Category Archives for "Blog"

Sep 05

Freelance Writer or Writing Mill?

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

Your company’s success depends on several different factors: convenience, relevance, and price point among them. While these components should not be ignored, they overlook what may be the single-most important factor, however. Content. What you say to your customers or clients is of utmost importance when it comes to conversions. In other words, having the right content writer is imperative.

Words and images are the way to address your audience, the way to let them know about your services or products, and the way to keep them entertained and educated at the same time. This is a job for a professional content writer, someone who has experience with creative writing and can make your business more attractive. But how should you choose the best content writer for your business?

Prestigious Large Company or Individual Content Writer?

Many businesses choose large writing mills that they have heard of before or that offer smaller price points for each service. Instead of hiring a content writer, this may seem like the best solution. However, large firms must complete large quantities of work within small time periods. This leads to duplicated content and templates that will be applied to your site, as well as others.

Large firms can afford to be creative — but only with the right content writer — since they must perform on a larger scale. Therefore, they have created useful methods and techniques to use repeatedly, key phrases, elegant terms, and words that will appease customers in the short-term. Unfortunately, this makes for a cookie-cutter approach that leaves clients frustrated when they see the similarities between their content and that of other clients.

Alternately, a small boutique writing firm, such as On the Verge Writing, that has fewer freelance writers, can provide customized service unique to your needs. You’ll receive unique content written specifically in your preferred style. Being able to communicate with one experienced content writer will enable you to share your thoughts and ideas directly with the writer who will be working with you.

Smaller workloads lead to more careful writing, with no repetition or previously used techniques. Select an experienced and successful writer that will be there along the way.

On the Verge Writing has the same dreams and goals as you and will be right by your side for every project no matter how large or small. If you don’t like something, or you need an improvement, your freelance writer will be there to support your requests for revisions. Contact On the Verge Writing today to find out how to make your content turn to conversions.

Sep 05

Going Viral

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

Every day, thousands of blogs, articles, and videos are uploaded to the Internet, ready for consumption by the masses. Most of these languish into oblivion. Yet some go viral. Their popularity surpasses expectations as the article becomes shared on Facebook, tweeted on Twitter, and emailed across the globe. These are the stories that remain in the public consciousness. For anyone who wants to reach a large audience, whether it be for fame, fortune or the future, it’s important to learn the secrets to crafting content that goes viral.

Naturally, the number one secret to Internet fame is to create compelling content. Once a polished, intriguing article is on hand, there are countless ways to increase its reach.

The two things you MUST do in order to increase the shareability of content on the web:

Evoke highly emotional responses

Articles that receive the largest number of hits are those that generate an emotional response from readers. The emotions can be positive or negative and can trigger a wide range of responses. That said, positive articles tend to get the highest ratings. There are a lot of unhappy people in the world. Crafting content that is inspiring and uplifting has the potential to lift people up out of the gloom, thereby increasing the likelihood of shares.

The three most popular emotions that viral articles evoke are awe, amusement and anger. The least share-inducing emotions are anger and sadness. Other emotions that trigger a strong response include surprise, joy, amusement, lust, and anxiety. The power of surprise cannot be overstated. If people are genuinely shocked by what is written, research shows that they are far more likely to share the information.

Craft content that is useful and practical

Once an article is through the editing process and ready for publication, take a careful look at it to determine whether it asks readers to do something and compels them to do that something. In other words, give readers a very specific action to take after reading the information.

People aren’t very skilled at applying broad concepts to their own lives. They can read an article and gloss over any notion of doing something with the information gleaned. However, if a writer can make readers do something, and that something is beneficial, the writer is remembered for it.

Asking someone to take action can involve nearly anything from researching information and making a purchase to signing a petition or donating money.

Emotions that make content become contagious

Awe

Albert Einstein once summed up the sensation of awe perfectly. “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”

Evoking awe in a person involves showing them something remarkably beautiful or mysterious. It’s the emotion people feel when they observe the vastness of the Grand Canyon, the harmony of an orchestra, or the agility and acrobatics in Cirque du Soleil.

Fear

Fear triggers the reptilian part of a person’s brain and makes them take action. It’s a primal response that also serves as a fantastic motivator. Writers can generate this sense of fear by making readers think they are going to lose something important, or make them worry that unknowing mistakes are being made without certain information.

Pleasure

There are a lot of things that make people experience pleasure. An article that is funny, inspiring, or happy creates this feeling. An easy way to evoke pleasure is to tell a personal anecdote that readers connect with.

Anger

Question or challenge someone’s beliefs and you’re apt to create anger. When people are mad, they strive to attain justice. They write articles of their own, post on Facebook, and talk about it at the gym.

Lust

While sex is the most common thing people associate with lust, there are a variety of things humans lust over. Power, fame, money, and results are some examples. Tempt readers with results. Suggest that by doing the actions you recommend, they’ll gain something they lust after.

Surprise

Show people something unexpected. Prove how expectations are wrong or how there’s a better way of doing something they’ve done for years. Use research to elicit surprise.

Although there are many other strategies available to increase shares for an article, these two are the most significant. They guarantee readers and memorability. Help readers feel h3 emotions and encourage them to take action. Oh, and naturally, share this article.

Sep 05

Teacher as Scientists: How Today’s Teachers are Using Data to Drive Instruction

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

You may not think of teaching as a scientific profession, but today’s teachers are engaging in the scientific process on a daily basis. Scientists, defined broadly, study problems and find solutions. They seek answers and are naturally curious about why and how things occur. More and more, teachers are using data from formative and summative assessments in their classrooms to identify student needs and adjust instruction to match those needs. Classrooms are morphing from places where students “sit and get” content delivered in a lockstep manner to places where student assessment data is driving the choices teachers make from day to day—and even moment to moment.

Educational research points to the importance of teachers adopting a scientific approach in their classrooms. Expert teachers are those who consistently reflect on their practice; they “seek feedback about their teaching, and then evaluate and adjust their teaching methods based on these findings.” Assessments of student learning are the most powerful when they are used as assessments for learning. Assessment for learning sounds very much like scientific work: “Assessment for Learning is the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there.” When teachers reflect on assessment data and how it can be used to adjust teaching, they become scientists, and student achievement increases.

In today’s world of high-stakes summative tests, it is no wonder that some teachers are leery of data. Summative assessment data is often used to pass judgment on teachers and students, with labels such as “failing” or “needs improvement” given to schools, teachers, and students based on data.

While using data in this way may be advantageous in politics, it does little to impact student learning. Even parents recognize this fact, as many are “opting out” of high-stakes assessments. But, if we adopt a scientific mindset in education, summative assessments become less ominous.

Assessments are not the end-game—a final score of how the students and teacher did for the year. Assessments are just part of many different pieces of data that tell the teacher and students how effective the process of teaching and learning was. Did students learn? How do you know? There are no judgments in those two questions—they are basic and scientific. Data becomes a tool that teachers use to hone instructional practice in ways that make a difference for students.

So, how are today’s teachers putting on their scientific hats and using assessment data as a tool to improve teaching and learning? Three key, research-based principles summarize what today’s teachers are doing differently.

Assessment as a Critical Component of Planning Instruction

As teachers design instruction, they reflect on how student learning will be assessed. Expert teachers think about what they want students to know and be able to do, and they also think about how students will demonstrate their new knowledge. They carefully plan the activities that will move students toward the learning objectives. In addition, students are made aware of the learning objectives and the criteria for mastery. Teachers have a clear sense of where they are going in the classroom, how they will know when they have arrived, and they share that clear vision with the students.

Frequent, Targeted Assessments with Feedback for Students

Think of a scientist who goes to his lab daily to collect data on an experiment in progress. Perhaps he is taking the temperature of soil samples in a greenhouse. Perhaps she is recording observation notes as bacteria grow. Scientists do not wait until the end of an experiment to collect data. They collect data frequently to measure the impact of conditions during the experiment.

Expert teachers do the same.

They do not wait until the end of a unit of learning to assess students. They are constantly observing student progress—through quizzes, discussions, and assignments. Expert teachers also ensure that students receive feedback on their learning. One of the highest leverage strategies a teacher can use is to teach students to self-assess and use teacher feedback to adjust performance.

Adjusting Instruction Based on Results

It is not data that will impact teaching and learning. It is how teachers choose to use the data that will improve student achievement.

The antibiotic penicillin was discovered by Dr. Alexander Fleming, who returned from a vacation to find a mold (penicillin) had invaded some Petri dishes of bacteria in his lab. Imagine how differently things would have turned out if Dr. Fleming had looked at the Petri dishes and thrown out the results of his experiment because it was a “bad test.”

Instead, he began to use the “data” from his Petri dishes and discovered that the mold had slowed the growth of the bacteria.

Expert teachers adopt the same scientific habits of mind. Instead of looking at lackluster results of assessments and concluding that the assessment was “bad,” teachers are using the data to reflect on their practice and the results of the teaching and learning process.

So, are teachers scientists? Definitely. Teachers are becoming more adept at making data-informed instructional decisions. The result is that no two classrooms or lessons are the same. Data-informed teaching ensures that instruction meets students where they are and takes them to where they need to go.

If you’re looking to have education-related content written for your company or blog, contact Sylvia LeRahl today.

Sep 05

What Every Student Should Know About Opting Out of Standardized Tests

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

An integral part of the American school system since the 1970s, standardized tests haven’t changed much since their inception. For years, students have been told to put away their books, scribble in the circles using a No. 2 pencil; and, when the timer dinged, rush to put their pencils down. As of late, the landscape has changed. Now, those ubiquitous (and oft-dreaded) tests have taken on a new sense of urgency. That’s because high school students can forego these exams in favor of test-optional college admissions at some universities.

Yet Should They?

Certainly, it’s tempting to toss the old notion of high-stakes exams to the wayside. After all, very few of us can say with a straight face that we enjoy the pressure, the headaches, and the grueling hours spent studying for a test that seems to serve little purpose. However, inconvenience and stress aren’t necessarily grounds for dismissal.

Deciding if this route is the right one for you or your child is an individual choice that should only be made after fully understanding the process. Here’s a glimpse at what test-optional college admissions involve and some ways to determine if it’s appropriate for you.

What is test-optional college admission?

Schools that are “test optional” make admission decisions with little or no consideration for SAT or ACT scores. Some of them will, however, use test results in order to determine course placement. In these institutions, students can decide whether or not to include test results with their admission paperwork.

Alternately, there are also “test-blind” schools, such as Hampshire College, that absolutely refuse to even look at test scores no matter how high (or low) your score.

For a school to completely buck the system in this fashion has its consequences. In its first year of practice, Hampshire was dropped from U.S. News & World Report rankings. The result? A larger enrolled class and far more minority and first-generation students. Meanwhile, the average high school grade point average of students stayed the same at 3.5.

Why would a student opt out?

There are many reasons a student might choose to opt out of high-stakes testing. Some students don’t test well despite having the knowledge and skills to be successful. These students may be filled with test anxiety or simply struggle with sitting still. Whatever the reason, they fear that the scores won’t accurately reflect their potential.

is testing-optional right for me?

Like with most things in life, there are pros and cons to every decision. When deciding whether to opt out of testing, are several important things to consider, including:

Your test-taking history

From state-mandated exams to weekly classroom assessments, most people have a long history of taking tests. Yet each person’s history is unique to them. Do you excel when faced with pen-and-paper assessments? this type of strategic thinking can bring out the best in some students. Alternately, do you freeze up or find it difficult to accurately show your knowledge?

If exams don’t accurately reflect your knowledge and skills, it may be time to opt out.

Schools of interest

Though higher ed is shifting toward test-optional admissions, there are still many schools that don’t offer such an option. Consider what programs you want to attend to decide whether you’ll be required to submit test scores. For a list of colleges and universities that feature testing-optional admissions, visit here.

Your academic past

When schools choose to forego exam scores, they often rely more heavily on grades and course load difficulty. If you have an academic record that reflects high scores in advanced, honors, IB, or AP classes, you may appreciate the flexibility of testing-optional admissions. Likewise, if your transcript shows substantial improvement over time, it may be a good route for you to choose.

Opting out of testing can be advantageous for many students if done correctly and in the appropriate scenario. Such a decision should be made with care so that your future schooling isn’t sacrificed.

Aug 23

7 Tips for Crafting an Email Marketing Template

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

The Internet iѕ thе powerhouse of marketing today. The majority of people ѕреnd mоrе timе online than rеаding, wаtсhing TV, оr viewing оthеr mеdiа. As a result, it mаkеѕ mоrе ѕеnѕе tо invеѕt in оnlinе mаrkеting аѕ it’ѕ сhеар аnd hitѕ уоur рrоѕресtѕ dirесtlу.

If уоu wаnt to сrеаtе your оwn еmаil nеwѕlеttеr tеmрlаtе tо uѕе fоr аn оnlinе рrоmоtiоnаl оr mаrkеting саmраign, it’ѕ important tо have еngаging, infоrmаtivе аnd interesting content. Hеrе аrе some suggestion tо make thе bеѕt еmаil nеwѕlеttеr template:

  •  Fоllоw the nеwѕрареr lауоut rule. Nеwѕрареrѕ adhere to the 1-3 ѕеntеnсе раrаgrарh rulе. Tо еnаblе уоur rеаdеrѕ tо absorb your ѕhаrеd infоrmаtiоn аnd оthеr соntеnt of уоur nеwѕlеttеr, fоllоw this аdviсе аѕ wеll.
  •  Utilizе соlоr tо уоur advantage. Bаѕеd on уоur brаnd, сrеаtе a ѕtriking соlоr раlеttе fоr уоur nеwѕlеttеr аnd stick tо it. Use соlоr tо guidе your rеаdеrѕ thrоugh уоur tеmрlаtе аnd tо саll аttеntiоn to сruсiаl еlеmеntѕ likе hеаdlinеѕ, ѕub hеаdlinеѕ, аnd саllѕ tо асtiоn.
  • Alwауѕ uѕе bullеtеd оr numbеrеd liѕtѕ. Mоѕt rесiрiеntѕ rеаd thеir еmаilѕ in a hurrу. Aѕ ѕuсh, thеу tеnd tо ѕimрlу ѕсаn thеѕе nеwѕlеttеrѕ. But these same rеаdеrѕ ѕtор tо rеаd bullеtеd оr numbеrеd liѕtѕ ѕinсе lists аrе еаѕiеr tо peruse. Aѕ ѕuсh, gеt thеm hooked with ѕimрlе, intеrеѕting аnd infоrmаtivе liѕtѕ.
  • Don’t рlасе уоur соntеnt near thе tеmрlаtе еdgеѕ. Cоntеnt thаt iѕ tоо nеаr thе tеmрlаtе еdgеѕ lооk unѕightlу аnd mаkеѕ your еmаil арреаr unрrоfеѕѕiоnаl. In аdditiоn, уоur content will be hаrdеr tо rеаd bесаuѕе the tеxt running intо thе bоrdеr linеѕ оr еdgеѕ саn bе viѕuаllу соnfuѕing.
  • Select fоntѕ for уоur tеmрlаtе thаt аrе capture attention аnd аrе еаѕу tо read. Keep in mind thаt еvеrу соmрutеr and mоbilе gаdgеt is diffеrеnt аnd hаѕ ѕlightlу diffеrеnt fоntѕ аvаilаblе. Aѕ such, mаkе ѕurе thаt thе fоntѕ уоu uѕе аrе ѕtаndаrd оnеѕ аvаilаblе оn аll tуреѕ оf gаdgеtѕ оr dеviсеs.
  • Uѕе a соnѕiѕtеnt dеѕign and lауоut. Onсе you hаvе рut ѕоmе thоught into уоur tеmрlаtе, stick tо it. In саѕе уоu wаnt tо еdit оr rеviѕе it, mаkе оnlу ѕlight uрdаtеѕ оr аdjuѕtmеntѕ tо kеер уоur еmаil mаrkеting design сurrеnt and rеlеvаnt. Continuously changing уоur tеmрlаtе dеѕign will соnfuѕе уоur readers аnd jeopardize the brаnd rесоgnitiоn you аrе building.
  • Lаѕtlу, rеmеmbеr tо kеер уоur tеmрlаtе ѕimрlе. Thе mоrе соmрliсаtеd уоur еmаil nеwѕlеttеr dеѕign iѕ, the mоrе wоrk уоu will hаvе tо рut intо рrоduсing еасh iѕѕuе.

Mаkе ѕurе уоu’rе nоt ѕеtting uр triр wirеѕ fоr уоurѕеlf. Simрliсitу аnd ѕinсеritу wаlk hand in hаnd whеn соnѕidеring a gооd mаrkеting tеmрlаtе, ѕо ѕtаrt thеrе аnd thеn рrосееd with саutiоn. Bеing tоо соnfidеnt in rеgаrdѕ tо уоur аudiеnсе could mеаn a dоwnfаll fоr уоur оvеrаll marketing ѕtrаtеgу. Don’t be lеft in thе соld, but dоn’t get tоо egotistical in уоur рrосеdurеѕ еithеr. On the Vеrgе Writing рrоvidеѕ email tеmрlаtе design services and еmаil mаrkеting mаtеriаlѕ. For a custom quote, please call (971) 238.6256.

Aug 23

What Makes You a Mosquito Magnet

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

Traveling is one of my favorite activities to do. I love the anticipation, the planning, and the uncertainty. I love hearing new languages, sleeping in new beds, and learning about new cultures. Other than the airplane rides (which terrify me), there are few things about exploring the world that don’t get me thrilled.

Except the mosquitoes.

Ah, yes, those pesky little critters that gravitate toward me like I gravitate toward peanut butter and chocolate. I’m a constant magnet for mosquito bites and they leave me swollen, red and itchy for days after the vacation has subsided.

Sound familiar?

To be sure, approximately 20 percent of people are mosquito magnets (aka “high attractor types”). Turns out there are quite a few reasons for this. Here’s a look at why you may be bitten more than your BFF who simply cannot understand why you keep scratching until it hur

You Move

I’m not good at sitting still, and it turns out this tendency of mine makes me more attractive to the female mosquitoes who seek out extra protein for their egg-laying days. After all, movement proves I’m a living, breathing vessel of scrumptious blood.

You Have a Higher Body Temp

Mosquitoes apparently enjoy feasting on those of us who run hotter than others. I’m sure there’s an inappropriate joke to be had here, but I’ll refrain. Because of this, people who exercise are more susceptible to the pests, as are people who have a higher body mass and those that are pregnant (pregnancy elevates temp an average of 1.26 degrees).

You Emit More Carbon Dioxide

Mosquitoes can detect carbon dioxide emission from as far as 164 feet away using this neat organ called a maxillary palp. The bigger you are, the more carbon dioxide you tend to emit, which explains why children tend to have fewer bites when standing near more carbon dioxide-emitting adults. This is another strike against pregnancy, as pregnant women tend to emit 21 percent more CO2.

You Have the Universal Blood Donor Type

At least one small study concluded that those of us with Type O blood are far more appealing to mosquitoes than those with Type A.

You Drink Alcohol

And you thought drinking alcohol only garnered the attention of fellow humans. Nope. Although it’s unclear how the pests can detect the presence of ethanol, studies show that drinking a mere 12 ounces of beer makes the ladies (er, female mosquitoes) appear.

You Have Nice Composition of Microbes on Your Skin

“Hey, baby, nice microbes” may not be the most alluring pick-up line, but for mosquitoes, it works. We all have glorious flora microbes covering our skin. In fact, we have more microbes than we do skin cells. But some of us have the luxury of saying that the composition of our microbes is better than others – at least to mosquitoes.

In short, if you want to reduce the chances of being a mosquito magnet, there are a few things you must do, stat: Avoid drinking alcohol; avoid getting pregnant; avoid breathing; avoid moving, and oh, change your genetic makeup. Or just use insect repellant.

Aug 23

7 Ways to Make Your Sales Letters Actually Sell

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

Think direct marketing is dead? Think again.

Over 90 percent of shoppers say that they prefer direct mail for making purchasing decisions. The ROI of such marketing floats around 20 percent, thereby making it one of the most useful means of advertising.

But what should a persuasive sales letter include? Of course, no formula can guarantee success for every letter. Yet there are time-tested tactics that can dramatically improve your chances. Here are seven of them.

Photo by Usama @ Unsplash

#1 Recognize Your Reader’s Problem

There are countless formats for headlines and first sentences, including making an announcement, asking a question, or telling a story.

Personally, my preference is the problem/solution format. This is the most logical, direct approach I know. After all, people don’t buy products or services per se. Rather, they buy solutions to problems. If you know your reader (and you should), you can just state the reader’s problem and offer a solution. Simple, right?

Photo by Alan Bishop @ Unsplash

#2 Hook ‘Em From the Start

How many yawning consumers snap to attention when they read your first line? How many look forward to reading the pitch you make?

Let’s put it this way: If people were in a rush to catch an airplane and stopped by the bookstore with five minutes to spare, would they choose your sales letter or the guy’s next to you? It’s the differences between these two sentences:

“Alissa Parker didn’t look like a murderer or cheat. Her pleasantly plump face fooled everyone!” Cliché.

“Alissa Parker, 12 years old at the time, began her descent into murder on a bus ride.” Intriguing.

Make your sales letter capture attention much the same way as the second sentence does. With power, with intrigue, with surprise.

While headlines are infinitely important, so are the first words put on paper (or pixels). Make sure both deliver with chutzpah.

Photo by Luca Bravo @ Unsplash

#3 Show Us What You’ve Got

The reader wanting a new app doesn’t care that the app comes with five thingamabobs. But she is interested in how those five thingamabobs take the place of five other expensive doodads to save her money and make her work easier … as well as make her the envy of all the other app-owner on the block.

Relate everything to your reader and his or her needs. Talk benefits, not features.

Photo by Jennifer Pallian @ Unsplash

#4 Make Your Product Irresistible

Just as people buy solutions rather than products, they also prefer offers much more than purchases. If you’ve done a good job of showing the reader all the benefits of your product or service, you have to make a h3, fair offer.

For example, people don’t buy 12 issues of a magazine; they accept an offer of 45 percent off the newsstand price. People don’t buy a pair of socks, they accept an offer to buy one and get one free. Your offer isn’t your price. It’s your special deal.

Photo by Glen McCallum on Unsplash

#5 Offer a Guarantee

People fear getting scammed. No one wants to be made a fool. There’s also a great deal of commitment phobia. So when you make an offer, you must eliminate any fear your reader may have by providing a way out. Most people won’t return your product or refuse your service after they’ve accepted your offer, but they want reassurance that they’re not locked into a deal forever.

If you have a solid product or service, stand behind it with a guarantee. Highlight it. The more you emphasize the guarantee, the more your reader will trust you. This, in turn, ups the likelihood of a sale.

Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash

#6 Provide a Call to Action

Sure, your readers may be intelligent, but don’t assume that they’ll spend even a second pondering how to accept your offer. If you want the reader to email, say so. If you want your reader to fill out a reply card, give direct instructions of how to do so.

Every good salesperson knows you have to ask for the order. A sales letter is no different. If you want the reader’s business, ask for it. And don’t shy away from the bold. Make your phone number large and your contact information easy to read. Use a serif typeface no smaller than 10 points.

Photo by Vítor Santos on Unsplash

#7 Make it Easy-Peasy

You’ve written a h3, benefit-packed letter that persuades the reader to try out your product or service. But you’ve skipped out on including a return envelope. Or readers would like to order now, yet there’s no phone number. You lose a sale.

The more ways you give the reader to respond, the more likely it is that they will do just that… and the more sales you’ll make. Include phone numbers, email addresses, reply cards, coupons, order forms, return envelopes, and anything else that makes it easy to say “yes” to your offer.

Writing sales letters can be a daunting task. Figuring out the right verbiage along with the appropriate tone is an exercise in patience and practice. If you’d like help crafting your next sales letter, contact On the Verge Writing at (971) 238.6256 or email Sylvia@onthevergewriting.com. I have the expertise of writing hundreds of successful sales letters and would be happy to do so on your behalf.

Aug 22

Simplifying Your Sales and Marketing Approach

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

If you’re not getting the sales numbers you desire, why is that? Chances are, you subscribe to one of the many fallacies of sales and marketing. Here’s a look at why traditional methods are failing and what you can do to change it.

What Isn’t Working?

The reassuring news is that some of the most tried-and-true methods of marketing are still effective. People continue to love video advertising. To be sure, video accounts for nearly 70 percent of all Internet traffic, according to Cisco Visual Networking. However, many other marketing strategies are falling flat. Take a look at the numbers.

  • Direct mail is expected to experience a 19% declineover the next 12 months (2016 DMA Response Rate Report);
  • Only 13% of people who read print publications report ever looking at the ads;
  • Nearly half of direct mail is never opened;
  • 70% to 80% of online users don’t look at online ads, preferring to focus only on organic search results;
  • 86% of people ignore television commercials.

Effective Sales and Marketing Ideas

As buyers become increasingly underwhelmed by advertising gimmicks, innovation becomes even more important. It is the role of businesses, then, to ensure that information is delivered to prospective customers at the right time, in the right format, and on the right platforms. This is where an inbound marketing strategy becomes crucial.

Research

There’s no need to spend copious amounts of time drudging up case studies. Instead, ‘research’ refers to time spent understanding the company and its goals, understanding the industry, and understanding the customers. This is where savvy business owners focus their attention.

  1. When it comes time to determine what your business stands for, ask the following questions:
  • What does it mean to ‘grow the business?’
  • How will I know if I’m successful?
  • What are my long and short-term goals?
  • What is the sales process?
  1. Check out the industry

As time passes, industries evolve. Each year brings new insights, research, and/or tools. As this occurs, it’s important to stay relevant. This is where industry research comes in.

  1. Determine your customer base

Speak to the salespeople—those who directly communicate with customers—to better understand the customer base. As a business leader, it’s important to give the sales and marketing teams time to sit together, collaborate, and also vent frustrations (trust me, there are bound to be some!)

Capitalize on the defining quality of your brand’s identity

It isn’t enough to say your company is “good” or that it solves problems. Instead, figure out what makes it unique and market your business on that platform.

GoPro is a stellar example of this. Their strategy revolves around synergy. By crafting a strategy based on a theme that adeptly complements their product, they have achieved excellent results.

The key to many successful campaigns is innovation. As Harvard Business Review analyst Niraj Dawar said, “Com­pet­i­tive bat­tles are won by offer­ing inno­va­tions that reduce cus­tomers’ costs and risks over the entire pur­chase, con­sump­tion, and dis­pos­al cycle.”

Utilize email marketing

Once upon a time, the phrase “You’ve Got Mail” brought shrieks of joy and excitement. After years of spam, Nigerian prince schemes, and assurances of undeserved wealth, it’s understandable to look at email marketing with a skeptical eye. Yet is it effective?

The short answer is Yes.

With an effective email marketing campaign, the possibilities for growth are endless. It is one of the lowest-cost, highest-return marketing techniques around.

Yet let’s say that your time is short and drafting email campaigns sounds cumbersome, here’s an alternative approach: Piggyback on third-party e-newsletters that reach qualified subscribers. For example, let’s say you want to reach moms of toddlers. You could research the most popular parenting websites, then choose the most cost-efficient and effective one to advertise in. This would guarantee that you’d reach parents or parents-to-be. Since subscribers opted-in to the newsletter, you’d score a good open rate and earn some credibility by being associated with a reputable publication.

While there may seem to be as many sales and marketing techniques in the world as there are people, keeping it simple and manageable is key for most start-up businesses. Start with these three tactics if you’re just starting the entrepreneurship adventure. Then, once you become more established, keep them in your back pocket in case the well runs dry.

Aug 22

Leaving Your Acoustic Watermark With Sound Branding

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

Sound is a funny sense. It weaves in and out of space, invisible to the eyes, yet oh-so-powerful to the ears. Along with sight, it accounts for 99 percent of all brand communication. Despite impacting our mood and psychological state, however, audio branding is surprisingly underutilized in marketing. While some industries have capitalized on the power of sound, other industries have been a bit reticent in adopting its principles. Here’s why that may soon change.

What is Audio Branding?

In short, audio branding refers to all of the aspects of sound that a company uses to convey its brand. As described by Karlheinz Illner, “The key elements are: sound logo, brand song, sound icons, brand score, brand hook line, brand voice and even soundscapes. These elements should reflect the brand values and brand personality in their acoustic dimensions and should acoustically distinguish a brand from its competition.”

Retail’s Use of Sound Branding

Like all marketing tactics, it is often those that sneak into our subconscious that leave the greatest impact. Chances are, you’ve experienced the nuances of this phenomena. After hearing a commercial, the ditty that the actors hummed stays lodged in your brain all day. Or maybe you’ve walked into a store and promptly walked out because the airwaves were filled with annoying music. (I have a hunch you know what I’m talking about.)

The most well-utilized form of sound marketing is through the use of jingles. The retail environment has manufactured this form of branding more than any other industry. The first network jingle appeared in the 1940s when Austen Herbert Croom-Johnson and Alan Bradley Kent developed the jingle “Pepsi-Cola Hits the Spot.” Placed in jukeboxes around the United States, the Pepsi jingle became infectious. Jingles are especially effective because they use short sound clips and repetitiveness, two components that make memorization frustratingly easy. They seem to get stuck in our thoughts like an inextricable weed lodged between cracks in the sidewalk.

Other times, sound branding envelopes far more than a short ditty. Clothing brand Abercrombie & Fitch knows this well. The stores are designed from a multi-sensory perspective in an attempt to encourage people to spend more money. To maintain their younger clientele, the stores play music at a loud volume and in genres that appeal to this demographic. They also spray a specific fragrance throughout their stores in order to attract certain shoppers, and utilize attractive models to garner a particular reputation. Likewise, the Volkswagen Cabrio in 2000 enjoyed increased sales with the popularity of their commercial set to Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon.”

The Power of Sound

Audio branding works by awakening one of the five fundamental senses: hearing. While we can close our eyes to ignore visual advertising, we can’t very well close our ears, thereby making this form of marketing ever more powerful. Sound serves as a way to make an emotional connection to customers and create memories.

Most of our purchases are based on emotions. Sound can be used to define, differentiate, and communicate. Carefully selected music generates more revenue by creating a positive atmosphere, thereby encouraging customers to stay in place and make more purchases.

As if to underscore this point, George Lucas once said that 50 percent of Star Wars’ success came from its music.

Audio Branding in the Hospitality Industry

The same concepts that can be applied in the retail industry can be applied to the hospitality industry — both online and offline.

Studies show that we associate sounds with certain memories. Since a mood is readily associated with specific vacation experiences, it’s important for those in the hospitality industry to choose sounds that manifest positive emotions. Yet it’s also important to be consistent in the sound used. It would be confusing to customers to hear a variety of sounds associated with a hotel’s brand. Although it’s appropriate to use variations, it’s critical that customers identify the brand with a specific style, just as in the case of visuals.

The first decision, then, is to define where sounds will be used and what styles of sound are most suitable. Ideally, the sounds inside the hotel will align with the sounds used on the website, when people call in to the hotel, and in advertising. The music program should have an emotional resonance with customers that reflects the brand’s personality. A notable example of this comes from Bahia Principe. They have a unique melody for their videos that corresponds with the tune heard if calling in to the hotel. This same melody is heard throughout their hotels and a similar tune plays when their logo is displayed. In other words, they have effectively crafted a sound brand that attracts a particular type of customer.

Equally important is choosing the right music to incorporate. Often, hotels make the mistake of using the same types of music as one another, such as the top hits from the 70s, 80s, 90s, or a mix thereof. This generic compilation ensures that most hotels sound identical and cheap. It also shows a disregard for the appreciation of the quality and power of music. Instead, it’s important to choose music that shapes the emotional investment visitors have to the hotel and helps usher in positive memories.

Branding in Your Industry

Whatever industry your business embodies, rest assured that it can benefit from a little branding TLC. When you’re ready for branding that electrifies,, contact On the Verge Writing. I know how to create branding campaigns that attract new customers and retain the old.

Aug 22

Hiring a Freelance Writer Makes Cents

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

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