5 Simple Copywriting Rules for Non-Writers

In my career, I’ve learned there are two types of people in the business world – those who hate writing, and crazy people. Since I spend a significant amount of time writing for companies, I guess I fall in the latter category.

I love to analyze the differing styles of writers, and the ways they work with their words in order to make a good story great. It’s essentially my version of competitive research. I especially enjoy reading articles from writers who can engage readers without clickbait headlines such as, “5 Simple Copywriting Rules for Non-Writers.”

So this seems like a good time to share a few tips aimed at those of you who hate writing, but can’t escape doing it.

  1. You have three seconds to earn a reader’s attention so they’ll read for 30 more: If you have never had to write a sentence for a living, you probably didn’t even bother to click on the title of this article in your feed. That’s fine. You’re not my audience. But if you clicked on this link, I had about 30 seconds in the first three paragraphs to hook you into the meat of the story. If you’ve gotten down here to the bullets, I estimate I now have earned about three more minutes of your time. I’ll try to make it worth it.
  2. Never use an Exclamation Point: Exclamation Points are the lazy writer’s way to show importance about something. If you can’t make a sentence interesting enough to stand on its own, rewrite the sentence. When you are talking to someone in a meeting, do you suddenly shout at them? Of course not. No exclamation points. Ever. Got it? If you have to change the way you type to make sure “Shift-1” is harder to reach, you should do so.
  3. There is no such thing as, “very unique”: “Unique” is defined as, “Being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else.” When something is “one of a kind,” it can’t be “very one of a kind.” Don’t exaggerate for exaggeration’s sake.
  4. There’s a difference between who and that: There are many times when a person who ((not that)) has a lot of subject matter expertise, can present information on a blog that ((not who)) has readers who ((not that)) will benefit from it. Understand that “who” is for people and “that” is for things.
  5. Never use the same word twice in a sentence: This is a tough one for many companies, especially those that have precious few adjectives to describe their product’s features and benefits. Just be conscious that when you are producing content for your web properties, you should be able to write the content in a way that the content doesn’t require the same word multiple times.

Writing can be a difficult game, but you should never fear it. A bad writer with great ideas is still more interesting to read than someone who is grammatically correct in their description of paint drying.

Was this useful? Kind of useful? Useless? I’d love to hear your own writing tips and tricks, as well as any grammar and punctuation rules that I’ve violated in this article.

So Where Should Amazon Build HQ2?

Amazon has outgrown Seattle. It’s the kind of thing that happens when you build your company in a downtown core, rather than take over some unused farmland in a far flung suburb like Redmond. So now it’s time to find HQ2. Where should they go?

There’s no doubt that every city from Anchorage to Yuma will make a bid. But if I worked at Amazon, with a chance to be transferred at any moment, here are my top 5 picks.

  1. Raleigh, NC: The Carolinas are fantastic. Since most Washingtonians haven’t made it that far southeast, you might not know this. But Raleigh is especially comparable to the Pacific Northwest. In fact with Raleigh you get a more educated population, more universities, and closer access to a warm beach. You’d give up Uber access to an NFL or MLB team, and day trip access to Double Diamond ski runs. But you coud still get a Daisy run in if you need it. Plus you could buy a 5,000 square foot house for a year or two of salary.
  2. Pittsburgh, PA: If a company is interested in AI, cozying up to Carnegie Mellon would be a pretty good way to do so. It would have plenty of opportunity to build a downtown campus, and still be close to New York and Washington D.C. As an employee, if you can deal with a Seattle winter, you could probably deal with Western Pennsylvania.
  3. Nashville, TN: Far enough east to give you access to New York, Boston, etc… and far enough north to keep you safe from hurricanes. Several great universities in driving distance, so there is a huge talent base to draw from. Plus, it’s great a place for distribution. Didn’t FedEx make its HQ in Memphis?
  4. Charleston, SC:  Full disclosure, I have an affinity for Charleston. I think it’s the most underrated place to live in the country. You are giving up major league sports for friendly southern living. But you’d have Clemson, USC, and College of Charleston all in spitting distance. Oh, and if you are a current Amazon employee, its another place where your mortgage payment for a monster 5 bedroom estate would be the same price you now pay for your 800 sq ft apartment in Seattle.
  5. Detroit, MI: Detroit? Detroit?! Who wants to live in Detroit? Well several decades ago, the auto industry decided it was a good place to dominate an economy. So why can’t Amazon repeat that? Easy access to New York, Chicago and Canada. REALLY REALLY cheap downtown real estate. Employees could buy McMansions for nothing. Heck, Amazon could buy entire neighborhoods, develop them and sell them to employees. Plenty of professional and collegiate sports teams to support. And you could always escape the Midwest winter with a quick trip to Florida.

Your thoughts? If you were a current Amazonian, where would you be ok being transferred to?

* Image used without previous permission from https://www.designboom.com/architecture/seattle-approves-amazons-biosphere-headquarters-by-nbbj-10-25-2013/

Top B2B Marketing Whitepapers and Reports

If you’re like me, your Facebook and LinkedIn feeds are inundated with articles, whitepapers, and industry reports. Now most of you probably skip them, but I find these much more enlightening than the latest political argument my friends and colleagues are engaged in. So to make life easier on all of you, I’ve listed a few of the reports I think are worth a read.

(Note: Most of these will require you to provide an email address to the company that wrote it. Be a good marketing person and reward the content team for their hard work.)

  1. Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for CRM Lead Management: The market for CRM lead management applications continues to grow, evolve and mature. This Magic Quadrant evaluates 17 providers to help IT leaders find the right choice for their company, in collaboration with marketing, sales and digital commerce leaders.
  2. 2016 State of Marketing, from Salesforce: Trends and insights from nearly 4,000 marketing leaders worldwide.
  3. The State of Inbound 2016, from Hubspot: HubSpot’s 8th Annual Report, Tracking the Future of Inbound Marketing and Sales
  4. The Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics for 2016, from Freely: 347 marketing statistics for 2016 that you can use in your own content.
  5. Inbound Marketing Examples, from Hubspot: Hubspot Academy-approved examples of what others have built with the platform.
  6. Digital Marketing Resources, from Salesforce: A library of Salesforce’s most popular pieces on topics like list growth, Facebook marketing, mobile marketing strategy, customer lifecycle marketing
  7. Mobile Messaging Report 2016, by Mobile Ecosystem Forum and mblox: The MEF indexes the messaging habits of nearly 6000 respondents across nine countries worldwide.
  8. The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to B2B Marketing, from LinkedIn: Learn how to leverage LinkedIn’s marketing solutions, including content marketing campaigns, native advertising, sales lead generation, and brand awareness.
  9. The State of Facebook Advertising, by Marin Software: Year-over-year trend charts detailing spend, clicks, and CTR, the growth outlook for Facebook on mobile devices, and why Facebook is paying so much attention to its video ad formats
  10. 2016 Mobile App Retrospective, by App Annie: App Annie details the markets that saw the most growth in 2016 for downloads and usage, the growing monetization opportunity for publishers across categories, the top industries that are being transformed by mobile apps, and the trends publishers must stay on top of.
  11. Top 10 Big Data Trends for 2017, by Tableau Software: Tableau highlights the top big data trends for 2017.
  12. Mobile Messaging Report 2016, by Mobile Ecosystem Forum and mblox: The MEF indexes the messaging habits of nearly 6000 respondents across nine countries worldwide.
  13. How to Nail a Mobile Campaign Using SMS and Mobile Apps, by mobileStorm: Mobile apps now give your brand limitless choices on how to communicate, but this whitepaper details how to incorporate them into a larger mix that includes SMS.
  14. Mobile First Brand Loyalty Strategy Guide, by Punchkick Interactive: Learn how your brand can use mobile to build a more effective customer loyalty or rewards program.
  15. Top App Marketing Agencies List 2016, by mobyaffiliates: Need a Mobile Agency? Use this as a handy starting guide.
  16. B2B Marketing Strategies by 2020, by Sundog Interactive: Predictions for the future from an interactive agency.

A Possible Answer to Why NFL TV Ratings are Down

It’s being well documents that the NFL’s TV ratings are down. There are hundreds of explanations, from the poorer quality of play, a general disgust for the Commissioner, a weariness of all the concussions and injuries, or even backlash at the National Anthem protests. I’ll throw my supposition on the list – Fantasy Football.

I posit that the growth of Fantasy Football caused people who normally wouldn’t tune into a Jacksonville vs Cleveland debacle, got sucked into a few games to see what their QB or WR looked like in real life. The NFL had stars like Dez Bryant, Russell Wilson, Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch and more. Guys who were on your fantasy team and were guaranteed to score a touchdown or do something cool every game.

But the game evolved. Teams stopped feeding running backs the ball 35 times a game. Instead of having one or two studs to watch on every team, coaches started implementing systems of running back by committee. Plus, wide receivers get hurt every week. Your average fan can’t keep track of the 2nd string tailback and 4th WR for the Lions.

So Fantasy Football becomes less interesting because your lineup has a bunch of guys you don’t care about. And then you add all the other reasons not to watch football, and you realize that there are a lot of other things to do on Sunday. And Thursday. And Monday. And whenever else the NFL is trying to cram a game down my eye sockets.

So too much football on TV + lower quality football + players no one cares about + a decline in the reason new people were watching other teams in the first place = apathy and depressed ratings. It will be interesting to see how the NFL responds.

On Culture and Chemistry

I heard an interesting interview with Mariners Manager Scott Servais last week. He discussed some of the differences between this year’s team and last year’s, especially when it came to how the players acted in the dugout and clubhouse.

Servais brought up a distinction I hadn’t thought about before, the difference between Culture and Chemistry. I’m going to paraphrase some of his comments, because they make sense to bring into a corporate or start-up environment.

To summarize, “Culture” is the foundation of the organization. It’s embodies the mission your organization is on, the processes and programs you implement and the latitude people have as individuals inside the system. “Chemistry” is how everyone gets along with one another – peer to peer, manager to employee, employee to manager.

So with those definitions in mind, here are some insights he brought forward.

1) Not everyone has to get along, but they all need to be bought in: A culture can’t just be dropped into place from above. It’s going to be started by someone, adopted, and expanded. The Mariners culture isn’t as simplified as, “We always want to win.” From an in-game perspective, it’s focused on, “We’re going to own the strike zone, on offense and defense.” Every member of that team knows that the team philosophy is about owning the strike zone. A guy from Korea and one from Venezuela don’t have to have anything else in common. But as long as they know the process that the organization has designed, and they both contribute to the process, then the culture will be strong. If you don’t believe in the process, then you are a bad cultural fit, and it’s better for both parties to have you move on.

2) You can have great Chemistry and deliver a lousy product: Having everyone love each other is great. But if your team enjoys 2 hour lunches with each other and 4pm happy hours, your culture of laziness and good times isn’t going to net you much success.

3) You can generally define a good Culture in few words: In the case of the Seahawks, the culture is simple – “Always Compete.” You know that whether you are Russel Wilson or a walk-on free agent, you are there to battle for a roster spot, bigger salary, and field time. There’s no gray area for interpretation. If you are going to be a Seahawk, you have a mindset that you will have to win anything you get. You know the guy behind you on the depth chart is trying to take your job. You are only going to continue being a contributing member of the organization for as long as you can outperform everyone else at the job you do. There are no bonus points for tenure. Experience just means you should be able to do the job better, faster and thus be able to do more.

I think you can find the interview on the 710Sports.com web page. Would love to know if you took away any other insights.

Could the NBA Come to Seattle With Chinese Billionaire Owners?

An article on Forbes.com states,

“…let’s look at the NBA, and the chances for Alibaba or another company to make a bid for a U.S. basketball team in the next few years.

It’s hard to know which NBA clubs might be up for sale, though various websites say that a few could come into play if the right buyer emerges. Alibaba chief Jack Ma and Wanda founder Wang Jianlin probably head the field of most likely candidates to make such a bid, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of these big-name executives launch such an effort within the next 1-3 years.”

If the NBA wanted to get Chinese market more interested in the league (without moving a team to Shanghai), Chinese ownership of a franchise would be a good way to open up TV rights to games across the Pacific.

It would be natural to put an Asian owned team on the West Coast. We know Allen, Buss, Balmer and the Warriors or Kings owners aren’t interesting in selling. So would make sense to have a current owner cash out for a huge payday, and move the team to Seattle.

Farfetched? Maybe. But not out of the realm of possibility. Opening the Chinese market is a pretty big carrot to waive in front of NBA owners.