Writing Great Case Studies

Case studies are excellent marketing tools. These informative and educational pieces are ideal for promoting any type of B2B or B2C (business to consumer) service. We’ve created case studies for translation companies, global limousine operators and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers. Case studies aren’t that challenging to create once you have the formula. Here’s the recipe for creating the perfect case study.

1. The Challenge

This is your angle for the story. You want to point out all of the challenges, obstacles and concerns that you or your company faced. You may also wish to provide a little background information about the company you were working with on this project.

2. The Solution

After you have clearly addressed the concerns and obstacles you faced, it’s time to explain what you did to meet these challenges. You don’t want the challenge to seem overblown, but you do want to highlight the client’s major concerns and explain what you did to solve the problem and why.

3. The Result

The results section is the most glorious part of any case study. In this area, you get to explain how your services helped your clients meet or even exceed their goals. Adding some statistics and numbers can also be effective in showing prospective customers how you helped other clients.

This standard three-part case study is ideal for most applications. The subtle ways that you can show your company’s personality and capture the essence of the project are what will take your case study to the next level and make your message resonate with potential clients.

Hire Me to Write Press Releases for Your Business!

How to Write a Press Release

How to Write a Press ReleasePress releases are outstanding marketing tools. In the digital age, press releases are more powerful and potent than ever. I’ve created countless press releases for national and international companies that want to promote everything from rebates and special offers to a brand new cabinet color or exclusive product.  Nearly everything can be promoted in a news-worthy press release. They can also be displayed in a newsroom or press area of your company website. Here’s a brief crash course on writing and submitting press releases.

Today, most companies promote their press releases through PRWeb, PRNewswire and similar services. These companies charge quite a bit to get your press release published on major  channels like Google News, so you need top-level text to make the investment worthwhile.  Here’s a  fun mock press release that we’ll use as an example. Let’s start with the opener.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: [This is a classic press release opener that will appear in your original manuscript or a document on your website. It may also say HOLD FOR RELEASE UNTIL: xx/xx/yyyy if you’re promoting a date-sensitive offer.]

The Devil’s Back and Live on YouTube Thanks to Paranormal Pulp. [Your headline must contain the company’s name. Subheads can be used if desired. Google only displays the first 60 characters, so keep it short and sweet.]

[Below is the dateline, which appears at the beginning of any news story. Unless you’re in a large city, the state should be included.  Some outlets may use abbreviations like Tenn., so plan for some slight changes in the location depending on which PR company you’re using.  The location and the date are separated by em dashes (a typesetting term for large dashes equal to the size of wide characters like M.) Most versions of MS Word will create an  em dash if you insert two hyphens and then type a word]

Nashville, Tennessee ─ April 25, 2012 ─ Someone has found the cloven hooves, the serpentine tail, the gnarled horns and the bad attitude that the Devil is known for, and they are wearing them well.

[Your opening paragraph should be a brief summary of the five Ws. Who, what, why, where, when. This is your chance to grab the readers’ attention]

 The man of legend they call Lucifer, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub, Satan and many other names has recently made a shocking reappearance after a century-long or perhaps millennia-long sabbatical. This major breakthrough was noted after reports were made by one intrepid journalist who is only known by the name “Constant Jay.” No one knows why the Devil picked this time in the world’s history to make such a lurid resurgence, but he surely is back, and he is bad-er than ever.

[Subsequent paragraphs should explore the finer details. Press releases must be written in a third-person format. Any first-person references to a company as ” we” and second-person references to customers as ” you” must be contained within a quote from a company representative.]

Repeated attempts to reach Constant Jay have been unsuccessful. It’s suspected that the journalist who is currently embedded in hell is unable to reach cell tower connections while underground. This minor connectivity issue hasn’t stopped the Devil from disseminating his message on the popular video-sharing site YouTube using hell’s T1 connection. It appears that the Devil in his current incarnation has a fascination with pop culture fads. Aside from his blatant use of YouTube, the Devil is an avid fan and participant in the music scene and in literary circles.

The Devil’s first overt message appeared on YouTube in mid-April approximately two weeks ago. During this broadcast, the Devil wove rhymes and lyrical rhythms in the style of Tupac Shakur, Young MC and the industry’s greatest icons. Due to the apparent success of this inaugural work, a second piece of literary genius was posted several days later in the form of an open-mic poetry reading, which allowed the Devil to put his innumerable problems and personal issues out front.

YouTube isn’t just easy to use. It’s easy enough for a mythical creature of evil and no known technological knowledge to master in a few short weeks. The Devil’s most recent post included a stand-up comedy routine focusing on his pet peeves and worst regrets. There’s no word yet where Constant Jay is reporting from and when he’ll be back to tell everyone about his adventures. Until then, the world will be waiting anxiously.

[Your paragraphs should be arranged according to importance with the least important details being in the last paragraphs.]

About Paranormal Pulp [Your final paragraph should be a boilerplate about your company Most press releases should be between 400-500 words.]

Paranormal Pulp is the brainchild of a professional storyteller, freelance writer, aspiring screenwriter and award-winning poet and fiction author. Smith’s work has appeared in newspapers, literary journals, national publications and magazines. He received the University of Tennessee Award for Excellence in Fiction for his series of short narratives, and he attended the U.S. National Poetry Slam after touring the Southeastern poetry slam circuit. He has 20 books of poetry, dozens of short stories and many horror books and flash fiction novellas.

Contact: [Contact details should follow this format]
Company name
Contact person, title
email@example.com
Street address
City, State
Phone

###

[Three pound signs mark the end of your document. This also creates a hard page break in MS Word.]

Press releases are ideal for promoting these particular news-worthy topics.

Industry awards
Business partnerships
New services and offerings
Special offers
Charitable donations

Bad press releases are certainly out there. To remain as credible as possible when using paid press release distribution services, it’s imperative to have professional content that is written in a non-promotional and news-worthy manner. When press releases are used in the right way, they can be very beneficial. If you over use them on topics that don’t qualify as news, the effect can be less than stellar.

Here are a few resources for writing and distributing your press release.

Media College has an educational press release template  that explains how to properly format a press release in a simple, easy to understand way.

Distribution giant PRWeb has an in-depth 19-page white paper that has quite a few tips on creating press releases. One warning. Although PRWeb “allows” you to sign up for a free account, they have a very aggressive sales rep system. You’ll get a lot of sales calls from a personal rep if you register.

Remember, if you’re paying $90+ to get your PR published, you should invest a little bit to hire a professional writer.  Content mills cannot be trusted with pieces like this. I’ve had many clients complain that they received regular essay-style articles from other writers when they ordered press releases from these sites.

I hope this guide helps you create more effective press releases that deliver results. As always, feel free to share your comments and experiences with press releases.

Put Your Content To Work.

write-on-contentContent. There’s that all-important word again. If you aren’t content with your content, it’s time to examine the lifecycle of the words, images and multimedia features that appear on your website and social media accounts.

A few weeks ago, I saw a post from marketing guru Heidi Cohen. She prepared an infographic that outlines seven content forms that are made for social media promotion. This got me thinking about how businesses can get the most out of their content by recycling, re-purposing and promoting it across different channels.

Hiring a professional copywriter to craft your web content is an investment. Once you have the content, your marketing strategy must promote your message, get your words out and reach your audience. Here are a few ideas for enhancing the longevity of your content’s lifecycle.

1. Promote Your Blog

Your blog is the perfect place to promote your services, establish trust and answer questions. Valuable blog content will build your brand and generate leads. These posts can be promoted through many other channels. Some developers even have us pre-write brief questions to promote each post through Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

2. Work It on Your Social Media Accounts

Interactive platforms like Facebook and Twitter are ideal for connecting with your customers and cross-promoting blog posts, special offers and industry news. If your blog is your home base, everything that starts there must be promoted on your social media accounts as well.

3. Make a Video

Videos are true multi-purpose features. Embed informative videos on your website, share them on Twitter, write about them on your blog and post them on YouTube. Videos are great for establishing and enhancing credibility while reaching your target market. You’ve invested in a video. Now, it’s time to cross-promote it and generate a buzz.

4. Promote Slideshows and Multimedia Presentations

If you don’t have the budget for a full-blown video, develop an interactive slideshow presentation. Services like Slideshare allow businesses to upload and promote existing PDFs, Word documents and PowerPoint presentations in an enhanced visual format that can be promoted anywhere.

5. Jazz up Your Newsletter

This is a great place to promote special offers as well as news-related content, podcasts, PowerPoint presentations and so much more. Newsletters must have the perfect combination of informative and readable text along with images or graphics that capture the reader’s attention. Content in newsletters should include blog posts and anything that can be promoted on social media sites. Feature a newsletter archive on your website that gives visitors access to this wealth of information.

6. Get Arty with Infographics!

These snazzy yet informational images have gained popularity rapidly. In addition to featuring infographics in your newsletter and blog posts, they can also be promoted through social media channels. Some companies specialize in designing infographics, but you can’t promote them if you don’t have them!

7. Distribute E-books and White Papers

Establish credibility and promote your services using free e-books or white papers. Offering a free download to visitors who submit their email address is one highly effective marketing strategy. White papers can be anywhere from three to five pages long, and e-books may have as many as 12 chapters. Plus, some of your existing content can be repurposed or re-imagined in these informational publications, but you still have to cross-promote them.

Each of these seven items can and should be promoted across multiple channels. Follow these two steps to put your content to work.

1. Identify top-performing documents, and promote them through channels that you haven’t used. If you got an overwhelming response to one newsletter feature, promote it again on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or your favorite social network.

2. Think back about a feature or promotion that you loved but didn’t perform as well as expected. Alternately, find two under-performing pages, and look for new ways to tweak the content and promote it. This is the formula for raising the bar. By focusing on what drives the success of your best pages and what needs improvement, you’ll build a better, stronger brand. Here’s to success!

Sales Letter Tips and Examples

Sales Letters Two Ways

write-on-sales-lettersIf the thought of sales letters makes you cringe, it’s time to give these selling techniques another look.

Sales letters, like salesmen, come in several varieties. Traditional sales letters can be just as smarmy as a traveling salesman, and these letters are headed straight for the circular file.

To analyze the different approaches of sales letters, I have created two diametrically opposed samples. The first is my soft-sell letter and the second is an aggressive,  over-the-top, head-spinning diatribe that many companies shockingly use. In most cases, somewhere in the middle is the best approach for reaching consumers or B2B customers.

When writing a sales letter for a traditional direct mail campaign or an informal letter for an email blast, the first rule is to explain what’s in it for the reader. Everything else fits in around this cardinal commandment. Instead of acting like a crazed salesmen when drafting a sales letter, I believe it’s important to put yourself in the customer’s or the reader’s shoes. Read on to see how different sales letters can be.

 Save On HVAC Services or Your Tune-Up Is Free!

June [xx], 2012

Dear Property Managers and Building Owners,

At [company name,] we are the state’s most-trusted low-price leader in commercial HVAC services. If your current HVAC provider doesn’t arrive for four to five days or charges rates that are less than competitive, we can help. We never overcharge or bid against current HVAC maintenance contractors, and we offer same-day service guaranteed.

In fact, our competitors charge twice as much as we do. We save customers money in three ways. We offer competitively priced pre-season tune-ups that reduce maintenance expenses, lower energy bills and keep your heating system running at peak levels for years to come.

Our extensive pre-season tune-ups include services that go above and beyond to ensure that your building’s system is operating efficiently. Our seasonal tune-ups for heating systems in shopping malls, high-rises and industrial buildings include these services:

1. Checking all fuel connections and components to ensure complete combustion, proper pressure and the integrity of all burners.

2. Testing and tightening all electrical connections to maintain the correct current and voltage.

3. Lubricating all moving parts and motor components to reduce the friction that increases power consumption.

4. Inspecting system controls to ensure all heating equipment and components are operating safely.

5. Cleaning heating coils and heat exchangers to remove particles that inhibit full efficiency.

Seasonal tune-ups are essential for protecting the heating equipment in your building and ensuring that your building’s tenants are warm and comfortable this winter. As a bonus, we will refund the cost of your pre-season tune-up if your building’s energy bills aren’t reduced. The cost of heating commercial buildings is constantly rising, so there’s no better time to schedule your pre-season tune-up. You’ll get a better rate on your preventative maintenance contract. We guarantee it.

Call us today to see why more commercial building owners, leasing agents and property managers trust us to maintain complex heating and cooling systems and chillers used in shopping malls, high-rises and industrial buildings.

Sincerely,

[Company Owner]

Get the Best-Ever Air Conditioning Tune-Up. Guaranteed or It’s FREE

Take Advantage of This Amazing Offer and You Could Get a Check for Triple the Cost of Your Tune-Up!

You probably know that utility providers, equipment manufacturers and efficiency auditors recommend regular seasonal tune-ups for all heating and cooling equipment. Research from a major university study confirms that the savings produced by an annual air conditioning tune-up can more than pay for the cost of the service itself. Even though the benefits of seasonal tune-ups are commonly known, thousands of homeowners are not taking advantage of the savings because they neglect or simply forget to schedule a tune-up. I am confident that the offer included in this letter is so amazing that you’ll feel like you’re throwing away money if you don’t schedule your money-saving service call. Here’s why.

1. Our tune-ups are far better than the competition, and our prices are unbeatable. We are a family-owned company, and we take tremendous pride in our reputation and commitment to customer service. Each tune-up we complete includes bonus services and additional procedures that those other guys don’t offer.

2. We clean your coils and fans with a specially formulated detergent to remove dirt, dust and greasy buildup. Most companies just rinse these parts with water. We use detergent and aircraft-quality Teflon spray to strip grease and grime and leave a slick coating that improves thermo-conductive efficiency and aerodynamic power.

3. Once these parts are clean, the non-stick Teflon coating reduces the amount of dirt that accumulates on the surface so your system stays cleaner longer and operates more efficiently.

4. We spend time cleaning internal components, air handlers and furnace blowers. This maintains maximum air flow and superior efficiency.

It takes more time and it costs more to do a tune-up right, but even so we only charge $149. For a limited time, we are offering a complete tune-up for only $85. This is a discount of more than $60!

Plus, because of the outstanding quality of our tune-ups, we are confident that you’ll see profits on your investment. Here’s how it works:

If your tune-up doesn’t reduce your electric bill, we will refund the entire cost of your tune-up. All you need to do is compare your current electric bill with last year’s usage.

If your electric bills aren’t lower, we will refund you $85. Plus, if your HVAC system breaks down, you’ll receive another $85 credit. That’s a refund of $170, which will be credited toward any repairs. If the cost of repairs is less than $170, you’ll get a check for the difference.

On top of that, if you decide that you want to replace your HVAC system within the next year, we’ll triple the amount of your tune-up and put it toward the cost of a replacement unit. That’s a discount of $255 off your new system.

As you can see, there’s no way to go wrong! That’s why we confidently say that this is the BEST tune-up offer ever.

The only remaining question is how can we make an offer that is this great? Here’s the answer. Because of all the additional time and services that come with each tune up, we’re sure that once you experience our commitment to quality and customer service we’ll be the only company you’ll ever use.

If you aren’t satisfied, we wouldn’t expect you to use our services again. This can certainly happen when companies advertise ridiculously low prices, use bait-and-switch techniques or recommend unnecessary repairs. Companies like that are unethical and immoral. That’s not the way we do business. We offer excellent service at low prices.

We promise to go above and beyond the norm. We stand behind our work, and we offer a variety of bonus services without any extra charges. That’s why you have our 1-2-3 guarantee.

1. We guarantee you’ll enjoy lower electric bills or we’ll refund your $85.

2. If repairs are necessary, we’ll give you a $170 discount.

3. If your system needs to be replaced, we’ll give you a $255 credit plus any coupons, discounts or tax rebates that are available from the manufacturer, local utility companies or the government.

This is an exclusive, limited-time offer, so please understand that we may discontinue it at any time. To avoid losing out, we urge you to schedule a pre-season tune-up at your earliest convenience.

Thank You,

[X]

Owner

P.S.

If your heating bills aren’t reduced, your tune-up is absolutely free! Give us a call at 555-4444. You’ll be glad you did.

* This Offer Ends on August [xx,] 2012, so Don’t Delay!

Good or bad, feel free to share your sales latter experiences here.

Internet Marketing Glossary

Marketing experts use a variety of crazy terms, and new ones are being coined every day. Whether you’re new to the trade or a veteran, there might be some terms and jargon that you don’t know or don’t understand. Here are a few common and not-so-common terms to get you started.

Black hat SEO

Deceptive or unethical SEO techniques that result in penalties. Also see gray-hat techniques.

Call to action

A strong statement, usually at the end of an article, that encourages the reader to call, sign up or click.

Cloaking

A deceptive technique that shows one version of a page to search engines and another version to real visitors.

Content

The text, videos, pictures and information that is found on a website.

Content management system (CMS)

An interactive template-based software platform that allows users to create and edit web content from one location.

Conversion

A lead that has become a customer.

Gray hat SEO

Dubious SEO techniques that use a combination of legitimate white-hat techniques and unethical black-hat methods.

Inbound marketing

The process of attracting inbound customers and visitors using informative content, videos and blog posts.

Lead

A potential customer or sales inquiry.

Lead generation

An Internet marketing process that generates consumer interest or inquiries.

Link farms

Dubious websites that collect a vast amount of unrelated links and create bad online neighborhoods that result in search engine ranking penalties.

Link juice

A quantity of credible or authoritative links that improve page rank and search engine results.

Outbound marketing

Marketing using outward processes, such as PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns and paid advertisements.

Scraper sites

Websites that steal content and use it to generate ad revenue.

Spam

Any unsolicited communications, including email, text messages and comments.

Spamdexing

Unethical methods used to increase search engine ranking, such as keyword stuffing, maintaining link farms and cloaking content. Links from these sites can bring you down too.

Static pages

A homepage or webpage that is unchanging.

Web 2.0

The second generation of Internet technology, which includes blogs, social media sites and interactive web pages that create a user community.

These are just a few terms that are used frequently by Internet marketers. We hope that they help you understand what the heck everyone is talking about. If you’re interested in learning more about the jargon that marketing gurus use, visit the Gravy Train blog. They have a truly comprehensive and in-depth marketing glossary that covers many more techie topics and terms.