4 Marketing Tips for Manufacturers

Some marketing sites will urge manufacturers to use phrases like “state of the art” and “precision engineered” in their marketing copy. Unfortunately, no one searching for manufactured products or manufacturing services ever searches on “state of the art” or “precision engineered” or any other vague term: they search for what they want, whether that’s a Phillips head screwdriver or an industrial generator.

Here are 4 marketing tips for manufacturers that actually work:

  1. Use Long Tail Keywords. These are search terms that are very precise and usually several words long (for example, “150 watt portable generator”). Long tail keywords in your marketing copy attract people who are actively looking for what you are selling–and are well on their way to becoming buyers.
  2. Keep Your Website and Social Media Active. The more reasons you create for people to click onto your site, the better. But if your website has become stagnant, without new blog posts, videos,news releases, or case studies, you have nothing to link to with your social media posts and your customers have no reason to return. According to one survey, 82% of manufacturing marketers attribute more content creation for an increase in success over last year.
  3. Write in Clear Language Focused on the Customer. Yes, your customers may be experts in their field but they aren’t experts in your field; that’s why they are coming to you for what they need. If your just-in-time, flexible manufacturing system is worth boasting about, let customers know how it helps them. Define acronyms, even if you believe everyone knows them, and do not ever invent your own jargon (“advanced processing system application scenario”).
  4. Use photos and video liberally. The Content Marketing Institute discovered in its 2018 survey that the top three successful content marketing approaches were social media, email newsletters, and video. Post videos showing your manufacturing processes, use or maintenance of your product, or your equipment working at a customer’s site, to create an instant connection to potential customers.

If you have trouble finding the time and resources to create content–whether for website, newsletter,  videos, or social media posts–you may want to hire a freelance writer with experience writing for both international and local manufacturers, including manufacturers of medical equipment, borewelders, and cables. TWP Marketing & Technical Communications is ready to help.

For a Long Life, Read This…

If you want your customers to live a long life, give them something to read. A recent article in AARP’s Bulletin states that book readers have a 20% lower chance of dying than nonreaders, according to a study of over 3,600 adults.

Good writing makes for good reading, and evidently good reading makes for good living.

Blog posts, success stories, and Q&As fall easily into the “good reading” category. People love hearing about others in their same situation, and they appreciate answers to their questions about your products and services. Even a short injection of information–like my Friday #writingtips–can engage customers and, who knew?, keep them healthy.

If you have problems organizing writing resources, consider hiring a freelance writer like me to take over the writing duties for you. Afraid that I can’t possibly understand and represent your business as well as you do? Keep in mind that:

  • A professional freelance writer is your partner, not your replacement. I will work with you to make sure that everything I write has the tone, direction, and format that works best for you and your business.
  • A professional freelance writer has years of experience partnering with many different businesses, some exactly like your own. My current client roster includes manufacturers, educators, executive coaches, resume writers, and healthcare professionals. In the past, I’ve worked with many other companies, including nonprofits, banks, and clinical research organizations.
  • A professional freelance writer is passionate about communicating. That means I’ll make every effort to ensure that my words not only clearly represent what you want to say but resonate with the customers you want to reach.
  • A professional freelance writer reads and researches. If reading extends a life by 20%, I’ve earned my 20% over and over. If you run out of ideas, I will research new ones; if your customers raise questions, I’ll research answers; and if your competitors seem to have closed all the doors to interesting content, I’ll open new doors.

Contact me today at write [at] twriteplus.com and let’s get started on your writing project.

Blogs: Finding the Ideas You Didn’t Think You Had

What will I write in my blog today, this week, this month? That question can freeze anyone, preventing them from ever beginning.If you are ready to write about insights from your business or career on LinkedIn or other social media, then you need content. You need to find the ideas you didn’t think you had.

Let’s say you sell security devices, specifically locks for both home and commercial customers. Your first blog post explains what you do. But then what? Here are ten ideas for writing new blog posts:

  1. Separate and compare. Write separate blogs on home locks and on commercial locks and explain the ways each type of lock is different (or the same)–maybe they are different because the doors, quality, amount of use, or styles are different. Each difference could itself become a separate blog post.
  2. Delve into the choices. We’ve now established that home locks have certain characteristics. What choices do those characteristics create and why would a homeowner choose one over the other? Ask the same question about commercial locks in another blog post.
  3. Describe how it works. What are the mechanics of locks? What makes a lock more or less likely to fail or be picked? What is the difference between locks that use keypads and those that use physical keys?
  4. Explain the evolution. Why did home locks end up looking/working the way they do? Why do commercial locks look/work the way the do? What decisions were made long ago that affect purchases today.
  5. Explain the trends. Is artificial intelligence affecting the way people secure their doors? Are new types of materials used to build doors or buildings affecting the materials for locks?
  6. Consider the worst. What happens if someone locks themselves out of or into a room or building?  What is the correct response? What if a lock fails? Can and should locks be repaired?
  7. Enjoy the history. What types of locks were used on dungeons? Is Ali Baba’s “Open Sesame” the first Alexa-type lock? Where did the concept come from of a locked heart opening with a key?
  8. Interview a customer. Ask a customer: why they decided on a better/bigger/different lock; how did they choose their first lock; why did they come to your business for a lock; what do they want the lock to accomplish? Create a Q&A using a “virtual” customer to ask the questions customers should be asking.
  9. Provide 10 reasons. Rank locks from best to worst for certain tasks. List the reasons why someone should consider a new or different type of lock. List the top factors that contribute to lock failure and how to avoid them.
  10. Describe how to prepare for a buy. What information will a lock salesperson need about the home or business and how should the home or business owner decide whether to buy a lock from that salesperson or another?

These ten ways of finding ideas for a blog all involve sifting through information you already have but may not have realized your customers need. The ideas root deeper and deeper into very basic questions: what are locks, how are they used, and how do I know what lock to buy? But if you begin and end your posts by answering only those three questions, you are doing a disservice to yourself and your customers.

You can apply these ten categories of ideas to any business to create a year’s worth of blog posts. If you are having trouble finding ideas and writing an ongoing blog, please contact me through LinkedIn or at write at twriteplus.com.

We All Write

In the age of smart phones, instant messaging, tweets, Instagrams, and LinkedIn, we are so used to reaching for a keyboard that we have forgotten one essential fact: all those words equal writing. We all write.

Whether we call it posting, blogging, tweeting, emailing, or “content,” it is still writing.

The Comic Results of Bad Writing

We can write some pretty embarrassing things if we aren’t careful. We can write a website that boasts: “Our corporal version conspire our mangers and compliments they’re strengths.” That sentence makes it past Word’s electronic spelling and grammar checker–in fact, the grammar checker is at fault for changing “conspires” to “conspire.”

In any case, the sentence is filled with errors. What it should say is: “Our corporate vision inspires our managers and complements their strengths.”

When we treat writing as no more than a byproduct of hitting keys, we undermine our own message and credibility. If something is worth saying, it’s worth saying correctly, clearly, and with conviction.

The Benefits of Good Writing

Customers deserve clarity, and businesses benefit from it. When your customers must work to understand your message, they quickly give up. That means your customers don’t find the solutions they need, and you don’t capture their interest.

We all write. My advantage is that I have over 20 years of experience making sure that every word I write counts. I aim to deliver a clear, concise, accurate, and passionate message that customers grasp quickly.

I never assume that every word emerging from my keyboard is perfect. I partner with my clients and work hard to ensure that the resulting message delivers exactly what business owners (and their customers) need.

Conclusion

Writing is important. For me, good writing is a passion. Let TWP Marketing & Technical Communications create website pages, blog posts, articles, case studies, and insight papers that enlighten and motivate your customers and raise your image as a subject matter expert. Contact me today at write at twriteplus.com.

5 Very Avoidable Writing Mistakes

In the course of 20+ years as a professional freelance writer, I have come across some writing mistakes so frequently that they begin to feel inevitable. They aren’t. The following are 5 very avoidable writing mistakes:

  1. Utilizing the word “utilize.” Honestly, “use” is a perfectly accurate word that means exactly the same thing and lets the reader get to the heart of your message two whole syllables faster. Most readers spend 10 seconds to figure out if they want to read further; why eat up those 10 seconds with a word like “utilize”?
  2. Not editing quotes for good English. You never want to change what an interviewer has clearly stated. But you don’t want to embarrass them by quoting grammatically incorrect English like “we are prepared of joining” when the interviewee clearly meant “we are prepared to join.”
  3. Ignoring punctuation. Inconsistent, missing, or grammatically incorrect punctuation forces readers to track back over your sentence to make sure they understood what you meant. Bad punctuation equals sloppy writing.
  4. Redundancies. You cannot have “very capable manufacturing capabilities” or “successful initiatives for success” because those phrases are redundant. It is easy to latch on to a word like capabilities or success and then overuse it in statement after statement. But each use bulks up your message without adding content.
  5. Vagaries. This writing mistake often appears together with redundancies. What does “capable” mean in your industry? What does “success” look like? How “precise” is your precision and how “speedy” is your speedy delivery? The more specific you are, the more you differentiate yourself from the competition–who are making the same vague claims.

How a Professional Freelance Writer Can Help

As a professional freelance writer, I am alert to avoidable writing mistakes that seem to crop up over and over again. Some are due to unfamiliarity with English; others are bad habits acquired over time; others are attempts to sound profound that simply backfire; and still others stem from confusion over what is and is not permissible.

My one and only passion is  writing clear, concise, accurate, and interesting content. If you are concerned about avoidable writing mistakes in your marketing or technical materials, please contact me today at write at twriteplus.com.

Breaking Up Is Easy to Do: Six Ways to Make Writing Less Boring

If the person in front of you talks in a monotone, never pauses for comment, and drones on and on and on….you are talking to a bore. Unfortunately, writing can easily become boring if it, too, consists of great blocks of uninterrupted words. And you know what people do when they see bores and boredom looming: they run.

Here are six ways to break up your message, make your writing less boring, and keep your readers reading.

  1. Numbered lists. People love articles of advice that begin with “Five Ways to…” and they appreciate instructions that clearly show them “Step 1….Step 2….” and so on. Numbered lists reveal right away how much text a reader will have to read. They also provide logical breaking points (say, between Step 8 and Step 9), if the reader needs a moment’s pause.
  2. Bullets.  If you have a list that doesn’t lend itself to numbers, try bullets. Bullets are the first choice, for example, in listing accomplishments in a resume or LinkedIn profile. Be careful not to create overlong bullets that are still simply great blocks of text. Also be careful about consistency. When you change bullets too often, they come across as sloppy; and you confuse the reader about each bullet’s importance.
  3. Headings. Headings and subheadings are an easy way to break up your message and guide a reader from one important topic to another. They also give readers a chance to pause before absorbing more information. Make sure that you keep your headings or subheadings to 2 or 3 levels at most. If you find yourself creating a level 4 subheading, you are probably overdue for a new main heading.
  4. Bolding/Italics. Bolding and italics immediately direct a reader to important information, and the emphasized words serve as an instant summary. However, emphasis can also be overdone. The general rule of thumb is: The more methods used to emphasize text (bold, italic, underline, small cap, and so on), the less power any of them have.
  5. Short Paragraphs. Limit your paragraphs to 4 or 5 sentences and each sentence to no more than (and preferably less than) 30 words. When you join short paragraphs to any of the other suggestions above, you let your readers feel that reading your content will be easy and enjoyable, as opposed to overwhelming and boring.
  6. Graphic Design. I love professional graphic designers. With a change in font size, the positioning of a photo or video, or any number of other graphic techniques, they draw a reader’s attention and hold it. Graphics allow the reader’s eye to rest from reading and may decrease the need for a lot of explanatory text. One warning: the magic professional graphic designers perform often becomes design overload in amateur hands.

Do you need help to break up your message and make your writing less boring? When clear and interesting communication is important to you and your customers, contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications.

 

The Who, How, & When of Hiring a Freelance Writer

As a freelance marketing and technical writer, I find that people are sometimes confused and daunted by the who, how, and when of hiring a freelancer. Here is a little information to help with the decision to hire a professional freelance writer.

The Who: How to Recognize a Professional Freelance Writer

A professional freelance writer is not anyone with a liberal arts degree. In fact, many marketing writers and technical writers have degrees in exactly those subjects. A professional freelance writer is also not a laid-off marketing or technical writer who is between jobs. You want someone who will be around for your entire project and for your next project a year from now–not someone who will abandon you for the first full-time employment offer.

So a professional freelance writer:

  • Has a degree in marketing or technical writing and/or years of experience
  • Can provide you with a portfolio of completed freelance projects
  • Is committed to being a freelancer.

The How: How to Work with a Professional Freelance Writer

Successful freelance writers have multiple clients and aim to give all of them stellar work on time and on budget–including you.

You deserve a professional freelance writer who is honest about working with:

  • Your deadlines
  • Your budget
  • Your review process
  • Your feedback.

But you need to be honest about your deadline, budget, review process, and desires before the project begins. The better you know what you want, the better and faster the writer can provide it.

Every professional freelance writer deserves to receive:

  • Reasonable expectations from you–a writer’s magic wand and mind reading abilities are extremely limited
  • Clear communication from you–which may mean limiting the number of reviewers, since review by committee always leads to chaos
  • On-time payment of every invoice.

The When: Benefits of a Professional Freelance Writer

The four main reasons business owners consider a freelance writer are (a) lack of time, (b) lack or confusion of ideas, (c) limited resources (they don’t have the budget or work to justify a full-time hire), and (d) some level of sheer panic over the task.

That’s the time to use a professional freelance writer.

A professional freelance writer relieves you of a task that is not in your primary skill set; helps spark and focus your ideas; is available exactly when needed and for no longer; and takes responsibility for a writing project that has become onerous rather than fun and exciting.

Conclusion

I hope that clears up the who, what, and when of freelance marketing and technical writing. If you need an experienced and dedicated professional freelance writer, please contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications. I work with businesses and projects of every size from sole proprietors to corporations and from single blog posts to entire websites. Contact me today at write [at] twriteplus.com.

Marketing Copy for Nonprofits

Over the years, I have worked with several nonprofits, serving on the boards of two and helping others volunteering in different capacities. In every case, marketing the organization–in websites, events, social media, local newspapers, brochures, flyers, and case studies–was a primary concern.

I have learned that marketing copy for a nonprofit is most successful when:

  1. It concentrates on hope, not fear. For example, a nonprofit that works with children with dyslexia changed its marketing copy to stress a child’s ability to overcome reading challenges, while acknowledging but not wallowing in the struggle. Parents already know their child is suffering. They need hope.
  2. It offers facts and figures as well as anecdotes. The anecdotes are very important, to reinforce how the nonprofit helps people or animals or the environment. But especially for donors, feeling good is often not enough. They want to know the hard facts, including how their donation (large or small) will be used.
  3. It shows as much as it tells. Photos and videos are very important whether on websites, newsletters, or letters to donors.
  4. It explains the mission in very direct terms and makes contact information easy to find. For example, an organization helping families in crisis spent so much time on its website asking for donations that there was no way for a family in crisis to figure out how to actually apply for services.
  5. It celebrates volunteers and donors; they are the lifeblood of any nonprofit. Not only do you make the volunteers and donors feel good about donating their time but their involvement inspires others to participate.

What is your audience looking for and what do you want them to do? Is feeling bad about a situation or feeling good about your organization enough? Is there a next step that is even more important?

TWP Marketing & Technical Communications helps nonprofits connect with the right audience in the right way for the right reasons. Email us today.

6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Start Writing

Before you start writing any marketing copy, whether website content, blog post, success story, insight paper, brochure or article, you should know the answers to these questions:

1. Who are you talking to? Are you targeting the purchaser, user, or maintainer of the product or service you are selling? Does your audience have a little knowledge about your products/services or a lot (when in doubt, presume a little)?

2. Where do your customers get their information? Are they likely to be online, walking into your store, reading newspapers, or randomly searching for someone in your field? Do they attend trade shows or networking events? You want to write copy that your customers will actually see.

3. What do your customers want and what do you want to give them? Every customer arrives at your physical or e-door with a problem, whether finding out what shoes to buy or how to train operators at a nuclear energy plant. Your marketing copy must provide a solution for the customer’s problem. You have to target the problem, be able to solve it, want to solve it, and know how to communicate all that to the customer.

4. What are your resources? How much time are you prepared to spend? A regular newsletter or blog takes time; so does tweeting and maintaining a Facebook presence. Do you have enough money? Do you adequate writing or technology skills or do you need to hire someone?

5. What is your deadline? A website or proposal that is due in a month but takes four months to finish is worthless. Your marketing copy can’t start working for you until it reaches your customers.

6. Do you really need this additional marketing copy? Don’t send out a brochure because “everyone” in your field sends out brochures. Maybe customers will be more captivated by an unexpected postcard or email.

If you are having trouble defining and reaching your audience or finding the resources and time to complete writing projects, contact me. At TWP Marketing & Technical Communications, our words mean business.

English the Right Way

The English language is joyful–and exasperating. It provides so many ways to say what you mean, and all of them are correct. Or in other words: No matter what you want to say, there are dozens of ways to say it right.

So here are four guidelines to help you make sure you are using English correctly:

  1. Recognize the limits of words. An engineer once asked me for a single word that meant cost-effective, high quality and efficient. No such word exists. If he tried to create one, he would be asking customers to read his mind. If you are not sure whether a word exists or you are using it properly, look it up in a dictionary. Online dictionaries are as helpful as paper ones; just make sure you rely on a dictionary and not a spell checker because spell checkers will happily let you use the wrong word, as long you spell it correctly.
  2. Follow the rules of grammar. Grammar gives writing its spine. The Little, Brown Compact Handbook is a good source. The glossary and index alone are worth the price. Do not rely on online grammar checkers. They will send you in the wrong direction; they question perfectly grammatical sentences and promote howlers like using “that” instead of “who.”
  3. Listen to your ear, and write like you talk. This is a harder rule to follow if your native language is not English. Read everything you write out loud. If it sounds stilted, pompous, long-winded and confusing, then it probably is stilted, pompous long-winded and confusing. When you talk to your customers, you use clear, familiar language that lets your excitement about your product or service shine through. Good writing is good talking. If you need help, turn to The Elements of Style by Wlliam Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White. In less than 100 pages, this classic book will transform your ideas about style.
  4. Limit yourself to one or two trusted reviewers. Because English is so flexible, heated debates arise over a single comma or a single synonym. If you find yourself fighting your reviewers, then check the sources suggested above. Or find new reviewers. Writing by committee is impossible. If you must work with several authors to finish a project, place one of the authors in charge of the whole–that’s the only way to ensure consistency and clarity from page to page.

Perhaps the most important writing advice is to know when to stop revising. With the flexibility of English, you can second guess yourself into stagnation. But your website, blog post, brochure or success story can’t start working for you until you send it out.

If English is driving you (and your reviewers) crazy, you have one more resource you can count on: Contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications (write at twriteplus.com). We’ll help you discover the best way to say what your customers want to hear.