ranks of promotional writing.

A sales letter promotes services and products, or markets your business, in general, to potential customers. Despite the name, a sales letter usually doesn’t try to make a sale in the actual letter. Instead, it employs creative content to introduce a special offer or a new item of interest. A sales letter, which is generally one or two pages in length, is often the first letter in a marketing campaign.

A follow-up letter is instrumental in keeping your product or service in the customer’s mind. Designed to arrive shortly after the receipt of a sales letter or after an initial meeting, a follow-up letter is friendly and assumes a congenial business relationship with the customer. The tone of a follow-up letter is conversational, and it thanks the potential customer for stopping by, for making a purchase, or for taking the time to read a sales letter. This type of letter lists contact information and might include a business card.

Advertising newsletters, whether sent by snail mail or email, are standbys for getting marketing messages out to a customer base. Newsletters offer information of interest, in addition to marketing content. Typical advertising newsletters contain a variety of articles that center on industry news, and they generally feature journalistic writing, as opposed to the report-type writing of sales letters. Newsletters create interest in products and services.

Case studies are usually contained within another type of advertising letter. A case study is a marketing tool that makes an emotional connection with the customer. Case studies can feature success stories, often called "testimonials," from real people or businesses that benefited from using your services or products. Case studies can be of any length, often ranging from one to three pages, and they make use of an entertaining story to help the reader make an informed buying decision.

White papers were originally used by lawmakers and government officials to document statistics and defend legislative proposals. Today, they’re a soft-sell method of informing clients of the benefits of your products or services. White papers are business-to-business letters that are typically between five and 10 pages in length, but can be much longer. A white paper details a problem, then proceeds to present statistics, graphics and other images to inform the reader of the depth of the problem. The paper then concludes with a solution. White papers are factual and informative, but they don't ask the reader to make a buying decision immediately.

Press releases are letters sent to local or national media sources. When you write a press release, you’re hoping that an editor or reporter will find your news interesting enough to publish. Press releases are among the items in press kits that companies develop for the media. Press releases document new products or services of general interest, inform the public about changes in your company, or announce major sales events, contests, or other promotional activities.

Glenda Taylor is a full-time freelance writer with work featured in national and international publications. Taylor specializes in health, business and construction writing, and she is a past editor of “Kansas Women—Focus on Fitness.” Taylor's education includes marketing and a bachelor's degree in journalism.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Examples of Generosity in a Company

Some companies get customers and employees involved with their charitable programs. Some companies get customers and employees involved with their charitable programs.

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Generosity at small and large companies is often associated with financial contributions. However, some companies show generosity by focusing on a cause and providing goods or services to people to support the cause. In any case, efforts to be generous can backfire if it appears a company is more interested in gaining publicity than helping people or community organizations.

Some corporate generosity stems from making product donations that are based on company sales. Toms Shoes, for example, donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for each pair a customer purchases from the company. Toms distributes the donated shoes to children in the United States and 24 other countries. More than 1 million pairs of shoes have been donated to children through the program, according to the company.

Some companies provide services to meet people’s basic needs following natural disasters. Procter and Gamble, for example, uses its Tide Loads of Hope program to provide laundry services to disaster victims. Company representatives bring in vans equipped with washers and dryers to clean residents’ clothing free of charge in areas struck by natural disasters. The company indicates that more than 30,000 loads of laundry have been cleaned for disaster victims through the program.

Employee job satisfaction tends to rise when employees participate in a company’s charitable programs, according to the “Nevada Business Journal.” Nonetheless, Harvard University professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter notes on the "Harvard Business Review" website that community leaders sometimes reject corporate gifts when they suspect companies are merely seeking publicity. She warns that authenticity is essential when businesses participate in charitable programs. For example, companies won’t appear to be generous if they make donations intended to overshadow a controversial issue linked to their operations.

Frances Burks has more than 15 years experience in staff and freelance writing positions, including work as a news analyst for executive briefings and as an Associated Press journalist. Burks has banking and business development experience, and she has written numerous articles on consumer issues and home improvement. Burks holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Michigan.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ann Arbor SPARK September Roundtable – Startup-Friendly Marketing

On Tuesday September 11th, Ann Arbor SPARK will host its next free Marketing Roundtable event addressing the challenges of marketing for startups and small businesses. Join moderator David Bloom and his panel for a discussion of common challenges and successful marketing strategy used by real startups. Have specific questions for the panel? Bring them! There will be a Q&A session for attendees to ask for solutions to their real world marketing challenges.

This event will take place at SPARK Central in the Lower Level of 330 East Liberty. Registration and networking begins at 5:00pm and the program runs from 5:40pm to 7:00pm. Register for this free event here. If you cannot attend in person, you can access the live webcast or a recording of the presentation here.

To learn about more networking and educational opportunities, ask a Michigan marketing company. Visit our blog, or call Clarity Quest at 877-887-7611. Request a quote.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

How We Get Things Done

The day that first computer appeared on a lawyer’s desk, it brought a promise of simplicity. Technology would organize, systematize and calendarize the daily chaos, leaving our human time and minds free to address the really critical stuff. Ha! If anything, the chaos deepens. So we’re particularly excited about Daniel Gold’s new column. He’ll be bringing us good ideas for amping up our productivity and changing the way we get things done—in a big way! 

As lawyers, almost everything we do is a project. Rarely do we handle things that can be completed in one action—and long gone are the days when using our red Lawyer’s Diary to plan our calendar and to-dos in one location was enough. Instead, we need the right system in place to help us get things done. So what’s the solution?

In 2007, I heard about a book by David Allen called Getting Things Done. And when I read it, I loved every page. This one book fundamentally shook the foundation of what I thought it meant to be organized and to manage my time. If you haven’t yet heard of this methodology—which is called “GTD” for short—it has a bit of a cult-like following online. In this first installment of “Get It Done,” I’m going to provide an overview of this system. In future posts, we’ll dive deeper into its discrete phases, and also look at apps for tablets and smartphones that can help skyrocket your productivity even further.

At its core, GTD is a simple—albeit not too simple—approach to managing your tasks and your calendar. The process involves writing down every single task that you have to accomplish. Then, through daily and weekly reviews, you analyze that list for “where” you need to be in order to get certain tasks done. For example, do you need to be at your computer to do a particular task? Can it only be done in your office? Is it an errand that requires being at a particular place? Is it a phone call or email that you can tackle anywhere from your smartphone? Or is it something that can only be done at home?  These “wheres” are otherwise known as “contexts” in the GTD system.

Next, you place each of your tasks by context into separate lists.

Once you’ve done that, examine your tasks even more. Will any of these tasks take more than one step to actually complete? For instance, let’s say your task is “File Motion for Summary Judgment in the Jones Matter.” Well, we all know that will require several steps. You will likely need to do case research, review deposition transcripts, draft the statement of facts, draft the legal argument, have the client review before filing, etc. Therefore, this seeming task is actually a “project,” according to the GTD methodology. As you go through this exercise, you will probably notice that you have placed several such projects in your task lists. Seeing this will help you better understand each and every real task you need to accomplish in order to get things done more effectively.

So now, you will erase the “file motion” entry from your tasks list and put it in what is called a projects list instead. Then add each one of the tasks required for the motion’s filing (the research, draftings, etc. from above) and put them on your context lists.

The final piece in this top-level review is learning how to better control your calendar.  David Allen advises that you do not, under any circumstances, fill your calendar with tasks! He calls the calendar your “hard landscape”—think of it as sacred ground for only those appointments that have specific actionable dates and times, such as your meeting with a client at 2 p.m. Tuesday or your oral arguments on Friday at 3 p.m.

So, how do you know when to get each of your tasks done if they have not been assigned due dates? The idea is to be more discerning and take a more strategic look at your tasks and appointments. Think about what you can accomplish in the time you have available. Weigh that against each task’s priority, along with the amount of energy you have to complete certain tasks. Then block out your calendar for two hours so you can write your statement of facts at 8:30 a.m. Then block out two hours later to do legal research at, say, 3 p.m. By strategically slating tasks this way, you are in control of your time and your calendar.

Also, by having separate lists of action items broken down by contexts, you can easily see what phone calls you can knock out while you’re in the car by looking at your calls list. Or, if you have some downtime at the courthouse, look at your emails list to see what you can easily cross off of that list, too.

In my next posts, I’ll break down the five phases of GTD more—and discuss how to take advantage of some paper tools and awesome apps for your iPhone and iPad, too.

Daniel Gold is a productivity author, consultant and presenter. He works with individuals and corporations in three core areas: productivity/time management; social media brand recognition; and presentation content and design. He is the author of  Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done and Official Springpad eBook. Join him on Facebook and Google+ and on Twitter @degconsulting.

Illustration ©ImageZoo.

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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Reducing Static in a PowerPoint Recording

Headset microphones help to reduce feedback from the computer speakers. Headset microphones help to reduce feedback from the computer speakers.

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Microsoft Office PowerPoint allows you to record narration for the slides in the presentation. Then, you can save and send the PowerPoint file with your narration included. But if the recorded audio is filled with static, the presentation won't make a good impression on the listeners. You can reduce static in your recording by using the Windows Recording Audio troubleshooter to pinpoint the problem. Static can come from the microphone, the connection to the computer or even from radio interference in the area.

Click "Start," type "troubleshooting" and press "Enter." Click "Troubleshoot Audio Recording."

Identify hardware issues. Click "Start," type "Sound" and click "Sound" under Control Panel. Connect your headphones to the headphone jack on your computer. Click on the "Recording" tab and then click to select your microphone. Click "Properties" and then click on the "Listen" tab. Click the check box next to "Listen to This Device" and then click "Apply." Speak into your microphone to listen for any static or other problems. If you have a wired microphone, move the cord of the mic while you talk and listen for static. If the static changes or increases due to you moving the cord, the cord is defective and the microphone needs to be replaced. If the movement of the plug in the jack causes the static, then the issue might be with your computer's sound card connection.

Test for radio interference by bringing a radio-transmitting device, like a cellphone, close to the microphone. The interference static will have a rhythmic nature to it, rather than a consistent hum or buzz. You can get shielded cables for your external microphone to reduce radio interference. You can also do your PowerPoint recordings away from radio-transmitting devices. Such devices include cellphones, BlueTooth devices, cordless phones and microwaves, among others.

Remove as many sources of ambient noise as you can before you record the narrations in PowerPoint. Fans are one of the most pervasive sources of noise, which can be difficult to escape since nearly all computers use fans to keep them cool. A foam muff on a microphone can filter out ambient noise and wind noise. Use a uni-directional microphone, if possible, so that it only captures sound from one direction. When you point the microphone directly at your mouth, the rest of the noise in the room will fade dramatically.

James Wood is a professional writer whose work has appeared in "The Bridge" at Harding University and in the book "People of Purpose." His work experience has spanned the gamut of the computer world, from sales and support to training and repair. He is also an accomplished public speaker, PowerPoint presenter and has traveled extensively in the U.S. and Europe.

Monday, April 29, 2013

I Want My Product Distributed

DetailsCreated on September 26, 2012 Posted by Paul Christ Craig Marks: I Want My MTV ( Studio 360 – NPR)

As we discuss in our How to Write a Marketing Plan tutorial, marketing success often is measured by whether the results lead to the achievement of specific objectives (i.e, goals). As we note, these objectives include two main types: 1) financial measures, such a revenue and profit; and 2) specific marketing areas objectives, such as gaining a certain percentage of market share or achieving a certain level of product awareness through promotion. Yet, marketers often discover that achieving these objectives can be heavily affected by factors that they do not control.

For instance, consider a company that is attempting to obtain distribution for a new consumer product. Marketers, who have enthusiastically worked hard to prepare the product for the market, often hit a roadblock because they cannot convince enough resellers to distribute their product. For these marketers, who have been generally free to design the product, set the price and create the promotions, they find the distribution component of the Marketing Mix to be frustrating as they cannot get their product distributed in desired outlets.

Of course, the Internet has lessened the impact of resellers’ reluctance to distribute a product by allowing companies to be their own distributor. But, to be truly successful, most consumer products marketers need to gain wider access to their product that is beyond their own website.

To address distribution problems, marketers can employ several tactics. One approach, called “push" promotion, has the marketer offering distributors incentives to handle the product. This typically means offering highly attractive financial terms (i.e., higher margins) or improved promotional opportunities (e.g., in-store promotions).

Another strategy takes a much different approach. Instead of directly offering incentives to resellers, marketers essentially bypass resellers and direct their message to final consumers. This type of tactic, dubbed “pull" promotion, generally contains a message that specifically directs consumers to request their product be carried by distributors. (See this post for a previous discussion of pull promotion.)

Now this audio link to a National Public Radio show offers insight on another example of pull promotion, this time with a more well-known brand – MTV. The discussion is with Craig Marks, co-author of a book chronicling the early history of this cable channel. The discussion of the pull promotion strategy occurs early in the program and does a nice job explaining how it impacted the company, and the cable industry.

In addition to the pull promotion discussion, this program provides several more examples of marketing decisions faced by MTV executives including circumstances that have lead to a changes in its product mix (i.e., types of videos it played) as well as changes to its target market strategy.

Thirty years ago, hardly anyone knew what a music video was. On the night MTV was launched, its founders — a ragtag bunch of music fans and rookie television execs — had to take a bus from Manhattan to New Jersey to watch the broadcast, because no New York cable company carried the fledgling channel.

Can the pull promotion technique used by MTV in the early 1980s still be relevant in today’s television market?

Monday, April 22, 2013

How Marketers are Innovating Beyond the Actual Product

DetailsCreated on October 08, 2012 Posted by Paul Christ

SERVILE BRANDS (Trendwatching)

In our What is Marketing? tutorial we observe how critical it is for marketers to build satisfying relationships with customers. In particular, we state: “A key objective of marketing is to provide products and services that customers really want AND to make customers feel their contact with the marketer is helping build a good relationship between the two.”

While, most leading companies have generally embraced this concept, they are now finding their customers are stretching their needs and expectations to levels that are making satisfaction much more challenging. In large part, significant technological innovations are leading customers to expect brands to provide much more. In most cases, what they are expecting goes beyond the composition of the Actual product.

For instance, as noted in this story, customers are particularly attracted to brands that are adapting to customer’s changing needs. These needs are being shaped by such issues as the desire for instant gratification and "need-it-now" information. For marketers, this means much greater emphasis needs to be placed on decisions that are not directly product related (i.e., product features). Instead, marketers need to focus more attention on decisions associated with the Augmented product.

The story contains many examples from around the world of innovation in the Augmented product including: printing customized recipes at the checkout counter based on products purchased during grocery visit; a website that allows customers to upload an image of their hand and then click to see what different nail polish will look like; and special refrigerator magnets that when pressed will automatically order pizza from a local pizza shop.

Yes, consumers are more demanding, time-starved, informed, and choice-saturated than ever-before (we know you know). For brands to prosper, the solution is simple though: turn SERVILE. This goes far beyond offering great customer service. SERVILE means turning your brand into a lifestyle servant focused on catering to the needs, desires and whims of your customers wherever and whenever they are.

What other examples of innovation in Augmented product are cited in this story?