Tag Archives: small business

Big Ideas Begin with Writers

By Erica Dix, former BIW Writer

They say that you can do a lot of different things with a degree in English. Some routes are obvious to everyone, like becoming an English teacher, or going on to law school. However, many students choose English because they have a passion for writing. Of course, not everyone is cut out for writing the next great American novel, so what’s an English major to do?

The fact is, writers are in high demand, and bringing creativity to writing is a truly marketable skill. As an English major, the important thing is to know that your writing is valuable, and to explore where it will be valued.

I enjoyed learning about great literature and critiquing fiction, but I never guessed it would translate to the world of marketing communications. However, in English class, we are taught to come up with big ideas, create content from prompts, and analyze text for meaning and direction, which is exactly what is necessary to be an effective writer who can create engaging content for websites, blogs and more.

Enter Big Ideas Writing

While I was a student at DePaul, I was lucky enough to intern at my mom’s company, Big Ideas Writing, a marketing strategy and content marketing firm. I learned the basics of freelancing, and how to work independently.

One of the toughest skills I learned was how to focus myself and stay motivated even when the boss isn’t around, and you are working at home, surrounded by distractions. I learned to meet deadlines despite the allures of Netflix or the constant barrage of unanswered texts and emails. I also learned that people who are good writers have many job titles like Marketing Strategist, Social Media Manager, Project Manager, and Communications Specialist.

Every person with a liberal arts degree can turn those essay-writing skills into a great career in marketing communications if they are willing to learn a few things outside of the classroom. Here are some practical, tangible skills that Big Ideas Writing taught me, that many businesses are looking for right now.

How to write a press release. Like the iambic couplets I studied in Shakespeare class, I learned to write press releases within certain parameters to convey information in a specific way. Press releases are designed to provide information to the media, and they have to be as straightforward and informative as possible, all within a word limit. Being able to write within a very specific set of rules can be very rewarding, and hone your creativity.

How to create social media posts for business. Companies like writers who can put together a creative Facebook, Instagram or Twitter post. When you write for social media, you have to be brief, pointed, and keep your eye on the prize: increased exposure for your client. Like the essay outlines we are taught to create in English class, social media calendars and posts help us hit the objectives of our campaign and organize our ideas into relevant content.

What SEO keywords are and how to use them. Search Engine Optimization is not something that they teach in English class, but if you have a way with words, knowing a little about SEO can get your digital content found on the internet. As English majors, our attention to detail in grammar and style makes us experts at inserting SEO keywords in a natural way.

How to write a “share-worthy” blog post… like this one! In the classroom, the professor that we English majors write for is a captive audience. With a little creative problem-solving, writers can produce an informative, persuasive or disruptive blog that reaches the public and generates those views, likes and shares. Creating online content will bring your writing into the 21st century!

How to edit my own work. Everyone likes to imagine that their first draft is perfect, but anyone who rereads their first draft the next day will realize that it’s not. For many writers, that journey begins in college where professors have students rewrite essays. The novice writer is easily frustrated by revisions and criticism, but by graduation, English majors have the humility and patience that it takes to revise like a pro.

How to always look for new opportunities. Having no boss sounds like fun… until you realize that you have to become your own boss. If you’re too easy on yourself, you will never meet deadlines and strive to be your best. The only way to succeed in freelancing is to be disciplined and passionate. Never stop searching for your next project, always promote yourself, and think from the client’s perspective. Figure out what clients need, and make it available to them.

Speaking of looking for opportunities, I am currently on the hunt for my next big one. I sadly say goodbye to Big Ideas, but the skills that I learned while working there are ideal for work with a marketing agency or association, preferably one in science, medical or environmental issues. I have always had a mind for science, and minored in Environmental Studies, so I am especially interested in work that is related to science and health. I also live in Chicago and am interested in loop locations. You can check out my work portfolio here. I will always be thankful for the lessons I learned at Big Ideas Writing, and I am excited to launch a long and prosperous career in content writing and marketing.

If you are interested in referring me for a position working in content writing, please email me at erica@bigideaswriting.com.

Write Down Your Goals in 2017

So we’re already two months into 2017. How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions?

I know that for myself, setting achievable, meaningful goals can give me a real boost. Whether it’s a diet or a marketing strategy, one thing makes a big difference in whether or not I achieve my result….writing it down.

It is proven that writing down your goals can improve your focus, prioritize things, identify where you can enhance your efforts and make realistic improvements. In fact, some studies have shown that you are 47 percent more likely to reach your goal if it is written down. This works the same for personal as well as business goals and the reason why is also explained in the study. Put simply, riting down our goals connects the imaginative and logical side of our brain, thus putting both to work on the job in our consciousness to achieve our goal.

That’s why it’s extra important in business to write out your goals, especially for marketing. Have a written plan for the year that encompasses your social media, advertising, and any promotional projects. Need some tips to get started? Try these!

  1. Plan six months ahead… or more. The idea behind writing down goals is to look at the big picture. That means planning beyond this week or next.
  2. Make your goals achievable and meaningful. These will keep you motivated and organized, to produce better results.
  3. Make sure everyone knows who is responsible for what…and when. Throwing something onto a plan without assigning a responsible party is like leaving a car running without a driver. You won’t get anywhere!
  4. Don’t overthink it. You don’t need a complicated plan, but make sure you include specific details that can act as milestones. A Microsoft excel spreadsheet, for example, may help to keep you organized and can be easily shared with others in your company so that they know what they are working toward.
  5. Find connections. Writing down your goals can help you see connections between projects, and streamline your plans for marketing. For example, you will be able to plan all your social media, eblasts, etc. in advance of any special events you may be planning.

For my clients who want to initiate multiple programs simultaneously, I always advise they put together a marketing calendar. This is a schedule of when you will release new content, post on social media about business, send out e-blasts, etc. where they can see connections.  I recently helped a client create a marketing calendar and have attached the marketing calendar template for your own use. Take a look and see for yourself how writing down tangible, focused goals for your marketing can be easy and effective.

Even though its February, you can still create a solid plan for 2017. If you need a marketing makeover, or help developing goals, strategies and priorities for your company’s marketing, Big Ideas Writing can help. Contact us at 630.778.6182.

Five Hidden Values of a Marketing Consultant

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Marketing consultants are an amazing tool for small or medium sized businesses that need to expand their media exposure, reach a new audience, promote an award they have received, or accomplish other marketing goals. When companies have a need for marketing, they have two choices. They can use their internal marketing department (or even establish one) or they can hire an outside marketing expert. The decision usually depends on budget and resources, human and otherwise. Both internal and external marketing professionals can do a smashing job for a company. In general, however, marketing consultants, by virtue of their external perspective, can bring something even more valuable to the table, without charging an extra cent!

1. Creative Solutions Born of Experience. An external marketing consultant may have experience in yours and other industries that can come in handy in unconventional ways. They may have seen marketing strategies before that have helped other clients. They may have tried a strategy in another industry that may work in yours too. They may have experience with technology and tools that can bring results, like electronic press release distribution systems and SEO keyword planners. Let their experience enrich yours!

2. A New Perspective. Employees in an internal marketing department are employed by the company and often see everything from the company perspective. They may be there to grow their career and become a lifelong employee or just as likely be there for the paycheck and be biding their time for a better opportunity. An outside force like a marketing consultant sees things objectively, and from a different angle. In their position, they’ve had access to many different types of corporate cultures, leadership styles and marketing strategies. They’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be surprised if they propose something completely different to you that you’ve never considered before. It’s part of the hidden value of a consultant!

3. Resources. One reason you hire an outside marketing consultant is because you don’t have the time, experience, or manpower to handle the marketing for your company. Marketing experts have all three for your business, as well as access to marketing resources that you might not know about and knowledge of many different resources for promoting a business. There are always new ways that a business can use social media, networking, and promotional material that a business owner might need.  As a marketing consultant, I have connections with specialists who can produce e-blasts, search optimization, and other tools to help businesses reach a wider audience.

4. Publicity opportunities. Marketing consultants are always on the lookout for publicity opportunities. Everything promotional tool that crosses a good marketing consultant’s path is a possibility for their client. Awards programs, for example, are a great way to put your business in the spotlight while participating in the community. As a marketing consultant, I do a variety of work for clients, but I always keep an eye out for opportunities to do even more. Sometimes I am called in to proofread a website or write content for a whitepaper, but if I find other ways that a business can make itself more accessible, I’ll let my client know! A good marketing consultant knows that their client’s success equals their own.

5. Business Consulting. Being an entrepreneur can be lonely. Sometimes the entrepreneur may feel like they are the only one in the business who truly cares about the company’s success. It’s helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off of and talk to about other, non-marketing related issues. As a marketing consultant, clients often ask me about human resources, pricing, sourcing, etc. I always try to have the answer for them and hope that my advice has saved them hours of googling for information!

So when you need a helping hand with your marketing, remember that a good consultant brings more with them than just what it says on their business card. If you need an example of what that might be, feel free to contact me.

 

Ten Ways to Promote Your Business After You’ve Won an Award

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So you’ve won a business award. Congratulations!

After you’re done with the awards ceremony, the handshakes, the acceptance speech, the photo op and the positioning of the trophy on the front desk of your office, remember, the power of that award is yet to be unleashed. Don’t leave the story to be told only to those who enter your office. It’s time to tell the world!

Chances are the organization, non-profit or publication that gave you the award will have some public relations efforts in place. They will probably have a press release prepared and distributed with the names of the winners on it. If you are a sole winner, this may or may not be the case. If you are a winner in a multi-category or multi-tiered competition, the press release will include names of all winners. Whether you are a sole winner or one among many, it is always a good idea to make the investment to do the most important thing you can do…

  1. Issue your own personalized press release. Why should you do this, you ask, if the organization is doing their own press release? For several reasons. First, your own press release allows you to describe your business and include a quote from your president or CEO which helps increase your brand awareness and the award’s significance to your company. Second, you can customize the distribution to the right trade and local publications, which may lead to a feature story or other opportunities. You may or may not be privy to the media list from the awarding organization and many of the outlets may have no meaning for your customers and potential customers. Finally, in some markets, your release may provide a secondary touchpoint for the news. You can never get your name into the press too often!
  1. Announce the award on social media. If you have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or even just Linkedin, make the announcement with nice images of the actual award or the company representative receiving the award. As you know, the beauty of social media is its shareability. That’s why social media is a great way to get the word out to the world as quickly as possible.
  1. Announce the Award Internally. It’s important for morale that your employees know they have won an award so they too can spread the news. It’s even a greater morale booster to have a small in-house celebration, which can be as inexpensive as allowing a casual dress day or bringing in donuts or a celebratory cake. The announcement can be made orally or in writing, with a description of the ways the award will be publicized, and of course an invitation for them to share the company social media posts about the accolade.
  1. Add “award winning” to all company descriptions. After they win an award, I tell my clients from that day on, they now have the right to call themselves an “award winning” company. It’s not bragging—it’s a fact, and one that can be used in many occasions to add authority and relevance to the company.
  1. Add to company collateral (stickers). It’s often Murphy’s Law that the day the new brochure rolls off the press, the company wins an award which of course is then not mentioned in the brochure. I often recommend a company produce inexpensive, but tasteful looking stickers that can be affixed to marketing materials like a seal, stating the name of the award.
  1. Add to your email signature. Your email signature is seen daily by scores of people who may not know about your award. Just add a statement that says “winner of the (year) (award name). Be inconspicuous, yet bold.
  1. Consider an advertisement. It’s common for companies to take out an advertisement after they’ve won an award to call attention to their achievement, or to possibly congratulate fellow winners.
  1. Tell clients individually or in company newsletter. Winning an award is a great time to touch base with clients and thank them for their patronage. Some companies even go as far as to make a special direct mail piece card that is an announcement and “out of the blue” show of appreciation for their clients. Announcing it on the company newsletter is another good place, or any other marketing materials that typically hit your clients.
  1. Signage. Right near my home is a car wash that was honored as a “best of” from a local magazine as voted on by the readers. It is a banner that hangs outside, just above the front door. My first thought? Smart. More companies should do that!20150710_134719
  1. Website home page. Finally, an often overlooked but very important place to put your award is on your website home page. A mention, a graphic element, a slider image or banner are all ways to represent the award on your website.

It’s your award so make it count! Can you think of any other ways to publicize your awards? Leave me a comment and let me know!