Lesson #4: Have Fun With Your Marketing

Marketing campaigns are everywhere. We are inundated on all fronts, on all platforms, at all hours of the day and night. A digital marketing agency like ours spends all day, every day, up to our ears in trying to understand marketing efforts and improve our techniques.

Why not have fun with it every once in a while?

Sure, there are some kinds of businesses for whom a serious tone is appropriate as a default. Some things do demand a professional tone — and some people just prefer working with more serious people.

But these days, the people who stand out are the people who are genuinely enjoying themselves with what they do.

Of course, consumer products have the edge, with Oreo’s brilliant “Daily Twist” being a sweet example:

Oreo Daily Twist examples

But B2B companies can do it too, whether showing themselves having fun on the job or finding creative new ways to explain what they do.

Take selfies. Show a sense of humor. Be a little absurd. Enjoy geeky references and pop culture moments.

The possibilities are endless for most businesses. Every once in a while, give yourself permission to break up the serious marketing moments with a little fun too.

How to Market Effectively Without Words

Have you met Hartley?

He’s our four-legged best friend here at CT Social. He’s sociable, affectionate, and loves to play. He never forgets to remind us to go out and stretch our legs on a walk.

Unlike many dogs, Hartley is not particularly vocal. He rarely barks at anything unless he is agitated.

Instead of barking at ‘his’ people to let him out or play with him or feed him, he figured out other (cuter) ways to communicate his needs.

The humans, in turn, learn how to read his signals to figure out what he wants.

You don’t need words to communicate effectively.

In fact, sometimes nonverbal messages can be far more powerful and drive far more reactions than verbal ones.

Words get trapped in logic and semantic details. Words mean different things to different people.

Words are, in fact, confusing… especially when handled poorly.

It’s as true in everyday life as it is in marketing.

In marketing, the nonverbal communications come from different sources: the visual structure of the photo; the music selected for a video, the way a model looks.

The brands that market the best know how to really allow the consumer to see the spirit behind the brand.

Advertisements for expensive purses, for instance, are not really about the purse. They are about the model, in all her sophistication. The consumer is intended to feel the desire for that sophistication, and associate it with the purse.

Similarly, Red Bull ads may feature the brand logo, but they are not about an energy drink. They are about an experience. A high-energy, intense experience that their target audience desires. A story that they want consumers to associate with the Red Bull brand. Their sponsorship of Felix Baumgartner’s high-altitude jump also comes to mind:

Language can capture elements of emotion, but at the end of the day great visuals just help people understand things in a more powerful way.

We have lots of words to attach to our emotions, but you can’t make people feel an emotion by just telling them to feel it. You have to give them a story or an idea that allows them to react emotionally.

And when you use the right visuals, you can convey that story — that emotion — successfully. And words never have to make the sale for you.

Creating Your Marketing Strategy: Ride into the Wind

Yesterday afternoon I was riding my bike in the park near my house.

The ride started out nicely — quiet skies, cool breezes… I was able to cruise along without any problem.

Then, while on my first loop around the park, I felt the wind pick up. The light breezes suddenly felt like gusts as they pushed back at my efforts to speed up.

The entire time biking around the park, the wind chased me and tried to slow my ride.

I could have given up and slowed down. But instead I leaned forward and kept pushing, and it gave me one of the best workouts I have ever had. Having to push harder because of the wind gave me greater energy the whole way through.


When you are trying to implement a digital marketing strategy, you get lots of pushback and lots of demands — lots of wind gusting in your face from all directions.

It can get frustrating and sometimes you just want to slow down and let things work more easily for a while.

But you don’t overcome great challenges without committing to solutions. You have to finish the ride.

You don’t grow on social media by avoiding posting. You don’t grow in search by making your website un-crawlable. You don’t design just half of a new website.

You address the key issues, you deal with the critiques, and you keep going.

Invite the conversation. Invite the debate if necessary. Dare the wind to come at you.

The road to digital marketing success is most often long and full of experimentation. You can only make the calls that seem best for you, and you have to stick with those to see if they draw a response.

Most people get tempted to give up, but not you. You know that this is a long distance ride and you will have a lot of distance to cover before you get closer to home.

You might be riding into the wind, but at least you are still pedaling.

Why Marketers Need Continuing Education

Yesterday, in my Pocket app review, I observed that digital marketers don’t receive licenses, which leaves education and training to be self-directed as best one can.

Naturally, part of me appreciates this. I dislike taking tests and filling out endless paperwork as much as anyone who has ever been to a DMV or a doctor’s office.

However, in recent months, many prospective clients have complained about the dismal interactions they have had with previous marketing companies, talking about people who take money and disappear; people who create low-quality work; people who won’t communicate; people who don’t get results*.

(*Side note: In marketing, you can track success metrics but not always direct sales. Marketing is generally most successful when it is about raising awareness, which can be challenging to quantify without detailed research.)

The Challenge of the Self-Educated Marketer

As in any field, no matter what measures are put into place, you will always run into people who do low-quality work that gets low-quality results.

Other industries, such as massage therapy, have taken steps to secure higher quality standards by putting in a structure of required Continuing Education courses, which every massage therapist must take periodically in order to remain licensed.

We have little reason to expect that any kind of licensing structure will be put into place for marketers. But, even without a threat of losing your license, there is no reason marketers can’t pursue their Continuing Education in meaningful ways geared at providing better service to clients.

why marketers need continuing education

Marketers are, for the most part, self-directed in their education efforts. Conferences serve as an opportunity to come together to share knowledge, but the information is rarely sufficiently in-depth to serve as a meaningful education. (Often, the greatest value comes from conversations in the hallway, at lunch, and after hours.)

Of course, you can read blog posts, take online seminars, and watch videos. But no one is watching when you browse over to Facebook to check in with your friends instead of actually learning. You also don’t usually have to take a test to find out if you took anything away from the experience.

If these are our primary education systems, and anyone with a basic knowledge of the Internet can claim to be a digital marketer, you can see why so many clients have bad experiences with less-than-professional marketing companies.

Why Marketers Need Better Continuing Education

With or without a required licensing system, in order to succeed in a rapidly-shifting industry, marketers need continuing education in areas like:

  • Latest trends and developments in the field
  • Key data about customer behaviors
  • Client communication and ethics
  • New technologies which may assist with professional goals

continuing education for professional marketers

You can put together a self-directed course on all these topics using Internet resources, but it can be hard to know who is the most reliable source at times. That’s where it is nice to have a centralized entity step in.

Professional associations like the American Marketing Association already provide a certification process for those who want to become Professional Certified Marketers (PCM). This is just one avenue provided by one organization, but it is a step.

In the marketing industry today, certifications are certainly a plus. Some people have them to demonstrate specific industry competencies. You most often see badges from Google’s certification programs in AdWords or other Google products. But since they are product-specific, they only cover so much ground.

Businesses are getting tired of getting burned. At some point in the future, there could be a cry for a more comprehensive kind of marketer certification, from businesses who are tired of being burned. The question is, how will the marketing industry respond?

Marketers: how do you maintain your continuing education efforts? If given the opportunity, would you pursue formal industry education and professional certifications? Under what circumstances?

The Insanely Simple Secret to Content Creation

Content Creation for People Who Don’t Know What to Say

Greg and I have spent hours talking to dozens of different types of business about their content creation efforts on social media and websites. And while many of them are enthusiastic about the idea of creating content on their own, most struggle with it.

These people are, for the most part, gifted and passionate and deeply knowledgeable about what they do. Which makes it all the more surprising when I hear, over and over again, things like “I don’t know what to say.”

Everyone suffers from a little writer’s block sometimes, but in these cases people are usually giving up before they have even gotten started. Or they managed to post once, and struggle to repeat the effort consistently.

I must admit that as I have been blogging every day, I’ve hit a number of times where I struggled to come up with something to say. But I’ve learned that there’s always an idea there — and even if it seems mundane to you, it may be helpful to someone else.

The “I don’t know what to say” phenomenon can be overcome by many things, including content planning in advance. But the really essential improvement lies in how you look at the challenge.

Most business professionals, while knowledgeable about their topic, are too close to their day to day activities to see how their knowledge and experience in those same activities might be useful to their online audience.

To be really effective in digital marketing, business professionals often need a full attitude shift. Ultimately, you have to be able to identify what you know and communicate it adequately to your audience, as if you were a teacher and this were your subject. That’s hard to do at first when you aren’t used to thinking in that way.

looking for content creation opportunities

Bringing the Spirit of Discovery to Your Content Creation

If you want to ramp up your content efforts and don’t want to hire someone to do it for you, you need to bring the attitude of a teacher or a scientist or even a child to what you do.

You need curiosity, a sense of inquiry about your own activities. Separate yourself mentally from your own expertise, and think about why people hire you. Ask questions like:

  • What do you really do?
  • What role does it play in people’s lives? What is the larger significance of the work?
  • How do they feel about it?
  • How can you reinforce or shift that perception by creating greater understanding?


But your content also requires empathy, the strong desire to help your customers get the answers and the assistance they really need:

  • What extra value do you add to your customers’ lives?
  • What do you know that they could easily do themselves?
  • What processes could help people have a better experience working with you?


A strong desire to learn and a strong desire to help both go a long way in opening up your mind to the possibilities of content creation.

better content creation by teaching effectively

To create content well for blogs and social media demands looking at what you do through a fresh set of eyes.

Those eyes could be yours, if you try to rediscover the perspective of an excited new employee, and want to dive into exploring every element of what you do.

Or they could be the eyes of the potential clients and advocates you are trying to help with useful information… the people you are trying to serve and get business from.

Either way, great content creation happens when you let yourself be curious about your own profession. And who knows — when you shake off the cloud of going through your day to day routines, you might just learn something new that is worth loving about what you do.

Excite and Engage Your Audience with These Five Types of Power Words

Trigger a Sales Response with Power Words in Website Copy

The little things matter when it comes to website copy and social media posts — especially the little “power words” you choose to emphasize.

When your objective with writing is to influence action, you must strive to go beyond merely putting words on the page, and focus on how each individual word (and the sentence as a whole) could make the reader react.

Your mission as the copywriter is to use words that inspire them to react in a way that fits with a business’s goals along the sales funnel.

“Power words” or “trigger words” can be your ally along this journey. They are time-tested friends of copywriters, compelling clicks and encouraging sales by their mere presence. They are not magical, but they connect with a reader’s brain in the right places to encourage results.

Create emotion.

Studies in neuromarketing have demonstrated that we essentially function with three brains: the ‘new brain’, which thinks, the ‘middle brain,’ which feels, and the ‘old brain,’ which decides based on input from the other two.

Experienced writers know that it is easy enough to give people information which makes them think. But it’s not so easy to get them to feel anything about what they are learning — especially enough to create a deeper connection with the subject.

When people buy, emotion usually has something to do with it.

I’m sure we can all think of a moment when we bought a product because we were frustrated with a situation and that product promised to have the answer.

Or how about a time when you were depressed, and looked for retail therapy?

Or a time when you donated money to a cause because the nonprofit told you something that made you feel sad about the situation?

These feelings can be created with a range of (emotion-dependent) power words like imagine, crave, tragic, agony, embarrass, controversial, rave, and amazing. The more colorful and descriptive the words, the better your audience will be able to connect with them.

how website copy with power words can create connection with an audience

Create connection.

Connecting with your readers is about showing them that you understand their needs.

Making statements that show an understanding of cause and effect can help with this — studies have shown that the word because alone works wonders in creating an understanding that compels action, simply by showing the existence of a reason.

Similarly, the use of second person language creates a sense of connection between the writer and the reader (or the company and the customer). When you use the word “you” while writing with that reader in mind, you help them to feel like you are talking directly to them. (See?)

Create trust.

Authentic. No Risk. Money Back Guarantee.

Familiar song… but we like the tune. Power words like this inspire confidence in a product. You become more likely to buy because you believe that something is the real deal, or if you believe the situation will be made right if a problem arises.

Similarly, we love it when we hear something is best-selling. If that many other people like it, we might like it too (or so the idea goes).

We also love to know when something has been endorsed, especially by a celebrity you care about. (The celebrity chosen to endorse a product tells us a lot about the audience who should find the product appealing, at least in the eyes of the company.)

Many people feel uncertain when trying a new product for the first time. Hesitant buyers can be reassured by “No Obligation” language, which lets you know that if you aren’t a fan, you have a way to get out of what you’re signing up for.

how website copy can create trust and urgency for sales

Create urgency.

Be honest: if you were the first person to find out that there were only three hundred iPhones left in the whole country, wouldn’t you buy one?

Scarcity increases perceived (and even real) value. It also increases a customer’s sense of urgency about buying the product.

That’s why so much advertising relies on setting (and promoting) time frames, using power words like “Limited Time Offer” or “Sale Ends Soon” or “Today Only” or “Only 10 Available.”

After all, sometimes we need limits in order to force us to make a decision.

Create a vision.

When we read sales copy, the question we are actually asking is “what can this product or service do for me?

Good power words know how to answer that question in many different ways in website copy, creating a vision of the user’s end experience after purchasing the product or service.

This often starts with ramping up the perception of exclusivity, indicating that certain things on a website are “members only”, or that you could be “one of the first to hear about it.” When you find out that a “class is now full”, you want to “become an insider” to get the perks of being part of the club.

If someone is looking for solutions, it also helps to create a vision of answers that are quick and easy, or at the very least proven or an improvement.

The vision we creates defines the experience our customers expect.

how power words in website copy can help you create a vision of success

Why Power Words Matter

Emotion, connection, trust, urgency, and a vision. It’s a lot to ask of copy that really can’t be too long if it is going to be effective.

That is why the little things — the specific, minute word choices you make — matter so much in crafting website copy that converts.

Jon Morrow, Copyblogger, and the good folks at Buffer have gone before me in creating worthwhile lists of proven trigger words for copywriters to use, and I highly encourage you to explore them as helpful resources.

What can you do to tune up your website copy and make it more engaging for your audience?