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By In Small Thoughts

Meet Andrew & Andy. They’re Helping Hamilton Love Jesus.

These two men are Christian leaders in Hamilton, helping people connect with God (Andrew on the left, Andy on the Right).

Both are doing simple, but fun things to bring believers together, train them in spiritual disciplines, create spaces for worship, and build up the church in Hamilton. And both men are just getting started, although they’ve been working for a while now. (more…)

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By In Small Thoughts

Gritty Faith

Why are most Christian magazines so cheesy?

In the process of writing a profile about a local Christian leader, Jade was helping me look for Christian magazines that might run the article. She messaged me while at work about how cheesy it all was. I usually try to defend Christian media, but there’s no defense for this. Christian media is typically cliche, predictable, buried in fluff, and straight up cringe worthy.

Am I wrong? (more…)

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By In Small Thoughts

When Waiting Looks Like Working

If there was a test at the end of this life-course, I’ve failed. “Waiting” and “Rest” were repeated themes over the past few months. In the time that I was given to rest and “learn of Jesus,” selfish ambition and weeds of worldly worries strangled my peace. (more…)

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By In Small Thoughts

Lift Off #19 – Evident Desire

Podcast Notes:

“The offer was flattering, not humiliating. It showed sympathy and understanding. The evident desire was to serve.” – Claude Hopkins, My Life in Advertising

Don’t you find it easy to tell when a company’s advertising is self serving? Even though advertising is self serving by nature, we are put off by it. We want our needs met. We aren’t always concerned with meeting the needs of the people we buy from.

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By In Small Thoughts

Lift Off #18 – Testing is Better Than Guessing

Podcast Notes:

“Perhaps one time in fifty, a guess might be right. But fifty times in fifty an actual test tells you what to do and avoid.” – Claude Hopkins, My Life in Advertising.

Claude talks a lot about the guess work that brands do with their advertising. He scorns the typical, “by our brand and not theirs” message. He strongly advocates testing advertising ideas out on smaller markets before spending too much money on one tactic.

In the digital world, this is so easy to do. A/B testing headlines, web pages, landing pages, email subject lines, calls to action and PPC ad copy is built into most services. You don’t have to wander blindly through the fog of cyber content, hoping that your headline or image will catch on.

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By In Small Thoughts

Lift Off #17 – Reciprocity, Generosity, and Greed

Podcast Notes:

There’s a weird truth about greed. The more someone consumes the resources you produce, the more they feel they owe you a little. You can feed greed by promising more money, more popularity, and greater status, but the real power of greed is when you are generous.

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By In Small Thoughts

Lift Off #16 – Public Relations

Podcast Notes:

Public Relations is a different discipline than advertising but it’s not separate. Organizations distribute PR material to news editors in hopes of free publicity. When your business releases a new product, service, achieves some milestone, or significantly impacts the community, it can be delivered as a news story. If your material is picked up by an editor, your story and brand are put in front of the editor’s audience. It can be good marketing.

Bob Bly, a well known copywriter in marketing circles, writes about a simple PR tactic that drew attention from a major New Jersey newspaper. Bob writes in his book, “The Copywriter’s Handbook,” about his 7 year old son’s Gigapet falling into the toilet. The electronic pet quit working, and the 7 year old boy was devastated. To help his son through this mini-trauma, Bob and his family buried the Gigapet in the backyard and gave it a little funeral.

Bob turned this into a PR opportunity. He wrote up a quick press release about the Gigapet burial, offering similar burial service to the public for a small fee. He also offered a booklet about “Raising Your Gigapet” for $4. One sentence of the press release was devoted to describing Bob’s other books as background info.

He mailed this press release out to many editors and the story turned into a feature article for a New Jersey newspaper.

It’s a quaint storey, I know. But it got me thinking, how many people mailed in $4 for that booklet? As Bob was about to tell this story in “The Copywriter’s Handbook,” he noted, “Please don’t send for the booklet, which I lost track of long ago.”  This leads me to believe people have actually inquired about the $4 dollar booklet.

Press releases are easy to write up and even easier to email out. Getting the email address for a publication editor is not a hard thing to do. It wouldn’t take much to write a quick article or press release about “Using Social Media to Answer Commonly Asked Hair Style Questions,” and then send it out to as many style, cosmetics, and hair salon publications as you can find.

Or write an eBook about the proper way to clean and detail a car, with recommendations for products and safety tips. Price it at $0.99, write up a press release and send it to as many automobile publications as possible. If you’re an auto detailer, you just created a product that you make 100% profit on and potentially garnered a lot of attention. Plus every eBook you sell is more advertising in the hands of someone who cares about the well being of their car.

Maybe you’re a florist offering a special deal on Roses. You could write up a simple how-to article about growing, maintaining, and arranging Roses for beautiful garden displays. At the end you can briefly mention your special offer and the reader won’t feel jilted.

NOTE:

Lift Off will be taking a break for the Holidays. There won’t be an episode of Lift Off from December 22nd to December 28th 2014. When we come back on the 29th, there will only be two episodes per week.

My wife and I will be traveling for a couple months through the states. Open Sky Copywriting won’t be affected except for Lift Off. Being on the road, it will be easier to keep production down to two Lift Off episodes per week.

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By In Small Thoughts

Lift Off #15 – Create a Universe

Podcast Notes:

Rocketship.fm is a podcast for starups. They do weekly interviews with successful startups and ask the questions that new entrepreneurs are brooding over.

They published a book called “Plan Twice. Build Once.” It’s a collection of 100 quotes from entrepreneurs they’ve interviewed. The quotes are action focused and motivational in nature.

They are essentially monetizing their podcast. But it got me thinking about reversing their process. Write a book, the produce a podcast to promote it. You could also build a blog, record videos, create attractive graphics, or develop a free web tool (although that would be a tad pricey).

The point is, marketing is media heavy. Always has been. Marketing is also value driven. Always has been.

If you’re an author, you can promote your book through the podcast. Interview other experts, answer questions, but more importantly, go deeper into the subject matter of the book.

Create a universe on your own media space with characters and plot that envelopes your audience. This way your readers not only have your book to rely on, but your podcast, blog, and other content that adds to their reading experience.

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By In Small Thoughts

Lift Off #14 – Native Advertising

Podcast Notes:

As of 2012, banner ad clickthrough rate was 0.2%. So unless you can afford to put your ad in front of millions of people, display ads are becoming quite inefficient.  What’s the answer? Well, there’s more than one option, but right now I want to talk about native advertising.

The simplest definition of native advertising is “sponsored content that fits the usual content flow.”

It’s a more commercial form of content marketing. An article, a Buzzfeed quiz, an embedded video, infographic, or any content that is commissioned by a company. It reads, looks, and feels like any other blog post or infographic you read or see, but it has a brand name attached to it.

The “native” element means it fits it’s surroundings. The content doesn’t feel out of place. Readers, viewers, and users don’t mind it being there because it isn’t a blatant, disruptive sales pitch. The best native ads are valuable enough to be shared.

It’s advertising because the company paid to have it included with the regular content mix. You’ll often see “Sponsored” or “Advertisement” clearly labeled above the content.

This isn’t just online. Companies can pay to have an article published in a magazine or they can make their full page ad an information rich graphic.

Digitally, companies can pay for content they’ve created to be included in a website’s usual feed. Like Mashable, Buzzfeed, magazine websites, news agency websites or niche blogs. Technically, boosted Facebook posts, promoted tweets, or sponsored linkedIn updates can be considered native advertising. But if it’s going to be truly “native,” then the post has to fit the user’s interests, something they don’t mind interrupting their flow of updates from friends.

The trouble with native advertising is it’s soft sell nature. You can’t outright ask for a sale in an article without damaging the credibility of the companies’ intent. If the reader feels you’re just after their money, it doesn’t matter how useful the article is, you’ve damaged your reputation in their eyes.

Companies won’t focus on specific responses then (clicks, purchases, shares), but on awareness and branding. It’s hard to get a solid measurement of awareness. You can measure traffic, views, time on page, and impressions, but what is that doing for your bottom line?

Marketing is supposed to illicit a response. So how do you know if your native advertising is actually boosting revenue?  Like or not, your ads need to inspire some sort of action. It has to be action that people will want to take, though.

Most companies try and make the content as interesting as possible and hope it goes viral. But not everything is going to be viral and even if content is shared millions of times, how do you measure the dollar value of that popularity? Your content doesn’t have to go viral to be measurable or effective.

Use reader curiosity. Present a fascinating or shocking story. In video, graphic, or written form, it doesn’t matter. Tell the full story. If it’s interactive content, give the user full functionality. But leave some mystery behind a supporting character or key element. Something that, once the reader is finished with the content, they are curious to know more about this character or key element.

For myself, when I’m reading business articles and they quote stats from a report, I almost always click on the report to investigate more.

The advertising is showing up on media space that you have rented. It’s not your website or your publication. So create curiosity about resources or products that you own. Provide links back to your website or app so readers can satisfy their curiosity on your space.

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By In Small Thoughts

Lift Off #13 – Continuity Programs

Podcast Notes:

30 or 40 years ago “Wine of the Month” or “ Book of the Month” clubs were popular. People would subscribe for a monthly fee and get a new book or wine every month. This has been done with coffee, medication, beauty and grooming products, self-help material, and who knows what else.

These are called continuity programs. They don’t have to be monthly, the best programs allow the consumer to dictate the frequency of their shipments. Marketers of consumables and limited-life products have used continuity programs for a long time. How convenient is it for a customer to subscribe and never have to worry about getting their medication on time again?

The golden egg for any business is repeat customers. Continuity programs have repeat business built into the model. These programs run alongside mail-in, call-in, or online orders as well. It creates unique inventory and shipment challenges, but once your system is in place, you have a winning routine that continually delights your customers.

This business model is still strong today. The internet has made it easy to reach out and find new customers, to fulfill and track shipments, and to give the customer ultimate control over when and what is shipped.

There are some unique internet continuity programs out there. The most obvious is Dollar Shave Club (at leas for the men). I always see ads in my Facebook feed asking me to sign up for $1 a month to receive new razors every month. Personally, I use an electric shaver, but Dollar Shave Club has become quite a hit.

There’s also Birchbox. Pay monthly and get new beauty and grooming products for men or women each month. How about Blue Apron? They mail out weekly meal plans and ingredients. Everything is pre-measured and fresh from sustainable sources. All you have to do is mix and cook. Then there’s Loot Crate. You choose a 1 month, 3 month, or 6 month plan, and they mail you a box of random, geek and gamer gear; toys for grownups.

This business model isn’t for everyone, but if you have the means, launching a continuity program secures repeat business. This is really just a variant of audience marketing; build an audience, regularly deliver something valuable, and you have an interested audience that is more inclined to try your new products.

If you’re a clothing retailer, why not look into a continuity program that sends out the latest fashions.

If you’re a sports shop, athletes are always going through tape, water bottles, deodorant, and other sport-specific products. Create a program so they don’t ever have to worry about running out.

If you’re an auto-parts dealer, how about offering mechanics and handy people a program that delivers oil, filters, plugs, safety equipment, and what not.

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