Now more than ever, it is important to write a great headline for your content. Your headline needs to grab your reader’s attention, whether it’s for a blog post or email subject line. Great headlines tell your readers what your content is about. Your title needs to be catchy and clickable—your content is competing for attention in a sea of online information.
If you are business-to-business, learning how to master good headline writing becomes an even more urgent matter. Because 47% of B2B buyers read 3-5 blog posts or content pieces prior to talking with a salesperson. (Source: DemandGenReport)
To begin, reverse engineer your blog post. First, determine the type of blog post that you are writing. Here is a list of 5 blog post formats that are likely to go viral:
Next, identify what feelings and emotions are appropriate to your blog post and your audience. You need to include an infectious agent that triggers your reader’s emotions. Here are some examples of infectious agents that will engage your reader’s heart and mind:
First of all, decide what format of post you are writing. Secondly, identify what main emotional agents (from the list above) are appropriate for your post. Thirdly, figure out what storyline will work the best. That is to say, what reward are you promising your reader? What value will your content provide? Ask yourself the following questions:
In short, once you have completed these three steps, you can craft a blog post and headline that will capture your beloved reader’s attention and encourage them to share your content. To sum up, you want to craft the perfect headline to grab their attention and go viral.
Do your research to find out what their interests are. Speak to them using their words and how they talk. Keep your customer persona guide handy. Follow your industry influencers on and offline to stay current. “The headline can select the right audience for your ad and screen out those readers who are not your potential customers.”—Robert Bly, The Copywriter’s Handbook
Write about what they care about. Delight your audience with something new, unique and engaging. The more specific you are in addressing their greatest fears and desires, the more powerful you will be in attracting and keeping their attention. Delivering bland, same-old, same-old headlines and content is a guaranteed fast bounce away from your blog post and site.
Make sure it aligns with your content. Upworthy's well-publicized process suggests writing 25 headlines per blog post. It takes practice to craft a great headline. You may nail it on the first try, or it may take you 25 to write the perfect headline. Read it out loud to make sure it is conversational, not jargony or fuzzy. Test your headlines with Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer.
Front load your keywords at the beginning of the headline as much as possible. Write your headlines with search engines and social media platforms in mind. 65 to 70 characters is ideal. Google, Bing and Twitter will truncate anything longer in their search results. Preview what your headline will look like with the New Title Tag Preview tool by Moz.
Keep your headline short and brief if you are appealing with emotionally powerful language. Use powerful positive or negative superlatives to show why your content is worth reading.
As Coschedule says, friends don’t let friends write crappy headlines. I have several power word cheat sheets that I refer to when I get stuck with writer’s block. It happens to the best of us. Use these tools to get unblocked! Coschedule's Power Word Cheat Sheets
Examples of headline tactics you should try out and test:
Show your readers why they should follow your advice. Give them benefits that prove why it’s worth their time. Can they do something better, faster, easier with your help? Add specific numbers and data to back up your headline. Several research studies have shown that headlines with numbers tend to generate 73% more social shares and engagement. Use odd numbers as brain candy. Our brains apparently find odd numbers more believable, according to research from Content Marketing Institute.
Our brains are naturally hardwired to be curious. We want to know the technique, idea, tool or information that we don’t know—especially if everybody else knows it! Then it becomes a potent, viral-inducing FOMO (fear of missing out) type of headline and content.
Be honest and tell your users what’s in it for them. You may fool your readers once by using clickbait, but they will bounce and never return as soon as they realize you’re not delivering the content they were expecting.
Use a headline analyzer such as Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer. Steal great headline ideas by visiting sites such as Buzzfeed and Upworthy. If your blogging platform supports A/B testing, do it! Finally, take a good copywriting and editing course to sharpen your writing skills. One of my all-time favorites is “The Copy Cure” from Marie Forleo and Laura Belgay. Fun, entertaining and I can use the information over and over and over again.
Featured image by Anamul Rezwan, Pexels
Brand Share of Mind (Rational). These are logical, physical features or attributes that are rational and appeal to the mind:
2. Differentiation. Your brand essence must be unique, not replaceable. You must own a single idea. See the previous week’s blog post for how to figure out your brand’s core essence or attribute.
For example, you will never hear:
Most importantly, create a new value curve to make your brand stand out from everyone else. The Blue Ocean Strategy Canvas advises that you compete on attributes that your competitors have failed to serve. For years high growth companies have entered markets by first catering to an underserved niche market.
For instance, Netflix started by mailing cult classic films that you couldn’t get at Blockbuster, Vimeo focused on professional videographers unlike YouTube, and Tesla started making luxury vehicles instead of competing with electric low-end hybrids. This strategy of differentiation is key for disruptive start-ups and established companies.
Share of Heart (Feelings) These are the attributes that appeal to people’s feelings or emotions.
Relevance. There is no point in identifying an essence that is irrelevant to your audience. Essences that don’t connect are the reason behind many failed brands. Research to make sure you nail this down.
Test your brand against these 4 branding principles to make sure that your brand has a solid, well-grounded foundation that will appeal to people and fend off the competition. If you have any gaps, identify what is missing in your brand essence. Use it by consistently incorporating it into your messaging.
In addition, you may want to ask your customers what they think and feel about your brand. Global companies with large market research budgets do this all the time to make sure that their branding resonates with their target audiences. Likewise, follow their example, even if it means something and inexpensive as simple as picking up the phone and talking to your customer!
Trend-spotting is part art and part science. I love trend-spotting, especially when it comes to uncovering the trends that are shaping my world, both business and personal. Many research firms release their predictions at the beginning of the year, which I find laughable, since trends tend to ignore the calendar.
In today’s blog post, I have consolidated a huge number of forecasts down into 5 major marketing trends that small businesses need to pay attention to. These cover the global macro-level trends all the way down to the smaller micro-trends that may directly affect your industry niche or business.
Finally, as a bonus at the end of this post, I have included the 17 megatrends that Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve research group has been tracking over the years. You may not know her name, but you will recognize her trend-spotting expertise. Many of the trends her firm has identified over decades of research work.
For example, the Cocooning trend represents our need to protect ourselves from the harsh, unpredictable realities of the outside world. It started out as a consumer home trend. It has now evolved into areas such as hotels catering to our every personal desire and need, with the integration of Small Indulgences, Pleasure Revenge and Fantasy Adventure.
This trend is not new. However, it is finally starting to become a reality as companies learn how to use AI, data-driven programs and tools to make real integration possible.
In the future, it may become a strategic differentiator in your customer’s experience with your company and your brand. Previously, companies were obsessed with digital marketing, especially the technology and tactics used at the bottom of the sales funnel. These tactics creeped a lot of us out, or completely turned us off with their unethical practices.
Consequently, the pendulum will now hopefully swing back to focusing on the human side of marketing. Businesses need to learn how to use these tools to build ongoing engagement and longer-term brand equity instead of focusing on short-term lead conversion and sales generation tactics.
Pay close attention to how your customers react to AI and data-driven marketing, and whether your competitors use it.
In other words, use technology to make your long-term customer experience a priority. You have access to digital tools and technology to incorporate your customers’ stories into your brand story and empower them as your loyal brand ambassadors.
Brands that are more willing to interact with customers publicly will have a strong impact—and brands that can show how this engagement influences their products and services will make an even bigger impact.
Your company’s demonstration of respect for personal privacy and information will now form an important part of your reputation. 2018 was a rocky year for consumers' privacy, riddled with high-profile corporate scandals such as FaceBook.
As a result, trust tanked. New laws such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)—plus California’s privacy law, which comes into effect in January 2020—means you must pay close attention to how to handle your customers’ privacy, data and financial details.
As a consequence, people are starting to notice which businesses “walk the talk” and are trustworthy, and which ones don’t. Earn your customers’ trust by respecting them and being totally transparent and ethical about how and when you use their information.
Give them control over how their data is being used. As a result, you will earn their trust. In a global online economy marked by hacks, leaks and identity theft, people will favor the businesses that can promise them a safe business experience.
Millennials are leading the charge when it comes to environmental concerns impacting their purchasing decisions. From vegan health and beauty products to free-range protein and recycled plastic products, their conscious choices around lifestyle and purchasing are driving the sustainable movement.
Consequently, their influence will only continue to grow. Global data shows firm evidence for this. Millennials (aged 22-35) are more likely than any other generation to say that they would pay extra for eco- friendly or sustainable products. Over 60% say this, compared to 55% of Gen X (aged 36-54) and just 46% of Baby Boomers (aged 55-64). Gen Z (58%) are close behind, and figures for this generation are only likely to grow as its members’ disposable income grows. (data from Global WebIndex research)
Generation Z, our youngest generation, has increasingly taken the place once held by millennials among marketers. Gen Z are leading the charge towards new forms of brand-consumer relationships based around experience and entertainment. Their adoption of creative and social media tools is blurring the boundaries between experience and technology.
Their influence is already impacting retail. As Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve research group reports, immersive events are customer candy for this generation—and the more digital integration involved, the better.
Most noteworthy, pay attention to how this generation navigates where to go and what they get. They are the predictors who will show you how their shopping preferences will influence other generations’ purchase behaviors.
41% of Gen Zers are influenced by Facebook ads, 30% by what they see on YouTube, and 26% by Instagram—and that doesn’t include the additional boost delivered by seeing brands in influencers’ feeds. (data from BrainReserve study)
As a result, retailers are already shifting their approach. Stacy Martinet, VP of marketing strategy and communications at Adobe predicts that engaging content is going to play a big role in retail commerce strategies in 2019, with an emphasis on nurturing customers so that when it is time to buy, your brand or store comes to mind first.
In addition to online, the move toward experiential commerce will be felt offline as well, McKinsey’s Heller said. Studies already show that consumers who shop both online and in-store have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel.
Hence, it’s no longer "Caveat emptor—Let the buyer beware," but “mercatus emptor—Let the marketplace beware.”
It’s loyalty 101: The one-time transaction might bring in some short-term results, but it’s the true fans of your brand and products who will be lifelong shoppers
Several larger cultural trends are shaping seismic shifts in who people listen to. Influencer marketing is also a classic social media strategy. Brands have always relied on celebrities and leading influencers for product endorsements and generating credibility. That is now shifting to micro-influencers as consumers now rely on their peers.
As our monolithic culture continues to splinter and break up, micro-clans are emerging as major players. Micro-influencers are the spokespeople and commentators for these niche audiences. Witness the growth of paleo and ketogenic diets, cannabis products, meatless meat and a host of other culturally influenced products and services that did not exist 10 years ago. Each of these micro-clans and movements has their influencers and leaders.
In short, you need to track both the macro-level influencers as well as these emerging micro-influencers who are relevant to your business and brands.
Here is a short list of the trends that are currently rocking our world. Read her blogs for a provocative look at trend-spotting to forecast what our future holds.
The bottom line from the BrainReserve team:
You need new sensitivities, flexibility – and the ability to share information and let your customer make decisions, without being told how they should feel.
Every strong brand stands for something—one differentiating attribute.
Some call it brand essence. Others call it the brand. Or any of these…
Your brand essence or core attribute gives your audience the primary reason to choose your brand over competitors’ brands. Your brand personality captures what your audience feels when they experience your brand.
Examples of well-known brands:
Volvo = Safety and reliability.
Tesla = Luxury and state-of-the art electric car technology.
Porsche = Sporty performance.
Lamborghini = Exotic luxury performance.
A brand becomes stronger… when you narrow its focus.
Tap into what your audience feels.
Be single-minded. Stand for something and own it. One word to describe your essence is ideal. Maybe two. More than two words indicates that the brand has no focus.
Because a brand (by design) delivers a unique experience, having no focus makes for a weak brand.
Your brand essence must be authentic and credible, or your audience will not believe you. To find out what your audience believes about your brand, ask them. How did people react to your car brand description during the ice-breaker? Did they believe you? Or was it a stretch for them? How hard was it for you to zoom in on the words you chose to describe yourself?
(It’s okay for the brand essence to be aspirational, but only if your audience believes you can deliver on the promise.)
Here are a few resource links to help:
Brand voice test: Do these words pass the sniff test? If people can't tell who's talking when your logo or trademark is covered, then your brand's voice is not distinctive enough.
Use these 5 simple SEO tips for small business. Make your small business is visible online and stands out from your competition.
First of all, you need to identify what problems you solve for your customers. Do you have a unique selling proposition for your business? If you cannot speak clearly to your customers’ desires or needs, they won’t be able to figure it out. They will end up totally frustrated and leave your website. Make your content clear and directed specifically to what they want or need.
Most importantly, choose keywords that your audience uses to search online. Sometimes people think that they are looking for one thing, but in reality, they want something totally different. Imagine what Apple would have used for search terms when they first launched the iPhone. Nobody knew what an iPhone or smartphone was. Therefore, Apple would have included search terms such as “best Blackberry phone”, “best Palm Pilots,” “best Motorola phones,” etc. in their keywords list to make sure that they were connecting with their intended audience.
Follow Apple’s example. First include terms that are related to their search, and then add keywords that are related to when they are not sure of what they are searching for. Finally, use tools such as kwfinder or Ubersuggest to find related or alternative search terms to add to your list. Use your list of keywords consistently in your content, page titles, meta descriptions and tags.
Tools to use: Whiteboard, notebook, digital spreadsheet or notebook such as Evernote. Right now, I am into mind-mapping tools such as Scapple and Xmind.
Time involvement: Medium
Most importantly, speak to your audience. Use their language, not yours. Localize your content to your audience. For example, Minneapolis and St. Paul are two specific geographic regions in the Midwest, but locals refer to the entire metro area as “the Twin Cities.” If local business is important to you, make sure to include the specific geographic keywords that people use. In this example, words would include “Minneapolis,” “St. Paul,” “Twin Cities,” and possibly specific neighborhood names.
Start by using any of the recommended tools to optimize your keywords, website page titles, meta descriptions and body content. I like Yoast, since it gives me a list of recommendations, even though I don’t always agree with it. The goal is to get all of these critical pieces working together and supporting your overall website strategy. It takes time to complete this but is an important part of a successful online strategy.
Finally, optimize your site to be more user-friendly. Here are some examples of activities that help make your site more user-friendly:
Some of the most common technical SEO problems have to do with:
Create business directory listings that are appropriate to your business. Make sure that your listings are accurate and complete. At minimum, include your business name, address and phone (also called “NAP”) information consistently in your business listings. Your NAP must be consistent everywhere online, or search engines such as Google will rank your site as unreliable, since the information is not reliable and potentially misleading.
Next, identify your local influencers who are relevant to your business referral network. You will want to work with them to create backlinks to your site. Furthermore, I recommend you make a list of your top 25-50 potential business directory listings and allocate time every week to complete one or two.
Make a list of your top 5 to 10 direct and indirect competitors and build time in your calendar to check their websites and search listings on a monthly or quarterly basis. If they consistently outrank you in organic search rankings, investigate their approach with each of these SEO tips.
For example, use free tools such as Neil Patel’s SEO analyzer to compare their website with yours. Follow up by making the recommended changes and re-testing the results every month to track your results. I have been using Neil Patel’s SEO analyzer tool regularly since I launched my new website in January, and I have seen excellent progress towards better SEO rankings. It takes time but is worth the effort. My current goals are to clean up keywords and optimize scripts to reduce the number of requests.
Tools to use: SEO analyzer
Time involvement: Low
In conclusion, SEO takes time. First, set realistic expectations. It will take you weeks if not months to fix SEO content and technical problems to build up your SERP rankings. Three to six months is a reasonable amount of time to see improvements for your keyword rankings.
Most importantly, constantly test your content. Choose quality over quantity, so you do not get penalized for keyword stuffing or duplicate content. SEO research is an ongoing task, much like keeping your favorite mode of transportation clean and running well. Finally, monitor your results on a regular basis, so you can shift proactively if you notice changes to your site traffic.
Last week I talked about branding bad news. This week, I cover the good news about your branding, and provide some important tips on how to build a great brand.
First of all, you started your business or organization to serve a need or a purpose. You are passionate about what you do, and the people you serve. To sum up, you already own an inherently amazing story built on your values and mission. This story is embedded into the core of your business DNA—you don’t have to make anything up!
Many small business owners are too modest or bashful about telling people about who they are and what they do. As my collaborator and partner Robynne Davis likes to tell people up front (no beating around the bush with this powerhouse woman!)—most of us didn’t grow up wanting to be a salesperson when we grew up. We planned on becoming astronauts, doctors, explorers, teachers or President of the United States)—not a salesperson!
We have this funny cultural brain-washing about what sales is and isn’t. I happen to believe that sales and marketing are not slimy, scummy activities. In fact, quite the opposite. Your brand's mission or purpose is epic.
You are here to help people solve specific problems or achieve their dreams. Nothing scummy about that, if you do it with integrity and their best interests in mind. (If you’re the kind who are out to make a quick buck and don’t care a fig about your customer or prospect, then a pox on you.)
OUR JOB IS TO CONNECT TO PEOPLE, TO INTERACT WITH THEM IN A WAY THAT LEAVES THEM BETTER THAN WE FOUND THEM, MORE ABLE TO GET WHERE THEY’D LIKE TO GO.
This means that you have highly motivated stakeholders (clients, volunteers, donors, partners and community) who can help take your message out into the world. An example of this is the power of viral marketing and cause marketing. The best brands change our view of the world. A great brand is one that makes a difference to their customers and community.
Check out some of these well-known brands who are masters of sharing their story:
Finally, in order for those people to help you, they need to understand what you stand for and why your product/service is the best. As a result, if you can find out what your customer values, and deliver on your promise and values, you have a sustainable competitive advantage. Follow the examples of the great brands listed above and learn how to become a champion for your category.
Next week: Part 5. How to figure out your brand essence. Until then, feel free to do your homework. Download the presentation now!