15 Grammar Mistakes to avoid

March 6, 2012

Good copy is important in your business communications. Between web content, brochures and social media, companies are producing content prolifically. Our friends at Copyblogger have created this infographic to help you when you are creating copy to avoid some common, yet inexcusable, grammatical errors. If you don’t consider yourself a strong writer, print this out and use it as a reference tool. It will definitely help you appear more professional.

15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly
Like this infographic? Get more copywriting tips from Copyblogger.


Public Relations Basics For Small Businesses

October 21, 2011

Press Pass With Lanyard-2

How are you spreading good news about your company?

If you don’t have a formal plan or aren’t currently capitalizing on public relations don’t fret, you are aren’t alone. Most small businesses are in the same boat.

However, public relations is an extremely valuable marketing tool for the small businesses who capitalize on news about their company to get media attention.  Public Relations is a very cost-effective way to advertise your business.

Before you get started, here are a few public relations basics that you should work on and have prepared in advance before you start contacting the media to get the word out.  Working on these basics will form the basis of a press kit that can be deployed with any press releases you want to write when you have news to share, you will have the bulk of the work already done.

For most companies, press kit essentials are:

  • A company fact sheet
    • This is the who, what, where, when and why about your business.
    • Use this fact sheet to give the 10,000 feet view of the company: Keep it simple and keep it to one page
  • A Frequently  Asked Questions Sheet
    • This isn’t a must have for every business but if your company is not easily summarized on a fact sheet or your business is fairly technical, then a fact sheet is where you can flesh out more details
  • A one-pager on each of your main product lines
    • If you already have product fact-sheet as part of your sales collateral it can be repurposed here as a cost-effective, time-saving solution
    • If you don’t have one-pager fact sheets in your sales kit, then no better time then the present  to put them together.
Once you have created your basic press kit, you can make distribution of your press kit simple by housing it on your corporate website.  What I find effective is to create an online “press room” where you post your press releases as well as your press kit.  But you can put it wherever it makes most sense to you on your site.  Of course, you don’t have to house it digitally on your website, you can have a printed press kit that you send out to the media or your can have it electronically and distribute it as attachments to your emails to media, that is what some companies do, however, I just find it much more simple
Once you have created a home for your press kit online then you can place a link to your press kit in each press release and communication with the media by simply stating “for more information on Company X, please see our corporate press kit here.” 
One last suggestion, if/when you create your online press kit, also add to an online press kit hi-resolution corporate logos, brand logos, executive photos and product photos, if applicable.
You see, one of the biggest things to remember in public relations, anything you can do to make a reporters life easier, the further you will go toward actually getting that reporter to make the effort to tell your story. So, if you provide him or her with easily accessible background information, facts, anecdotes, graphics, logos, etc, you have gone a long way toward taking all of the legwork out of writing your story.
So what do you think? Not too difficult, right? If you have a press kit, does it include any items that I failed to mention? Please share it here so we can all think about whether it makes sense for our press kits as well.
Next up: Press Releases 101–what to report, how to write them and how do you get them distributed? 

Velting Overhead Doors Press Release

October 7, 2011

Following is a press release issued this week by our friends and clients at Velting Overhead Doors:

***For Immediate Release***

Velting Overhead Doors Thrives In Spite Of Weak Economy

September 30, 2011–(Bayville, NJ) Velting Overhead Doors announced this week that they have come to terms with Benchmark Overhead Doors of Jackson, NJ to assume their warranty service as Benchmark is going out of business.

Doug Velting, owner of Velting Overhead Doors, stated that he is very proud of the success of his family-owned business.  In only two years since opening the business Velting has grown his clientele from just a hand-full of acquaintances from his network of family and friends into a thriving concern.

Velting has been working in the garage door business for 15 years and decided to go out on his own in 2010 and start his own business.

“When you tell people your opening a business in an economy like this, a lot of people look at you like your crazy, but I saw that there was an opportunity for a company that offered top-notch equipment and personalized service to succeed”, said Velting.

Velting’s instincts were correct. He was able to fill a niche in the Central Jersey area and since opening the company he has been able to consistently grow the business.  Things have really started to take off over the summer.  “Service call volume is up 50% in the past six months”, states Velting “and sales and repair business are up 20% and 35% respectively in the past two months.”

Their client list has steadily grown.  They not only service residential garages, they offer solutions from a single, one-car home garage to up to large-size car dealerships and industrial complexes.  Velting Overhead Doors handle regular commercial clients like Pinebelt and Silverline Windows.

With their business on solid footing and growing, Velting contacted Benchmark Overhead Doors about acquiring their warranty business as an avenue for growth.  Velting stated  “the owner of Benchmark and I have known each other a few years now, and had worked together in the past before each deciding to start our own businesses.  About a week ago he and I were talking about getting our families together for dinner, and he mentioned in passing that he was thinking about getting out of the business but wasn’t sure what to do, because he didn’t want to just abandon his customers.  We both offered the same product line, and I was familiar with his caliber of work, so I offered to take on his customer base, and future workload, as well as offering an “installation warranty” transfer program.  We are in the process this week of taking their phone numbers over into our office so that their customer base isn’t just getting dead air when they call.

Velting continued “there were a few things that made us think this would be a good thing to move forward on, the first being that we offer the same product line.  The second reason would have to be Benchmark’s main concern was that their customers wouldn’t have anyone to turn to if they had an issue. One cornerstone of our business model is that we are trying to take the business/customer relationship back to the days when you were able rely on and trust the service you were provided.  We’ve strived to provide national brand name products with the feel of a small town general store; where the customer and employees know each other by name and not some invoice or reference number.  The third and final reason this was an attractive opportunity for us in that by taking on their workload and broadening our customer base it may afford us an opportunity to hire new employees, which in turn helps our local economy and unemployment rates.”

The integration of Benchmark’s business has shown an immediate increase in Velting Overhead Doors’ activity. “Since last week when we forwarded their phone system to ours we are fielding roughly 50% more phone calls during the day”, Velting said. Once they incorporate the best practices from both companies into one seamless operation Velting anticipates that volume increase will go even higher.

Velting Overhead Doors offers top of the line equipment from the leaders in the industry such as Liftmaster and Clopay, both of which won “best of business” awards last year. Clopay doors are made in America, which keeps money here, and keeps more Americans working.  Liftmaster openers are the number one professionally installed opener in the world.  Being a family-owned business its very important for us to be able to stand behind the products we sell and both Clopay and Liftmaster make that an easy thing to do.

Velting Overhead Doors also differentiate themselves in terms of service.  Velting stated “the person you speak to on the phone when you call for an appointment is the person who shows up at your home.  Plus the person who starts your job finishes it; we do not subcontract out our work.”  Velting adds “we work with our customers to ensure that they are able to make the best decision for their project and ensure that it stays within their budget restrictions.”

Being budget conscious in this economy is a priority.  That is another area of distinction for Velting Overhead Doors.  Instead of charging by the hour for service calls, they offer residential clients a flat-rate service charge regardless of the time they need to complete the work and they are always willing to go the extra mile to ensure that the customer is satisfied with the end result.

Velting prides himself on keeping up-to-date on the latest technologies in the industry.  For example, just recently he’s begun to offer people door openers that work in conjunction with your smart phone.

Even in a challenging economy, there are opportunities for entrepreneurs who have a good idea and an excellent way to differentiate themselves to succeed, and Velting Overhead Doors is seizing that opportunity and growing their business.

Velting Overhead Doors is a full-service, family-owned and operated garage door company serving both Commercial and Residential customers in all of Central NJ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. For More Information or to request a quote, please visit www.VeltingDoors.Com


Busy Times Around Here

September 23, 2011

This blog hasn’t been getting the attention it deserves.  I apologize. The good news is that there hasn’t been many updates because I have been pretty busy on client work. In the past month we have been working with two new clients–so most of my writing time has been eaten up working on copy writing, blogging and press releases for them.

Hopefully you follow me on Twitter because even when I am not blogging I try to pass along links to articles of interest about marketing, branding and social media.

But I do want to refocus on giving you value added content here.  So, for the time being here are a few links of interest that I have seen that deserve your attention:

First, here is a good review  from PRWeb.com about how video is becoming ubiquitous in marketing campaigns and for good reason–it increases SEO.

And here are two that I shared on our Facebook page that I haven’t posted here yet:

This first is somewhat basic, but going back to basics is good practice every once in a while.  Here are 10 Way To Promote Your Facebook Page


Second is something more unique. Everyone tells you to engage in Social Media, but rarely does anyone tell you where to do it.

What Businesses Can Learn From @ThatKevinSmith About Social Media

September 8, 2011

Kevin Smith (who uses the name @thatkevinsmith on Twitter), the indie film director who gave us Clerks and Dogma is on the cutting edge of utilizing social media for marketing and business owners should follow his lead if they are serious about growing their business cost effectively.

At first glance, it may seem odd that small businesses would look to a Hollywood director for marketing advice.  That is until you look a little deeper at what is currently happening in Kevin Smith’s career currently.

Here is a little background if you are unfamiliar with Smith and his career:

In 1993 Smith made his debut film, “Clerks” for just under $28,000 of his own money.  That film was purchased by the Miramax in 1994 at the Sundance Film Festival.  This was the beginning of a nearly twenty-year filmmaking career within the Hollywood system.  Smith went on to write, direct and edit 10 films for Mirimax and other major Hollywood studios.

While Smith will be self-deprecating about his prowess as a filmmaker, he will tell you that he was successful at managing a budget–all of his films made money for the studios that released them.

By all accounts, “Red State”, his current movie project is a departure.  Unlike his long list of movies, this isn’t a light-hearted comedy. “Red State” is hard to fit into a box–but most people label it a horror movie.  As usual, Smith was mindful of the budget while he produced “Red State” completing the project for under $4 million.

When “Red State” was getting ready for distribution, he was aware that this hard to define movie would be difficult to market.  He knew that the studio system would want to spend millions of dollars on marketing that would more than likely miss the mark in reaching an audience.  Smith also knew that he had a direct line to his most loyal fans that would not cost him a dime–social media.

Smith is an avid user of social media and has cultivated a large following on Twitter and Facebook of his fan-base (more than 1.8 million Twitter follower and almost 600,000 on Facebook).  He has always been an early adopter of technology.  He was one of the first Hollywood personalities with a web site and he was active on the forums on his website for years interacting directly with his fans.  Then as the technology advanced and social media replaced chat rooms and bulletin boards he jumped into that space and has been holding forth there ever since.

He has realized the marketing potential of this medium.  He publicizes all of his live shows and he breaks news to his fan base about all of his upcoming projects there.  Fans know that if they want Kevin Smith news they can go straight to the source for the information by following his social media accounts. For example, fans started to learn about “Red State” while he was still writing it because he would blog about it and tweet about it all through the development process.

So it was only natural that Smith would decide to throw out the traditional Hollywood business model when it came time to release “Red State” and decided that instead of weighing his film down with exorbitant marketing costs, he would just take to social media to get the word out about his film.

He was eschewed by critics and traditionalist.  People wanted to paint him as washed up or a failure. They tried to paint him as unable to release his film in the traditional manner–so he went this “odd” way instead.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Smith made a conscious, calculated business decision.  He saw the value in social medial and word-of-mouth advertising. He knew that he had social capital invested in the time he spent cultivating his audience online.  They were his most loyal fan-base. He knew that he had a strong following of people online that were interested in his product and all it would take was an expenditure of his time to devote to publicizing his project online and his followers would help him by amplifying his reach by broadcasting that message themselves to their followers.

And guess what? In little more that six months time from the time he announced his plan Smith had covered all of his expenses for the film and he was in the black–without spending practically a dime in traditional marketing or publicity, without a PR tour or press screenings, without billboards or gimmicks.

So what can business owners learn from Kevin Smith when it comes to social media? A few things: First, you can be untraditional and be successful at marketing.  Second, you can cut out the middle man (and all of the associated expenses) when it comes to marketing and pubic relations, and speak directly to your real fans (aka customers). And third, you can “monetize” your social media efforts.

However–there are also some very important caveats.  It isn’t automatic.  You can’t just hire an intern to sign up for a twitter account and expect to see cash start rolling in through the door.  As with any business venture, you need to invest in it; grow it.  However, this isn’t a cash investment.  You need to invest time.  You need to cultivate a following online by being earnest. You need to connect with your customers online and engage them.  Give them a reason to follow you by offering them engaging content…entertaining, informative, interesting content that makes them want to read what you have to say.  If you do that and spend the time developing these relationships they will pay dividends.  People will support your business if you are giving them something in return.  If you interact and are proactive they will recognize that your company is worth supporting and reward you for getting it.

Kevin Smith loves to talk about Wayne Gretsky–and how he was taught by his father that you need to go where the puck it going to be instead of chasing after it. Successful businesses need to learn that lesson as well.  Don’t chase the social media puck–go where the the puck is going to be in the future. Be creative in social media, innovate!

Another “paradigm shift” story

May 17, 2011

Here is another “paradigm shift” story…talking about how social networks are beating the pants off old media. When we were younger did you ever think that TV would ever be considered “old and boring”?

Wall Street Daily points out that that is the case now.

A New Paradigm In Advertising

May 16, 2011

You know, most times you don’t normally see the beginning of a tidal wave forming. However, if one is tuned in properly and is listening to the right things, you could get lucky and start to connect the dots before you reach the tipping point on something big every once in a while.

I could be wrong, but I think I may have been privy to the beginning of a paradigm shift this week.  Now, I am not trying to hold myself out as a seer on this, just that I was lucky enough to be listening to the right people and was in the right place at the right time to see the very infancy of what I think will begin to be a movement in the future of media advertising that will be the norm in the not-too-distant future.

A high-school friend of mine wrote a blog today that coalesced something that I have been mulling around in my head for the past week.

Ralph Fontaine wrote on his web series’ blog about the future of advertising and the potential that traditional advertisers could find spending their ad dollars in online content creation to recapture some of the lost live television audience.

Ralph points out that networks are not properly measuring the viewers for their content who consume that programming in non-traditional ways. That inaccurate measurement is leading to reduced revenue and lost advertisers since the audience is no longer watching live tv and traditional commercials.  Ralph (correctly) opines that those advertising dollars could easily be leveraged to support a much broader range of on-line media content and therefore get the message out to potentially greater audience with a far smaller investment in advertising.

He is definitely on to something. Now of course, Ralph is in the middle of producing and directing his own web series, so he has some skin in the game, but that does not negate the truth in his assertion that web series and other online media is a much cheaper alternative than television advertising.

Now, like I said earlier, I had been thinking about some of these issues already this week.  Why? Because this past week filmmaker Kevin Smith took his media empire in a new direction online this week by launching an internet radio stream with four hours of live, daily programming supported by his vast stable of podcasts.

Smith has been on the leading edge of internet marketing and new media since he first launched the web site for his production company and started a bulletin board where his fans could interact directly with him all the way back in the early 90’s. Smith has stayed up on all of the new media trends and has embraced them. He launched a weekly podcast (called Smodcast) five years ago. He has well over a million twitter followers and he utilizes Facebook with twitter to market his content.  He is even trying to distribute his latest move, Red State, without a studio distribution deal and by only marketing the movie through social media.

So, with the launch of his Smodcast Internet Radio (S.I.R.), Smith is acknowledging that he believes the future in media is going to be web-based.  We won’t be watching TV in the traditional fashion–at a set time and date–and online streaming of videos/movies will soon overtake physical DVDs.  With the launch of S.I.R., Smith also set out to make advertising accessible for just about any company.  Smith is speaking to a sizeable, national audience, yet the cost of a two-minute live-read radio ad for the launch of S.I.R was just $200.  Incredible! So, if you are a mom and pop store–or even just a guy who wants more followers on his twitter stream, you can afford to get an ad on the hottest new internet media channel.

Now, I am sure that deal won’t last long–in his first week on the air, Smith’s two live radio shows were the #1 and #2 most downloaded programs on iTunes–so his new venture is catching on fast.

But, this may just be the beginning of a whole new marketing paradigm.  If internet radio and web series can keep getting their message out there and companies start to realize the audience that they are attracting–then the advertising dollars are sure to follow.

If you’re looking to be an early adopter–contact your favorite blogger, podcaster, web series or internet radio station and have a discussion about becoming a sponsor…that is the future and you can be on the crest of the wave.

So–who do you think are the people on the cutting edge that we should all be looking to as media content producers that are getting it? Who’s program would you want to advertise on? Let me know…

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