Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Ferreting Through Tax Forms

I was given a very valuable piece of information yesterday, during my first round of follow-up cold calling. (To those of you who did respond positively, and found your way here, thank you for being courteous & responsive.)

During my calls, I spoke with an employee at a CPA firm, asking to speak to his boss, my contact. He told me that his firm was so busy right now that he was sure his boss would not want to talk to me. Tax season. In fact, no CPA would likely have the time to talk to me. The gentleman was very apologetic for his rebuff, but I wasn't offended in the slightest by his honesty. In fact, I saw a unique opportunity on the horizon of his words.

Tax season IS upon us. For the next few weeks, people are going to be scrambling to CPAs, tax prep firms like H&R Block, and their kitchen tables with loads of papers and forms that would intimidate Hercules (but a guy with glasses and lots of record books can get through them - must be some reverse-psychology thing). What does this mean for business in general, and copywriters specifically?

Spending will soon be up!

People get refunds from tax returns. When they do, they overwhelmingly tend to spend it. Luxury items, the car's leaky oil pan, pay off a credit card...it's all spending. Great for the economy, and great for businesses who know to position themselves right in front of the droves of spenders. For copywriters, this means short-term promotions and economic indicators that will give rise to patterns throughout the rest of the year.

So, to all you writers & marketers out there, charge up your phones and get ready for April 16th! To all you businesses out there, get the marketing material out and hold it like the bow of a ship against the tides of customers!

What, you don't have marketing material ready for them to devour? Quick, email the Blue Ferret! We've got to ferret out some words for the hordes of spenders!

P.S. - Yes, I already did my taxes. It's easy to do when you somehow wind up paying just the right amount of tax during the year anyway.

Friday, March 25, 2005

BAD Writers! No Addy!

Okay, I admit it. I'm a really cynical person.

I hate being sold to. I get irritated with people who try to box me in on sales OR marketing pushes. I look at most ads and scoff, thinking, "Yeah right, like that's going to actually work for me." I've been known to look store salespeople in the face and say, "Why are you trying to sell me something I don't need OR want?"

You might think this would make me a bad copywriter. "Chris, if you don't like the sales & marketing process so much, how can you write sales & marketing materials?"

Simple. I can do better.

The materials people use nowadays for their marketing, on the whole, STINK. Cheap tricks, corny slogans, ridiculous claims, biased & incomplete information, and most of all, pure features! Witness the popularity and posting frenzy of Seth Godin's Liars Blog, as previously mentioned...there's a ton of false promises and outright-dirty tricks used in today's marketing.

I think being this cynical and unforgiving makes me a better copywriter. Why do I think that? When I write a brochure or a website for a company, I'm not going to use a bunch of corny one-liners or text that sounds like it was spewed directly from the mouth of a windbag so large he has to inhale to walk through doors.

I'm going to give that company lots of benefits-driven, down-to-earth copy that speaks directly to their customers and respects their intelligence. Customers who feel respected by the company they're investigating buy from them, it's as simple as that. I don't even mind paying a little more to purchase a product or service from a company that treats me like a thoughtful individual who uses their own brain.

Take a look at your own marketing materials. Throw out all your company inside-info. Think of this as Average Joe Customer meets Snazzy Brochure. Read through it. How does it make you feel? Are you thinking about it?

Most importantly, would YOU buy from you?

If not, call me. I may be cynical, but I'm respectful.

And that is what customers want.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


I knew Seth Godin had a blog. Great stuff, and just offbeat enough to keep me interested. But I didn't know he'd started another one based on the idea behind his newest book, here.
He's talking about lies in marketing, and doesn't seem to have short supply of them. I find this both depressing and refreshing. Depressing in that there's so much lying in modern marketing that blogs can track and display it in abundance. Refreshing in that blogs ARE tracking and displaying it, forming their own level of accountability, held by the very people the dishonest businesspeople are trying to fool.

Marketing has such a negative reputation, due in part to these underhanded tactics, that consumers usually take ALL marketing with a grain of salt by reflex. They assume the seller is trying to dupe them or lie automatically! How'd we let it get so bad?

Marketing is information. You're conveying reasons why some product or service is good quality, a good fit for who's being marketed to, and unique enough to warrant a customer's attention. If you have to resort to lying or duplicity, the problem's not with the consumer, buddy. It's with you. Shape up, or get into a profession that encourages lying. Hey, we always seem to need more politicians...

Monday, March 21, 2005

Follow-ups and Headaches

Okay, so it's Monday. You're up early, you've got the fire, all set to tackle the day's tasks and get them out of the way (so you can go do something you'll enjoy even more), right?

Hello, Mr. Headache.

Out of the blue, I go from sitting at my desk typing out follow-up emails to crouching on the floor holding a cold washcloth to my cranium. Boom, out of nowhere. It's like there's a panicked ferret in my head that got teleported in there and wants out.

I can't focus on anything. Several hours slip away while I try to either combat against or rest away the headache. Finally, I can see well enough to get back to work. With at least half the workday gone, I scramble to get some things done. Luckily my follow-up list is not long today, so completion is not beyond my reach. To my surprise, I get a response back from said follow-ups almost immediately! So, to show my appreciation for their communication, I'm going to post their site link. Thank you very much, Ron from Packaging Solutions West.

Now, off to read a few blogs, and then head to a local party. Look for more ferrety drivel tomorrow!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Friday Ketch-I mean, Catch-up

Though I do feel about as thick and slow as that pastey burger-dancer.

12 noon on Friday, and I'm well along on my postcard-addressing. Plenty to go, plenty already sent. Next time, these things are getting addressed by the printer. My hand does not care how impersonal that may be.

It's been an interesting week for BFC. Wednesday evening I attended the Pleasanton Tradeshow, an event I've been to nearly every time it's been put on for the past 4 years. It's not a bad place - plenty of examples of commercial writing, and free goodies. Who needs OfficeMax when you can get a year's supply of pens and Post-Its at one of these?

However, most of the businesses there were small and fighting for market share. While you'd think that would make them highly susceptible to the idea of copywriting boosting their bottom line and profitability, very few would even entertain the idea. I'd have to spend at least ten minutes at each booth trying to show them the value, and fighting eye-glaze every step of the way. Frankly, I'd rather cold call. And that's saying something!

It was not all bad though - I saw some good friends and colleagues there, and we caught up for a while. It's good to have people I can rely on in case I need their services - a printer, a master networker, & a business coach, among others.

I did get one valuable piece of information, too: the city's 2005 business directory. Even more names, numbers and email addresses. Now all I have to do is figure out which method of contact I should use - cold calls, cold emails, postcards, or some combination thereof. Pass the catch-up.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

New AdSense Links

I've just come across this link from one of my morning newsletters:

Google Adds New AdSense

Seems they're going to modify how the new AdSense links display content. As a writer AND consumer, I really appreciate this form of advertising. It's small, it's easy to set up, and most importantly, it's relevant! I was even thinking of putting some AdSense links on my own site, and/or here.

So it's nice that Google keeps innovating this program. It provides a great deal of opportunities for targeted, unobtrusive advertising that I don't mind clicking on - as opposed to a hundred epileptic popups!

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Google Endorses Copywriting!

Hey, everybody uses Google anyway, right? Fast, free, relevant. Well, businesspeople do as well. Google is heavily used by B2B product/service buyers to find those products & services they need. Google is also saying, in their own search methods, what I (and a host of other copywriters across the nation) have been saying for years. What is that? First, a bit of background.

MarketingSherpa.com, a well-respected industry source for all things marketing, did a study of these B2B buyers a few months ago. They culled 5 lessons from their results - 5 that should be read by anyone and everyone who wants search engine-driven traffic to their site (and isn't that just about everyone on the Web?).

Okay, time to tell you what Google's saying? You can find it in those lessons. Here's the kicker - you want to know what #4 is?


The fourth lesson details how copywriting can be used to improve clickthroughs and customer retention through use of significant keywords in your site's descriptor and eye-catching titles. That's Google, folks. THE search engine for the Web. One of the Web's most important tools, period, hands down. And they're saying that the copy they use for their indexing (which is seen by their searchers) is key to who clicks and who doesn't.

Those few words that every searcher sees on their Google ranking make the difference. They get maybe three seconds of attention from a potential prospect, so they have to haul them in fast. Are YOU going to stuff some drivel in there, with words like, "blah blah industry leader blah blah 10,000 happy customers blah blah we know we're the right choice?" Or are you going to grab your customer right from under Google's nose with a few snappy lines that speak to your customer's needs? For example, "Total cost to you: Less time, less expense. Total benefit to you: 20% jump in sales." Honestly, which would you rather click on?

Trust Google. They say copywriting makes or breaks the businesses they index. Wouldn't you rather make it?

You can find the article here at MarketingSherpa.com.

If you'd like to trust Google and get copy that makes your business (instead of breaking it), contact Blue Ferret Communications today at Blue-Ferret.com today.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

w.Bloggar - Mini-Review by Blue Ferret

I'm posting now to test some new blogging software I've come across. It's called "w.bloggar" and can be found here: http://www.wbloggar.com

First off, the interface for w.Bloggar is clean and includes as many features as you'd expect in a high-quality word processor. It supports over 30 blog architectures, such as LiveJournal, Nucleus, Typepad and (of course) Blogger. I can save a post locally if I want to go back to it later, or I'm on a PC that isn't connected to the Internet right then.

From here, I can change everything about my blog, from the words on it to the template it uses. Many common HTML tags are included in its menus for one-click additions. For example, if I want to add a link, all I have to do is highlight some text, type the URL into the box that pops up, hit OK, and boom! Done.

No, I wasn't paid for this. I simply like reviewing good software (and it's something I'll do more of in the future), and w.Bloggar strikes me as very good software. If you run any blog at all, it's worth taking a look at w.Bloggar.

By the way, did I mention it's free?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Voila! Completely new BFC main site!

Blue Ferret Communications: Let us ferret out the right words for your business!

So what's this, version 3? 4?

"Dammit Chris, you know you're going to lose your SEO ranking every time you redo your site, don't you?" Yes, that's mostly true...but if the ranking's low already, why NOT redo it? I'm a writer, we're supposed to write.

I hated the old content on there; I didn't think it accurately portrayed my specialties and experience. So, coupled with some new CSS, I've completely revamped my site. New samples, new content, testimonials, and (as is evident here), new use of my blog.

In the future I will use this blog not only for company updates and information I come across, but for posting of my newsletter archives so that everyone can access them later.

For those of you who've just stumbled across my little cybercorner, welcome! This is the blog of Chris Williams, principal of Blue Ferret Communications (sometimes referred to as 'The Blue Ferret Guy'). I'm a freelance copywriter; I help companies communicate with and sell to their customers through informative and punchy copy on such projects as newsletters, brochures, sales sheets, web content, and even blogs like this one! How do I do this, you ask? You'll have to come back soon to find out...