What is hero content?

image of the 3H model

Hero content is a concept that is central to many content marketing approaches and in this post I’m going to explain what it actually is and show how you use hero content in a campaign.

In this post

What is hero content?

Hero content is the main piece of work that an entire campaign will lead up to or centre around and can feature (among other things) a major white paper, a research piece or an eBook that provides valuable and useful information for its readers.

Hero content establishes the credibility of you and your brand and shows users that you can be relied upon to have a detailed grasp of the subject. In short, it shows you are a subject matter expert.

The benefits of hero content

To my mind there are three benefits of hero content.

The first is the establishment of credibility.

When you are working in services marketing credibility is the key because with services the potential client needs to know that they are buying quality.

A chunky piece of hero content helps to establish that credibility and shows the client that you know what you are doing. It gives them the warm feeling they need that you have the background, experience and knowledge needed to help with their particular issues.

The second benefit is that it gives you a substantial subject for the focus of your marketing.

If you are wanting to get press attention, backlinks and visits then nothing works as well as original research or a thought leadership white paper.

Your hero content can form a central part of your marketing effort and depending on your objectives will enable you to drive engagement, shares likes etc. for your site.

The final benefit is the use of hero content to build a mailing list.

There can’t be many people who haven’t signed up to a mailing list to get a valuable piece of research or to read an insightful article.

It’s pretty much standard practice in the business world and from my point of view, I accept it both as a price to pay for the content but also in the hope that when I get emails from the company they will also be interesting.

Using the ‘3H’ strategy

The 3 H strategy was devised by Google to help YouTubers and is a method of garnering interest and pushing them towards hero content.

It’s an excellent way of marketing, especially if you are in services but it works across the spectrum and you can see charities, government organisations and online stores all using the 3H strategy too.

The 3H strategy uses 3 different types of content; Hygiene, Hub and Hero to engage with the audience.

The idea is that it all revolves around giving away free content to build credibility and brand loyalty.

image of the 3H model


The 3H strategy:- Hygiene

Hygiene is the name of the content that underpins the whole strategy.

If you were to transfer it to the AIDA marketing concept then it would be an ‘A’ – Attention.

Also called supporting pieces these are short, sharp attention getters that give potential clients some insight into a small area of your expertise.

They form the bedrock of the strategy and are useful for getting hits through keyword marketing.

The important point is that they aren’t necessarily going to make you sales.

If it was in the field of human relationships then a hygiene piece would be a first date. All your customer is doing is seeing if they like you enough to go on a second date, you’re not getting married yet!

The most common types of hygiene content is a blog article but it could be a short podcast or video. In fact, anything that is designed to get attention from your target market.

Because they tend to be simpler and shorter, hygiene pieces are the cheapest to produce and many marketers will say that done well, they produce the best ROI of anything.


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The 3H strategy:- Hub

Longer and more in-depth than a hygiene piece, the hub content is the next step in the 3H marketing method.

Also called ‘pillar’ pieces, hub content is a way of gaining more engagement from your intended audience.

You’re starting to give them something of real value here so the types of assets you produce could be things like worksheets, step by steps, longer ‘how-to’ videos and indeed anything that your customer can use in their day to day work or life.

Strangely they tend to be the longest-lived content because where the hygiene pieces are often topical and of the moment, a good pillar piece can be reused in a variety of different campaigns.

The 3H strategy:- Hero content

This is where it ends up – Hero.

Now you are really getting to the meat of the issue and what you are providing is a chunky, original and useful bit of work.

Maybe you have done some original research that will help businesses or you have an ‘ultimate guide to…’ that assists startups, helps with inheritance tax or even helps people plan a funeral!

Whatever it is I guarantee that in your business there is some hero content that is waiting to be discovered.

By the time your potential customer has read some of your hygiene content, used your pillar piece worksheets and pored over your hero guide they are clear that you are trustworthy, you know what you are talking about and you are professional.

And when you are in services that is the golden nugget that you are searching for.

Start with a plan

The place to start is with a sensible and realistic plan.

Think about what you want to achieve as a result of the campaign.

Think about your potential clients. What issues do they have that you can solve?

Think about how all the pieces of hygiene, hub and hero will work together.

You can decide to produce all of the hygiene first and then roll it up into a hero piece or you can start with your hero content and then chop it down into bite-sized chunks. Then you can expand upon these in a series of blogs.

Generally speaking, I’d say you need to look at producing one hero content, 2-4 hub pieces and an 12+ hygiene pieces that all support the theme.

And don’t get too ambitious. You are much better off proving you are a subject matter expert about a single, focused issue than trying to write a hero piece that contains everything you know.

3 ideas for great hero content

So I’m going to fess up here. These aren’t 3 great ideas for hero content that I have just had.

In fact, these are all pieces of hero content that I have already produced for clients, so I’m not being original. But then the point is that these are simply examples of ideas that you could use in your own industry.

Rydoo – the state of expense management

Rydoo is one of the best global Travel and Expenses systems out there and they asked me to produce a report based on the data they were seeing from their users.
The report was designed to who how expenses claims had changed as a result of COVID and what it meant for employers and employees alike.

This is a great way to use data you may already have in your systems and produce something of value for your potential customers and to make you a thought leader in your industry.

You do need to be careful of course. You need to be aware of GDPR requirements and you need to make sure you don’t give away any trade secrets!

Download a copy of the report here.

Access webinar

So although much of the hero content you see on the web is written, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Another COVID themed piece of content, the webinar “How to use the end of lockdown to rebalance your finance operations” was a way to drive engagement with a very specific target market – people who may need to buy new finance software.

The webinar was produced for the Access Group, a major UK based software house and was promoted across their social channels and supported with blogs.

There are lots of good things about webinars; they promote engagement, allowing attendees to ask questions and become part of the discussion, they are accessible for people who hate reading, and the platform pretty much demands that people give their email addresses otherwise they can’t get in!

The good news is that you know all of the information you need. After all you are an industry expert (even if you think you aren’t) so it takes little in the way of research.

And if you really don’t want to present it yourself then why not get a good looking and intelligent presenter. Ahem…

Ebooks as hero content

One of the most important reasons for producing hero content is to build an audience.

You want people to get some value out of your work so that they come back and enjoy more content.

The truth (that most content marketers won’t tell you) is that most of the people won’t buy what you are selling, but you may well find that they recommend you to other people and you may never know.

But, if you produce some hero content with real value it will build your audience and prove your credibility on a particular subject matter.

In a shameless act of self-publicity here’s an ebook I wrote for accountants called “The accountants’ guide to digital marketing” which you can download here.

Don’t worry that it talks about marketing an accountancy practice, in fact, it’s useful for anyone who wants to know more about hero content or just content marketing in general.

Hero content - free guide to content marketing for accountants

Need a bit of help?

I’m a professional writer and I spend my life producing this type of content.

I can either write for you to your plan or I can help you produce your campaign plan that you can write or I can do the lot.

Give me a shout and let’s chat. No obligation naturally.

Planning your marketing – make the most of your time and money

planning your marketing

Planning your marketing is hyper-important for all businesses and yet I’m constantly surprised at how few people do this.

I regularly get asked by clients to do fairly substantial pieces of work and then only afterwards do they ask how they should promote it.

It’s a bit like putting the cart before the horse!

not planning your marketing is like putting the cart before the horse
Cart – horse – you get the picture

So I would always advocate having some sort of plan, even if it is only on the back of an envelope to help you make the most of your marketing assets.

Planning your marketing – the benefits

There are tons of benefits to having a content marketing plan such as;

Speaking to the right people – one of the key building blocks of a content marketing plan is to set out exactly who you want to reach. There is no point sending out blogs about tyre choice to people who don’t drive a car. Read more about the importance of focus here.

Putting your content into the right channel – it’s fair to say that if you understand your target market then you will also understand where they hang out, so producing a plan will tell you where to place your assets.

Producing the right content – You’ve got your people, you’ve got your channel, now you can work out what marketing assets would work best. For example, TikTok videos work well with millennials, weighty, written reports go well with C-suite execs.

Marketing at the right time – sure you should always be marketing but I’d suggest that bringing out a big report on the state of the UK insurance industry on Christmas Eve isn’t going to get you the results you’re after. Marketing is often about timing.

Timing is everything

You get to test your output – the best marketers actually plan to test things against one another to see what works but you need to make sure that you are doing this in a structured way otherwise the results may not be accurate.

Things go a lot quicker – yup. Spending some time planning your content at the start slows down the project initially, but you find that later on, it goes a lot quicker than just randomly doing stuff.

You can plan in consistency – customers hate inconsistency of message so planning helps you to clarify your message and then build content around it, rather than putting out stuff that is based on the last thing you saw on the TV.

You can get your ducks in a row – If you have a clear plan then you can book writers, translators, editors, digital marketing people all in advance meaning that you know that the people you want to work with will be available.

Not spending money you don’t have to – this is a really important one. If you don’t want to waste your precious marketing cash then you need to get planning your marketing to stop you spending money on things that aren’t going to get you the results you are seeking.

It helps with marketing in the future – if you don’t have a plan then how do you know that your marketing worked/didn’t work and how will you avoid making the same mistakes in the future?

How to plan your content marketing

So here are a few steps that you need to take to build up your plan.

Step 1 – decide what your outcome is, in detail. Don’t just say general stuff like “we want to make more money” but be specific.
“We want to deliver a mailing list with 1000 people by the 1st of April”.

Step 2 – decide who you are going to talk to. Again, be specific and think about producing a customer avatar of your ideal customer.
This will save you from spending money you don’t need, talking to people who will never buy your service, on channels that they don’t use anyway!

Step 3 – set out a budget. This will also help define what you can do. If you are Coca-Cola then you can books some superbowl ads but if you are Joe’s Diner then you will be setting your sights on more cost-effective marketing.

Step 4 – Think about your current position. Are you already a ‘thought leader’? Do you already have a lot of content assets that you can repurpose?
This will feed into your plan and ensure that you don’t spend money duplicating content.

Step 5 -Decide on your channels. You may already have great engagement on say LinkedIn which you can leverage or you may decide that you want to build up a new channel from scratch. Remember that different customers like different channels.

Step 6 – Decide on your content types. As I said earlier, your customer type + channel determines the sort of output you will produce.
Remember though that you may produce one type of content to support or drive people towards another. For example, you may produce a blog that has a Call To Action that points people towards downloading an ebook or signing up for your podcast.

Step 7 – Choose your team. When you know what you are going to produce then you know who you need. If you are going big on YouTube then you probably need a videographer or editor. If you are producing a blog or case study then you probably need a content writer. Ahem….

Step 8 – Put together a content calendar and brief. This shows what you are going to do when you are going to do it and who will produce it. A major part of planning your marketing, you will probably also need a project brief if you are going to use freelancers and you can get a free example here

Step 9 – Produce your content. Or get your freelancers to do it. Don’t underestimate the effort needed to produce a blog a week. If you have a busy business then it is unlikely you will be able to stick to your plan so be realistic and think about outsourcing.

Step 10 – Promote your content – seriously this is one of the biggest steps in your content plan. So many people produce content and then leave it on their website gathering dust.

Step 11 – measure, adjust, repeat. If you are an amazing superhero then your marketing will hit home first time every time. If you are like the rest of us then you will start off with a flop.

Take some time, reflect and then adjust your approach. Sooner or later you will find the marketing mix that is right for you.

Planning your marketing – summary

So there it is.
There’s a load of reasons why you should plan your marketing before you start from understanding who your ideal customer is to saving you money on producing wasted assets.

If you have any specific questions the do post a comment and I’ll try and answer.
All the best!

The Ad

If you need help producing a marketing plan or you are looking for someone to do it for you then I am your man.

Just get in touch and let’s talk.

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SaaS companies and content marketing – why?

SaaS companies and content marketing

Saas companies and content marketing- it’s a match made in heaven.

Don’t believe me?

Well read on you old cynic and I’ll tell you why every SaaS company needs to invest in content marketing.

SaaS companies are different

Fact!

And if someone says ‘Fact’ on the internet then you know it’s true.

But it really is in this case.

SaaS companies don’t have a physical product.

Most of the time they don’t have offices or storefronts

They don’t have salespeople that you can meet.

In fact, 93.75% of SaaS products are bought with no human interaction at all*

Why does this matter?

Well the truth is that for a customer to buy they need to have some form of validation.

Put simply they need to know your product does what it says it will.

They need to know what it will do for them.

And they need to know that you won’t use their credit card number to buy a Mercedes Benz in Tallinn. (no offence Tallinn people**)

In short, what you need are credibility and credibility.

Content marketing builds credibility

Not on its own obviously, but I can guarantee you that before they choose to buy, people who hit your site have a really good look around.

They look for signs that you know what you are talking about (blogs)

They look for signs that other people have found your service useful (case studies)

And they look for examples of ways that it will benefit them (white papers, eBooks and reports).

If you don’t believe me then think about what you did before you bought that PeopleHr or Calendly subscription.

In my opinion, SaaS companies and content marketing go together like eggs and bacon (mmm bacon) and there are three steps to a successful content plan.

Step – 1 build credibility

The first thing you need to do is to build credibility by having a back catalogue on your site that reflects the service you are offering.

Generally these will be blog postings about specific issues that your customers may face.

So for example, you are a company that offers a SaaS product that automatically tracks and reports on assets.

You’d produce a series of blogs that are related to the fixed asset industry; How to secure your assets, Should you use asset tags? How to report asset depreciation.

These aren’t sales pitches, although there’s no harm in having a call to action at the end of the post, they are more about building the credibility of your site simply by demonstrating that you understand the problems that your industry faces.

Step 2 – Build confidence

Your potential customer already feels you have credibility within your niche but they want to be confident that your product is a good one.

Remember that they can’t touch it or test the quality other than what they find online so you need to provide the digital assets that will give them the confidence they need to make a purchase.

You do this by providing validation of your service.

So my favourite are well-written case-studies.

These show real-life customers with happy smiling faces who have bought your product and found their lives transformed. You know the sort of thing.

In my opinion no SaaS company should ever have a website that doesn’t have half a dozen case studies on it.

Case studies showing happy smiling people work wonders. Just perhaps not that happy.
Ok perhaps not THAT happy and smiling

Step 3 – build shareables

So far we’ve looked at what people see when they get to your site but how do they get there in the first place?

What you need to build are shareables.

These are things of value that people will share with their network and that you can push out to your own network or through paid advertising.

If you do it right, then you can pick up free publicity from newspapers and magazine sites that are hungry for original stuff. Trade magazines are particularly good for this.

So I’m talking about original surveys, reports, eBooks and maybe even infographics and explainer videos.

These cost more but there’s a good reason why you want to invest in it.

They work!

Seriously, have a word with an SEO guy (or gal, let’s not be sexist here) and find out how valuable a link to your site from the top trade magazine in your niche would be.

A good, weighty piece of original work is also worth handing over your email address for so it also helps you build your mailing list. Gold dust.

OK so this isn’t the whole story

Look you’re not going to get rich just by doing a load of blog posts and sticking them on your site. Often blog posts don’t work on their own.

The truth is that there are a whole load of things around it that you need to get right in order to really sell your proposition, but having a credible and fresh site is the way to start and once you have the foundation, you can then start to add the bells and whistles that will really make your site earn its keep.

The whole point about SaaS companies and content marketing is that it helps develop the credibility of your business and if done right fosters a community feel that is worth its weight in gold.

SaaS companies and content marketing – the ad

You didn’t think you were going to get away without an ad did you?

C’mon dude, that would be ridiculous!

So look I know you haven’t got time to write all this content yourself so that’s where I come in.

I produce superb content that will show potential customers the beauty, nay, the majesty of your product or service.

Just click the button and let’s talk.

* and 97.383% of statistics are made up.

** we love your 8 administrative districts and humid continental climate

How to build TLDR into your blog posts

Writing a TLDR blog works really well - Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash

A TLDR blog post will improve readability for your customers so the big questions are: what is TLDR and how do you use it?

In this article I’m looking at the whole concept of TLDR; what it means, why you need it and how you should build your blog posts to make the most of this simple to understand concept.

In this article:

What is TLDR?

TLDR stands for ‘Too Long Didn’t Read’ and it’s almost morphed into a derogatory statement about modern attention spans.

I’ll be honest if I see big expanses of text then I tend to switch off so seeing a blog that understands TLDR and is sensibly structured makes me much more likely to read the whole thing.

I know I shouldn’t say that given that I am a writer and all, but my attention span has turned really short and the statistics say that I am not alone.

Essentially what TLDR is saying is that your reader needs to get information quickly and a TLDR post is a method of providing that.

“seeing a blog that understands TLDR and is sensibly structured makes me much more likely to read the whole thing”

Why you should care about TLDR

The very first reason you should care is that if you are at all bothered about the quality of your content, you’ll know that you need to provide information in the way that your potential customers want.

So a big rambling post does two things; it really annoys most people and it discourages them from reading on or clicking to read more of your material.

The second reason you should care is that Google rewards sites that are interesting to users.

The great god of Google looks at your site and assesses how many of the people who visit read for a long time and how many read other articles.

It also looks at their behaviour after they have clicked on the search result. If they quickly click back to the Search Engine Results Page (SERPs), then it tells the god that your page doesn’t have the information you need.

Or more pertinently, it may have the information but they couldn’t find it.

So if you have a lot of people who don’t read more than one article and don’t stay on the site for a long time then you will get penalised.

How TLDR helps your blog

What TLDR does is to tell people what information is in your post and where to find it.

This may seem counter-intuitive because if you are wanting people to stick around then you would expect that making them sift through acres of text would do just that but in fact the opposite is true.

In reality, users do a quick scan to see if the post is likely to yield the results that they are looking for and if it doesn’t then they click away to a new site.

“What TLDR does is to tell people what information is in your post and where to find it”

The evidence shows that in 2021, users have become much smarter about the information they see.

So TLDR is a way of showing users that they will be rewarded with the information they seek if they invest a little time in reading further.

It also has a way of surreptitiously showing them that if they click on to another post they are likely to find more information of use very quickly.

How to structure your TLDR blog post

Structuring your blog for the TLDR readership is really easy and I can promise you that after a short while it will become like second nature.

I wrote a longer piece on some of the finer detail of TLDR here

Have a read through this post and see if you can spot any of the TLDR blog items that you need to include.

The first one is to answer the question your reader is asking in the first couple of paragraphs.

This tells people what they are going to read right up front and is a way of reinforcing the pay off for continued attention.

Second have what I like to call a ‘TLDR block’ very early on.

This is a list of the headings in your post that give people an understanding of what information is included and where they can find it.

You’d think that people would simply navigate to the section, read what they want to read and then go away but actually that’s not what happens.

In fact they tend to read what they want to read, then go to other parts of the post to understand more or even better, they check out your other posts to get more in depth information.

Make sure you have internal links on all the headings in your list so people can quickly click straight through to your sections.

Need help with your content?

OK so producing content isn’t for everyone so why not give the headache to someone who actually enjoys the process?

I’m a professional business writer and i produce TLDR blogs for a living.

Getting me to write your content means that you get time back to do stuff you really enjoy.

Get in touch now and let’s have an e-coffee



Start a business – the 5 marketing things to do first

You’re good at what you do, you’ve got a bit of cash put by and you’ve got a hunger to start a business – so what’s stopping you?

Talking to many people in the same situation it’s clear that marketing is a significant blocker to people starting a new business.

The problem is that there are so many people out there trying to sell you stuff it’s difficult to know what to do first.

So here’s a sales pitch-free blog post that tells you the things I would do if I was starting a business from scratch.

#1 – Decide what you do (and who for)

This may sounds stupid but it is absolutely the key and you need to do this BEFORE you do anything else.

Deciding what you do and who you do it for will drive your marketing output and define which channels you use to communicate your offer so don’t neglect this step or it could be costly.

The first step is to work on your 10 second elevator pitch.

This needs to be clear and concise and frankly if you can’t tell people what you do in 10 seconds then you haven’t got a hope in hell of marketing your business in any cost-effective manner.

You need to focus your approach too.

Work out exactly who you are going to be selling to; and I mean EXACTLY.

When you first start up in business it is tempting to think that you can help everyone but marketing to the whole world just means that your message becomes diffused and gets ignored.

For example “I sell specialist insurance for plumbers” works a lot better than “I sell insurance for everybody”.

See my post on focus here (don’t worry that it’s for accountants, the principles are the same.

#2 – Build your network

Do this well before you start up in business.

Your network is like gold and will bring you sales, publicity and suppliers.

Businesses that have a large and active network always do better than closed, insular companies.

Be selective though, choose a networking group that has people who look like your target customers rather than a big bunch of randoms that won’t ever buy from you.

If you provide professional grade practice management software then you’re probably going to be wasting your time on mumsnet, for example.

#3 – Get your website up and running

Again you can do this before you even start and with the number of easy website builders out there you have no reason not to have a go yourself.

That having been said, you can find really good professional builders on sites like Fiverr, people per hour and Upwork who will build you a perfectly acceptable site at a low cost.

As you build your network you’ll realise that everyone you meet will be checking out your website to see if you are credible.

Your site doesn’t need to be sophisticated or snazzy, just professional and you can get away with a homepage, about, services and contact pages and then develop it later.

Just make sure your about page has a good story on it.

#4 Get your blog up and running

If you are hoping to attract customers using searches then you need to get your SEO right.

It’s not a matter of writing a blog post and then Google picks you up the next day, you need to have a history of posts.

Even if you don’t expect to pick customers up this way then your new business needs to build up a credible looking site so get your blog up and running and look to post once a week with some valuable information about your sector.

Don’t worry too much about driving sales or hitting specific keywords at this point (that comes later), concentrate on getting into the groove of posting regularly.

You can find out more about digital marketing here.

#5 Plan your marketing

Having a marketing plan before you start your business makes so much sense it is amazing that so few people do it.

Amazing but nonetheless true.

A marketing plan is a great idea because it forces you to think about what you are going to do, when and how much it is going to cost.

Most new businesses have a limited marketing budget so it’s a good idea to think about where you are going to spend it and then analyse the results afterwards to see what is working and what isn’t.

That way you’ll only spend money where you are getting the biggest bang for your buck.

Start a business – become a marketer

When you start a business you’ll find that you are doing more jobs than ever before.

You’ll become the janitor, the CFO, the Chief exec and the head of marketing!

Just like the operational tasks you need to take marketing seriously, after all if you don’t you won’t have any customers to help!

So make sure that you get your marketing head on and if it all seems like a bit too much, then find someone who can help (cough).

Good luck with starting your new business!

Show you are different – marketing differentiation

Trying to be different? Marketing differentiation. Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

If you are trying to attract more customers then there are 6 tried and tested ways of using marketing differentiation to show why people should buy from you.

In an ideal world, your business, product or service would have all of these but actually many companies do very well by using just one and in this post I’m going to explain what marketing differentiation is and how you can use it.

In this post;

What is differentiation?

Differentiation in marketing terms is simply the process of showing how you are different from the competition.

There are a whole load of ways that these differences can manifest themselves but they will be positive attributes of the company that are important to their target group of customers.

Sometimes the difference is real but in the worst cases it is merely fluff, and I’d argue that businesses that are sustainable have real factors that make them stand out from their peers and don’t engage in dishonest marketing.

I genuinely think that consumers can see through fluff and with the advent of social media the news spreads very rapidly indeed.

Most companies that are finding that their marketing isn’t working actually have the differentiation factors already, it’s just that their marketing doesn’t reflect it. In other words they are hiding their light under a bushel.

So what are these differentiators and how can you spot and use them in your marketing?

Product

This is possibly the most obvious and easiest to spot.

Product differentiation is when a company has a product and service that is so different from the competition that it makes them stand out on their own.

Possibly the best example of this would be the iPhone.

marketing differentiation  - the original iPhone

Back in 2007 there really wasn’t anything like it on the market.

Sure there were phones, but the iPhone was so radically different that it changed the device market entirely and indirectly led to the destruction of the biggest phone manufacturer of the time, Nokia.

Now if you are lucky enough to have a product or service that is so radically different that it is going to totally change the sector you work in then that’s great news but beware…

Look at the phone market now and you’ll see that it is totally flooded with ‘me too’ products that do exactly what the iPhone does, but cheaper or better.

So if your marketing is built on the shifting sands of a product then be aware that you have a limited amount of time before your competitors catch up.

But the good news is that if you have a product that stands out in one or two ways then you can use that as a basis for a marketing campaign.

A good example of this is the way that BT sells it’s internet services. BT majors on the fact that it can give you the fastest domestic broadband and ties all of its marketing to this, showing the way that your life would be better if you have faster internet access.

Naturally it glosses over the fact that it is more expensive then the competition!

So picking out one or two stand out features of your product or service and then going big on them in your marketing is a real winner.

marketing differentiation  - using product features

Service

Think about all the companies you use as a consumer or as a business owner.

Is there one that charges a little more but you keep using because the service they offer is stunning?

When I take my car or more importantly my motorbike for an MOT I always go to Joe’s MOT near me in Bournemouth.

I know for a fact that there are MOT stations closer than them, and some that offer cut-price MOT’s to get the business in. I can even get free MOT’s as part of the package that comes with other products I buy like car insurance or my accountancy institute fees.

marketing differentiation  - great service always sells

But despite the disparity in cost, I take my vehicle to these guys because they are great to work with and that’s important to me.

Service is a great way to counter competitors who are selling at cut-price, because there has to be a very significant reduction in value for a consumer to walk away from great service.

Channels of distribution

If you have seen the 7 P’s of marketing then you’ll know this as ‘Place’ and the channel of distribution really describes the way that you get your product or service to the customer.

There’s a prosperous town near me that doesn’t have a fishmonger (not many do nowadays) and once a week a chap turns up with a little van and sets up a wet fish stall in the centre.

He’s spotted that there’s a gap in the market and has delivered his product in a place that is convenient for his customers.

Now he has a bunch of regular customers that know that he will turn up on a specific day of the week and who visit the town centre just to see him.

Delivering your service using the channel that your customers like and feel comfortable with is a great way to show how you are different from the competition.

It works particularly well when a channel is new. For example in the early days of Facebook there weren’t many people selling on the platform and yet it had a very defined audience.

If you look at any new distribution channel like Instagram or TikTok then you’ll see that companies can develop a new customer base very quickly if they are first adopters but just like ‘Product’, it can start to get crowded very quickly so don’t base your entire marketing strategy on this!

Relationships

There’s an old saying: ‘people buy from people’ and when you want to differentiate your marketing this is an excellent thing to remember.

This really is all about building relationships with people rather than seeing them as a number and whilst it is a natural state for a smaller business, larger companies can use it as well.

When they set up their business in 2017, Blue Motor Finance decided to go traditional and use business relationship style salespeople who personally visited car dealers to introduce the service with no hard sell.

They took time to get to know their customers, their business and who they were selling to and designed a product to fit. Blue incentivised its people based on relationship building and how many times they visited their potential customers rather than just sales figures.

The result was that by 2019 Blue was the fastest growing business in Europe and the company continues to go from strength to strength.

You usually find that a relationship approach goes hand in hand with service marketing and if your business has great relationships with its customer then look at using service as an additional feature in your marketing.

Reputation/image

Reputation is something that has really come to the fore, especially since around 2010.

It used to be that reputation was everything and back in the day companies worked very hard to build up their name in their industry and equally hard to retain it.

Somewhere along the way, we lost that and companies were happy to treat customers, suppliers and staff badly, just as long as their products were cheaper than everyone else’s!

The problem with this approach is that there’s always someone who can do it cheaper or quicker and so competing on price can be a slippery slope.

There are also sectors where having a bad reputation is a complete disaster. Imagine a bank that had an awful reputation for security or a cosmetic surgeon who was known to only have a 50% hit rate!

That’s why for many companies image and reputation are vital parts of their marketing mix.

Think about the marketing differentiation of the Body Shop, Virgin or British Airways.

Trust is important in marketing differentiation  -

All of these have a very specific image and a good reputation in their niche.

Today you can find any number of sites like Trustpilot that will even collate reputation scores and so if your customers love you then you are on to a winner.

Reputation works well when trust is important and although I wouldn’t suggest necessarily building an entire marketing campaign around the fact that you don’t rip people off (because it introduces into customers minds that they could be ripped off!) it is a great differentiator when you have two offerings that are very similar.

Price

I never compete on price, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a valid marketing tool.

So for example I would never try and win business by undercutting a competitor because I know how long it will take to do a good job and when you start cutting your prices then customers expect that you will always give them a discount.

But you can use price as a marketing differentiator to point to other features of your product.

I had a conversation with a client who decided to go to a cheaper copywriter.

OK so that was annoying but around three months later he came back and commissioned work at the original price because he found that paying less for something meant that he got worse quality and that in the end he spent longer correcting the mistakes that a cheap copywriter makes.

I even wrote a blog post about what happened when I tested out some cheap copywriters.

So using the example above you can show why your price is higher and weave in some of the other aspects such as reputation and service to make your case.

Of course, many companies have been using their high price as a badge of exclusivity for years like Stella Artois, whose ‘reassuringly expensive’ tagline has served well since 1992.

The use of price doesn't always mean trying to sell at the lowest price

Your next steps

If I were running your marketing I’d start by looking at your customers. What things are important to them?

Exclusivity?

Convenience?

Trust?

Then I’d look at your product or service. What things would be important if I were buying it?

Then I’d look to see what positive attributes your business, your staff and your product have and then begin to weave them into a narrative.

When you have done all that, you need to make sure that all of your marketing output majors on the one or two aspects you have chosen.

Need some help with marketing differentiation?

Come on guys you know the drill. If you’d like to work with someone who is incredibly sarcastic but deep down a nice guy then click on the link!

11 examples of tone of voice

I wanted to give you some examples of tone of voice as a companion piece to my post on types of tone of voice.

In this post I’m highlighting some very different types to hopefully give you some inspiration and show how your tone of voice can be different, even if you are in the same industry.

Crunch.co.uk

I chose accountants as they get a pretty bad rep for communication generally.

I think sometimes this is fair, but there are some accountants out there that really spend a lot of time on their marketing and communication so I wanted to celebrate a couple here.

Crunch is an online accountancy practice that specialises in working with smaller businesses.

They get my vote because they have put a lot of effort into their marketing with a bright and cheery site, not too many long words and no jargon.

It’s easy to find what you want and understand the language when you get there.

Their tone of voice is cheery, helpful, friendly and is designed to give people a sense of an approachable business.

Crunch accounting

Deloitte

Deloitte is the other end of the scale entirely.

They work with very large companies and government departments and look how their use of language differs.

There’s a fair bit of corporate speak in there with words like ecosystem, illuminate, perspective, divestiture.

They are speaking in the way that their customers expect and the whole tone of voice in this example is designed to show that they are ultra professional and serious people.

Deloitte website

Rolls Royce cars

Check out the Rolls Royce website for a great example of tone of voice.

RR have decided that less is definitely more and you’ll struggle to find much in the way of copy on the site.

Why?

Because it’s all about brand perception.

People who visit the site are looking for a dream car and frankly they don’t need you to tell them about MPG or CO2 emissions.

I love this site because of the minimalist approach they have taken, I just hope that the copywriter wasn’t paid by the word!

Rolls Royce cars

Ford

In contrast, Ford has taken the view that its customers need to know exactly how much value they are getting for their money.
There’s lots of information about the cars and it’s presented in an easy to read and accessible style.

This illustrates one of the things about tone of voice that many people forget. Sometimes it’s not about what you do say (Ford) but what you don’t say (RR).

Ford torneo

Virgin wines

In this example I wanted to show how the tone of voice can extend across a whole brand.

Virgin wines uses very youthful, fun, enjoyable language to entice the buyer into their club.

But it is interesting how the same tone of voice is used across the whole virgin brand from wines to mobile phones to airlines.

What is interesting is that not all of the virgin companies are still owned by the group but they continue to use the same type of tone of voice.

Virign wines example tone of voce

Even the main group websites uses the same tone of voice!

Virgin group example tone of voice

Berry Bros & Rudd

Berry Bros & Rudd are reputed to be the UK’s oldest wine merchant and their website is set up for serious wine buffs.

Sure they have selection cases just like Virgin, but the way they describe their wines is totally different.

You’ll find a lot more detailed information on the site too, as this is what serious wine people want and the language is more sober (if you’ll forgive the pun) and speaks to people who are often wanting wine as an investment and not for their Friday night dinner party.

Berry bros & Rudd tone of voice example

Amigo loans

Held up as a disruptor in the personal loans space in the UK I’ve always been impressed with the tone of voice that Amigo adopted.

Bear in mind that when they started out the loan market in the UK was pretty ‘fuddy duddy’ and the traditional banks spoke to people as though they were something that the cat dragged in.

Amigo pioneered the straight-talking, accessible language that we see on so many finance sites nowadays.

This is a good example because it shows how accessible language can be used to make complex subjects easy.

The site is professional but friendly and across the pages it makes it clear that borrowers can always call in and talk to a person.

Example of Amigo Loans tone of voice

Royal Bank of Scotland

RBS takes an entirely different approach.

No messing about trying to become your friend for these guys – they are right in there with the APR and their copy ‘above the fold’ reads like an extract from the little legal bit they have to put at the bottom of their print output.

I’ll be honest, I hate this.

OK so it is compliant with FCA regulations but guys, c’mon. It’s 2020.

Buy me a drink before you ask to take me home!

RBS tone of voice

Lush

OK so I used this one in my post on types of tone of voice and I make no apologies for including it here.

Own up time: I worked at Lush in the early days and I remember how much effort went into developing the tone of voice and look of the site.

Personally I think they have got it spot on and not because I worked there. I’m most certainly not in their target demographic!

If you want to see a really individual tone of voice then check out their product descriptions or read their blog.

Lush tone of voice example

Yves Saint-Laurent

Ok so sometimes it’s not what you say it’s the way that you say it (see Rolls Royce) but sometimes…

When I started searching for examples of tone of voice I found some that I didn’t and YSl is in that category.

I’m including the YSL site here because it shows something really interesting.

On the corporate site YSL badges itself as ‘The most subversive Parisian luxury beauty brand’

However when you come to read the product descriptions they are anything but subversive.

In fact, it’s almost like someone forgot to tell the copywriter what tone of voice they were going for!

This is a good example of what not to do.

Don’t set out your stall as one thing and then choose a tone of voice that is completely at odds with your mission, goals or marketing themes.

Take a look at the wording below and think ‘subversive’. Not really is it?

Are subversive people really worried about the colour of the bottle that their Eau De Parfum arrives in?

YSL tone of voice

Boots

In contrast I really like the site of UK High Street giant Boots.

OK so it’s not as funky as the Lush site but they are going for a different demographic (me maybe).

Their fragrance descriptions are well written, clear, accessible and enticing.

They are even formatted a little like wine descriptions.

Personally I think they have done a good job here and it shows how you can use different language in simple product descriptions to speak to your audience.

Examples of tone of voice – now find yours

So I’ve given you some examples of tone of voice to get you thinking about how different companies use language to communicate their brand values.

Some I liked and some I didn’t but what I think doesn’t matter.

It’s what your customers think that is important.

My best advice is to keep a note of sites you visit where you like how they communicate and then ask yourself whether that would work with your customers.

Then try it on for size.

Write some product descriptions or a blog post in that tone of voice and decide whether it fits or not.

Sometimes gut feeling is better than scientific analysis!


Give me a shout

If you’d like help developing your tone of voice then why not contact me by pressing the big blue button?

Types of tone of voice – how to choose yours

choose the right types of tone of voice

There are many different types of tone of voice and for most of the websites you visit you probably won’t even have noticed that they are using one.

A company that chooses the right tone of voice immediately falls into synch with their customers and this means that the tone of voice doesn’t stand out.

The only times you do notice a tone of voice is when it clearly isn’t right for the brand or when you are specifically looking at how language is being used – like in this article!

TL:DR Tone of voice

What is tone of voice?

The tone of voice is the language, grammar and even the types of slang and Three Letter Acronyms (TLAs) you use.

In short, it’s what you say and how you say it.

Vocabulary.com define it as the ‘quality of a person’s voice’ and this I reckon that this is a pretty accurate description.

Because quality is an incredibly important part of deciding on how you want to sound to your customers.

A smart brand will have a tone of voice that they use across all of their media, whether it be spoken tone of voice in videos and podcasts or written tone of voice in their blog posts, white papers, and even their advertising materials.

The key is to make sure that you are using the same tone of voice across all of your output, otherwise things start to jar and your brand can even start to look unauthentic.

Why tone of voice matters

So why on earth should you care about tone of voice?

Well the first reason is that your tone of voice can be used as a form of filter.

You are looking to attract customers who will buy into your company and what you are offering right?

So for example, if you have a funky cosmetics brand like Lush then you’ll want to make people feel like they are part of the gang, that they belong and that life is fun.

The tone of voice that Lush use across all of their stuff means that users instantly connect with the brand but if you’re not into that then you’ll be turned off and will probably move away.

This is fine because you’re not in the target market and probably wouldn’t buy anyway.

So developing an effective tone of voice strengthens the bond with your target market and to an extent makes it clear to your non-targets that this isn’t the place for them.

Types of tone of voice

So here’s the fun stuff – looking at different types of tone of voice.

For my tone of voice I am looking to provide a friendly and informative post. My website is generally written in the first person (“I” rather than “we”) and I will use slang and the occasional bit of humour to break up what can after all be some fairly detailed and technical subjects.

I’m also using my tone of voice as a filter.

I love working with people, small businesses, entrepenuers.

I hate working with corporates

So the moment you start reading my output you realise that I am not a big agency. You’re not paying fancy prices for things you don’t need.

That’s attractive to smaller companies but corporates get really nervous unless they are being charged ridiculous money so they go away.

Result!

So let’s look at some examples

I’ve already mentioned cosmetics firm Lush (secret: I used to work with them when they first developed their tone of voice) and they are an excellent example of a tone of voice.

Check out this product and the accompanying copy “Spritz yourself with a little bit of magic and wrap yourself in a cloak of candy floss and bubblegum”

It’s flowery, often funny and light, fitting in perfectly with their demographic.

Now check out retirement home builder McCarthy and Stone.

The tone of voice is completely different.

When people are thinking about buying a retirement property they want safety, security and sensible businesses. They aren’t wanting someone to spray them with fairy dust!

And so the TOV is completely different.

If you want to see the effect it can have then re-read the McCarthy and Stone website but switch it to the Lush use of language and see how that jars.

Another good example is Zero Motorcycles.

Their customers are clearly looking to the future and are already on board with the move to electric so the Zero copy capitalises on that with;

Zero are using a tone of voice that captures the move towards the future, identifying the transformational nature of the experience.

However try the Aston Martin website (particularly the brand stories section).

The language is totally different and they major on the heritage and quality of their design with phrases like;

How to choose your tone of voice

I wrote a longer article on the process of choosing your own tone of voice here but there are some simple steps you can take to make the process easier.

The first thing is to define your customer. You have decided on your target market right?

Then check out the places that they hang out. Look at message boards, Facebook groups, insta posts and learn the language that they use.

This will give you a better idea of the sort of language that is attractive to the people you want to talk to.

Then have a look around for websites you like and that fit in with this form of tone of voice.

See what they say, how they say it and what tricks they use to personalise their site.

Think about your values – are you a friendly company? Do you provide safety and security? Do you believe in being a trendsetter?

This last point is important because if you are a trendsetter in your industry then you don’t want to be using exactly the same tone of voice as all of your competitors for example.

Think also about the types of rhythm you like. Will you use rhymes, alliteration, lists.

What age are your target customers?

Do you need to include street-slang or are your people technicians who really like the odd TLA thrown in to show that you understand the subject matter?

Here’s a great tip for working out where you want to be.

Boil down your brand and mission into a few words (no more than six).

For example Aston Martin might be “quality, speed, technology, heritage”.

This will give you a steer as to the direction you need to be moving (pun intended).

Finally the best way to decide on your tone of voice is to try it on and see if it fits.

Get a copywriter to write product or service descriptions in several different types of TOV and just see what feels right.

So often our gut feeling turns out to be the right one.

Good luck with deciding on your tone of voice and if you need any copy or marketing help then you know where I am!

How much does copywriting cost?

How much does copywriting cost

If you are looking to spend some money on your marketing then you are going to need a copywriter and that leads you to the question “How much does copywriting cost?”

You can find copywriters that will range from $8 up to $2000 per thousand words but you have to ask what you are getting for your money.

So why would you pay $2000 when you can get the same number of words for $8?

Read on friend and find out…

You get what you pay for (mostly)

The truth is that you wouldn’t need to try very hard to find someone somewhere in the world who would be happy to know out a thousand words for $8.

But the work you would get would be awful.

Don’t believe me? Check out what happened when I bought some cheap writing here

The problem is that when you buy a number of words for a very low price what you will get is exactly that – a number of words.

They won’t necessarily be connected to one another in a way that we’d think makes sense and they won’t be specially designed to impress your reader.

There are two different way you can get copywriting done cheaply; a copy farm or buying from somewhere that human work is cheap.

In the first one you’ll get given something that has been produced using a computer and some version of an algorithm or what they may call AI.

What will come out of the end is something that reads a bit like those chat boxes that you sometimes get when you are looking for help from your utility supplier.

The words are there alright but they aren’t quite right. There’s something a little odd.

Now you have to ask yourself if you are happy with giving your customers the impression that there’s something not quite right about your business!

In the second case you’ll be buying from someone who has English as a second, third (or more) language.

They are cheap but you do need to be aware that you’ll probably spend more time spellchecking and reorganising the grammar that you would have spent writing the thing yourself!

It’s not worth the hassle.

When you are asking “How much does copywriting cost?” you actually need to also ask what the output will be.

So it’s worth spending as much as you possibly can on copywriting?

Well maybe.

You see copywriters are a little bit like cars in this respect.

You can buy a Bentley or you can buy a Ssangyong, they both have four wheels and get you from A to B.

So it’s not really “How much does copywriting cost?” but how much style do you want to travel in?

In the world of copywriting you can go to one of the big agencies and pay an absolute fortune for a copywriter (and their account director and their assistant account director) and you will definitely get some good stuff.

Or you can get someone who hasn’t really done any writing before but will have a bit of a go for £20 and a packet of malteasers.

Then in the middle, there’s a whole swathe of people from freelancers, to people who work for agencies that will do you a bang-up job for the equivalent of a BMW.

How much does a copywriter cost?

Well the answer to that question is up to you.

You can check out the average prices here based on London freelancers or you could just give me a call and I’ll tell you how good value I am!

Haven’t touched your blog since June 2019? Here are 7 different types of posts you have to make now

Freelance financial copywriter

OK so we’ve all been there, the blog sits on the to-do list, never getting ticked, just glaring at you.

You’ve been putting it off, I know you have.

So look you know that writing your blog regularly is the best way to get your site to creep up the rankings (higher rankings=more hits=more business) but you haven’t got the time.

What you need is either; an amazing financial copywriter (cough) or an injection of enthusiasm.

Well let’s assume you can’t find an amazing financial copywriter no matter how hard you look so this post is here to give you some ideas as to the type of blogs you can write for your business.

A blog about you

Yawn.

Yes you could, but unless it is incredibly engaging then nobody wants to know about you.

Sorry but thems the breaks.

Since we were little we have been told we’re special but the truth is that in business terms we’re not. So avoid writing about yourself wherever possible unless you are the Olympic champion carpet fitter or something.

A clickbaity blog

You know the sort of stuff

14 things you can do with a porcupine (you won’t believe number 6)

Ok so sometimes they do work otherwise people wouldn’t use them but generally avoid unless you have 21 pictures of Meghan Markel one of which I won’t believe.

Blogs about issues in your industry

Again, you CAN do this if you want and to be fair a blog about your own industry issues will often be very good for SEO purposes.

They can also work where your industry issues are your clients’ issues.

For example, if you are an accountant writing about IR35, well that’s an issue in your industry and will also affect your clients.

So go for it.


More resources
Wondering what to write about? Find out how to choose your blog subjects here

Blogs that answer questions about your product

Now I particularly like this one.

A blog that answers questions that your clients may have about your products is useful for three reasons;

  1. SEO. A blog about your product is going to include a lot of searchable terms
  2. It answers the questions that your clients are asking and gives them a warm feeling about you
  3. A good answer blog is very shareable, and we like shares.

In fact I would go so far as to argue that any company should have a good selection of posts that answer these sort of questions in detail.

For example let’s imagine you are a finance broker, then you need to make sure you are writing up blogs about the application process, features of different products, compare and contrast products or reviews.

Blogs that answer questions about something your product can be used for

This is different to the above.

So in the above section you are answering questions specifically about the product itself.

In this one you are answering questions about the uses to which you can put a product.

Can I use this finance to buy a house at auction?

Can I use this SaaS software to manage my practice?

Can I sell this software to my clients?

What you are trying to do is to answer questions that your customers may have but at the same time give them ideas about other ways that they can use your product or service.

Also these are answers to questions and Google loves that, it really really loves that.

Blogs about issues that affect your clients

Now we’re getting to the epic stuff.

Answering questions about things that affect your clients is a great way to get your service/product in front of them.

So for example, let’s imagine that you provide recruitment industry finance.

You write blogs about cash flow in the recruitment industry, 5 things to think about when you start your recruitment business, how to finance your payroll.

Naturally each of them do mention invoice finance but not in a salesy, in your face kind of way.

Your blogs are pointed towards people who may not even know that invoice finance exists or what it is.

Blogs about issues that affect your client’s clients

You wouldn’t believe it but this is an excellent way to publicise your business and it’s one that service providers use all the time.

I write content for software providers, often in the financial services industries and one of their favourite subjects is to write helpful posts about problems that their clients’ clients are having.

So I have a few software SaaS companies that provide software for accountants.

They write posts about specific industries that their clients market to.

For example they may write about changes to the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS).

They post the article and then (and this is the important bit) they publicise it to their accountants telling them that it is a good resource to share with their clients.

That way not only do the accountants read it, they also share it because it is some free resource that they can pass on that makes them look good in the eyes of their own clients!

C’mon dude, get that blog up and running

Right look, blogs are brilliant for SEO and they are awesome at giving potential customers a warm feeling about you.

Nobody likes seeing a website that has cobwebs growing in the corner so get to it and write a blog today, you’ll feel better about yourself, promise.

Haven’t got the time?

Course you haven’t, that’s why I’m here.

I’m that annoying guy that sits in the corner of your coworking location tapping away on his keyboard all day muttering to himself and letting out an occasional unnerving chuckle.

But I’m not bad at writing.

I can sort out your keywords, write your blog, post it on your site and do all that SEO stuff that you’ve never quite got your head around.

My mum will tell you that I’m a nice guy so get in touch now and let’s have a chat about how I can stop your website looking like the room that the Addams family are scared to go into.