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"Thomas Clifford has made something useful here. This report will give you some really catchy, useful ideas.

It made me reconsider how I do what I do, so you might give it a look-see, too!" 

Chris Brogan, President, Human Business Works 


"Tom Clifford is by trade a filmmaker. For most of his life, he rarely wrote anything longer than a brief comment in the margin of a script. 

Now, though, he's producing tens of thousands of words a year, first as a Fast Company "Expert Blogger," and then as a writer for the Content Marketing Institute. 

How did Tom go from a non-writer to a prolific and much-read one? His eBook, '5 (Ridiculously Simple) Ways . . . , ' holds some of his secrets."

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“Tom is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet—if you have the privilege to meet him. And he does sterling work as well. But don’t just take my word for it.

Read this free report and you’ll not just love its tone and content, but learn a lot as well.”

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“Anyone who wants to improve their writing needs this e-book. A lot of ebooks are short because they just don’t have much substance to offer. They’re not worth your time (and so are many of the long ones, too, for that matter). Tom’s is short because he’s so good at giving you only what you need to know. 

‘5 (Ridiculously Simple) Ways to Write Faster, Better, Easier’ lives up to its promise by example as well as in the words themselves. Tom used the very same techniques he teaches you to write this book. 

And what’s in here is not just a rehash of the same tired ideas you find coming from people who have suddenly fancied themselves as writing gurus. There are tricks in here I never heard of (like the Writing Funnel) and some I had forgotten about and was glad to be reminded of (like Sporadic Writing).” 

Michael Martine, Blog Alchemist, Remarkablogger.com 


Monday
Mar032014

Content Expert Interviews: A Time-Saving Writing System for Busy B2B Marketers (Part 4)

Welcome to the last article in this series on creating a writing and interviewing system for capturing content from subject matter experts.

For several years, studies have shown that lack of time is the biggest challenge B2B marketers face.

If that's true for you, it makes sense to start putting time on your side, right?

And that’s what'll happen when you have a dependable content writing/interviewing system at your fingertips.

In Part 1 of this series, you learned the importance of having an interviewing/writing system in place to capture content.

Part 2 taught you how to create a dependable interviewing/writing system.

You learned in Part 3 the two important steps to take to prepare for the content interview (including two checklists you can customize).

In this last article, you’ll learn a simple technique to direct the expert to answer your questions in a way that’s meaningful for your audience.

A common trap

A lot of interviewers fall into the trap of not asking follow-up questions.

It’s totally understandable.

The typical reason for not following up is that the interviewer doesn’t want to “bother” the guest with additional questions, thinking it’s best to keep things moving along.

Another reason could be that the interviewer doesn’t want to appear less knowledgeable than their guest.

So, instead of drilling down and asking a few more questions to clarify an answer, the interviewer moves on to the next question.

I know it’s easier to keep moving along, but that’s not the best solution. There’s a better way to handle this situation (without feeling uncomfortable about it) and I’ll show you how.

But first . . .

Let’s see how NOT to follow up

Here’s a made-up example of an interviewer NOT following up on an unusable answer from the interviewee.

In this example, the interviewer doesn’t hear the opportunity to ask a follow-up question, but continued on to the next question on the list.

Interviewer: “So, what’s the best feature about this new software update?”

Guest: “Well, we updated our software to include seven more entry fields under the ‘Customer’ tab.”

Interviewer: “That sounds interesting. So what inspired the company to create this update?”

Uh-oh.

Do you see the missed opportunity here?

Seven new entry fields is a great feature—but what does it mean to the prospect or customer?

Nothing.

Here's how TO follow up

Interviewer: “So, what’s the best feature about this new software update?”

Guest: “Well, we updated our software to include seven more entry fields under the ‘Customer’ tab.”

Interviewer: “Hmm, so how does that help the customer?”

Guest: “Well, now they’ll be able to increase the amount of data in the customer knowledge base.”

Interviewer: “OK, that sounds interesting. So what does that mean? Can you give me a specific example or two of how this benefits the customer?”

Guest: “Sure. It definitely helps the customer, because sales teams will be able to sort and search customer feedback in a way they couldn’t before. So now they can respond to their customers 30 percent faster than they could with earlier versions of the software.”

Interviewer: “Is there any other way this feature helps the customer?”

Guest: “Sure. Once the sales team has made a presentation, they can update their experiences within the ‘Customer’ section. That means the team can refine the next step in the sales cycle and move the project forward with fewer delays.”

Interviewer: “How about one more benefit?”

Guest: “Sure. Third, . . .”

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere

We’re starting to capture benefit-driven, customer-focused answers.

Nice, right?

There are many interviewing tips and techniques to use but this is probably the most important one to keep in mind.

Summary

To get the best answers from your experts, it’s important to develop an interviewing and writing system.

When you develop a writing/interviewing system, you have a proven recipe to create interesting and relevant content for your audience. With a system at your fingertips, you'll:

  • Save time—lots of it
  • Beat writer’s block—forever
  • Produce conversational—and professional-sounding—copy

For instance, this four-part series covered my content interviewing/writing system, which includes:

  • Planning and developing an interviewing process to capture the right content for the final product
  • Preparing yourself and your guest for the interview
  • Directing the interview to create customer-friendly answers

Your system may be different or the same.

Either way, I hope I inspired you to create a system you can build and improve upon over time.

If you give it a go, you’ll have a system you can call your own.

And finally put time where it belongs.

On your side.

Enjoy your content interviewing journey!

Know someone who would like this article?

Feel free to share it with them.
_______________________________________________________________________________________

Written by ThomasCliffordB2BCopywriter Google+.
_______________________________________________________________________________________

Get your FREE 28-page e-book now

5 (Ridiculously Simple) Ways to Write Faster, Better, Easier

"Thomas Clifford has made something useful here. This report will give you some really catchy, useful ideas. It made me reconsider how I do what I do, so you might give it a look-see too!"
— Chris Brogan, President, Human Business Works
_______________________________________________________________________________________

When you register for future blog updates, you’ll receive a professionally produced, gorgeously designed 28-page e-book that will help you write faster, better and easier.

Here’s what you’ll discover:

  • How to beat article chaos and stay organized (in just four steps)
  • How to never run out of ideas—even when you’re up against the wall
  • Why the “Whack-a-Mole Factor” prevents you from writing at your optimum speed
  • The little known trick to writing faster that your teachers never told you about (but probably used themselves)
  • How the 10-20-30 Principle can help even the busiest person find time to write

Just enter your email address in the field located at the top right of the page or click the button below.

Monday
Feb242014

Content Expert Interviews: A Time-Saving Writing System for Busy B2B Marketers (Part 3)

In Part 1 of this series, we covered the importance of having an interviewing/writing system in place to capture your content.

Part 2 covered how to create a dependable interviewing/writing system.

In Part 3, we’ll cover two important steps to take when preparing for the interview, including two checklists you can easily customize for your interviews.

Before we begin, let me ask you a simple question.

Do you know why most content interviews fail?

Most content interviews fail because of poor preparation.

Here is what usually happens.

The interviewer tells the guest an interview is needed to gather some material for a project.

A date and time is set.

Everything is looking good.

Until things spin out of control during the interview.

The key to a successful interview begins with preparation.

You can better control the interview by:

1. Setting the context
2. Explaining the interview process

1. Setting the context

The first step covers the basic areas:

  • Project
  • Audience (prospects, current customers, employees, etc.)
  • Content platform (blog posts, podcasts, promotional e-books, etc.)
  • Distribution (whether the audience has to sign up, call someone, etc.)

Add more areas as needed.

2. Explaining the interview process
People you interview may not have given an interview before. Or maybe they’ve given dozens of interviews. Either way, interviewees will have a series of questions like:

  • How much do I have to say?
  • What happens if I mess up?
  • Will I be edited?
  • Will I get the questions ahead of time?

To make your guest (and yourself) feel more comfortable during the interview, take 10 minutes before the interview to go over a few key ideas.

Here’s what I like to say to when prepping a guest:

1. “In general, the more you speak, the more material I have to work with. That means I can pick the best answers and highlight your expertise in the most meaningful way. If, on the other hand, you answer a question in just a sentence, the lack of material will make it hard for me to tell the story."

2. I’ll then be more specific and tell them how much to say. For example, if there are eight questions to ask for a blog post, a 10-minute response for one question would result in an overwhelming amount of content to sort through later. A one-minute response would provide about the right amount of material.

3. Lastly, I’ll say: “If I ask you the same question twice, it doesn’t mean you messed up. It means I’m looking for further clarification on what you said, or I’m looking for you to say it in another way. This will provide me more editing options when writing the piece.”

Use the checklists below to help you and the interviewee stay on track.

Customize both checklists to fit your project needs.

Interviewee checklist

• Keep the context and our audience in mind.
• Write one sentence (or a short phrase) for each question in the outline I provided you. The goal is to have the sentence/phrase remind you what to say during our conversation—not to write everything down so you read it back verbatim.
• We’ll have a free-flowing conversation stressing one point per question.
• The interview should take about ------- minutes.
• Each question should take about ------- minutes to answer.
• I’ll make an audio recording of our interview so I have accurate notes to write from.
• Additional comments can always be added after the interview, eliminating the need to be “perfect” during the conversation.
• For telephone interviews, landlines are preferable to cell phones—the audio quality for recording is better.
• Feel free to call or email me (name) at (contact information) if you have questions.

Interviewer checklist

• Email your interviewee the list of questions.
• Thank the interviewee for volunteering their time to speak with you.
• Remind your guest to talk more rather than less. Having more information will make it easier to tell a story.
• Remember the audience, the context, and the goal.
• Have an outline and questions ready.
• Prepare for transcriptions ahead of time.
• Tell your guest not to memorize anything; it’s just a conversation.
• Thank your guest with a follow-up note.

The fourth and final part in this miniseries will cover a strategy many interviewers use to generate strong responses from guess. Stay tuned!

Know someone who would like this article?

Feel free to share it with your network.

ThomasCliffordB2BCopywriter Google+ profile.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Get your FREE 28-page e-book now

5 (Ridiculously Simple) Ways to Write Faster, Better, Easier

"Thomas Clifford has made something useful here. This report will give you some really catchy, useful ideas. It made me reconsider how I do what I do, so you might give it a look-see too!"
— Chris Brogan, President, Human Business Works
_______________________________________________________________________________________

When you subscribe for future blog updates, you’ll receive a professionally produced, gorgeously designed, 28-page e-book that will help you write faster, better and easier.

Here’s what you’ll discover:

  • How to beat article chaos and stay organized (in just four steps)
  • How to never run out of ideas—even when you’re up against the wall
  • Why the “Whack-a-Mole Factor” prevents you from writing at your optimum speed
  • The little known trick to writing faster that your teachers never told you about (but probably used themselves)
  • How the 10-20-30 Principle can help even the busiest person find time to write

Just enter your email address at the top right of the page or click the button below.

Monday
Feb172014

Content Expert Interviews: A Time-Saving Writing System for Busy B2B Marketers (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this series, we covered the importance of developing an interviewing/writing system to capture your marketing copy from content experts.

In Part 2, you’ll learn how to create a dependable, repeatable interviewing/writing system.

What do I mean by a “dependable system”?

By system, I mean having a step-by-step structure or method to accurately and consistently capture the content you need from content experts.

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Write an outline
The first step in creating your system is to write an outline (or summary) of your finished piece of content.

Start by asking a few “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” and “how” questions.

Here’s an outlining tip
Pretend you’re a reporter and you’ve been assigned to interview an expert in a particular subject. Think of the questions you would ask that expert. What does the audience want to know? What objections or problems would the audience have after hearing some ideas from the expert? What’s the next step the audience should take?

For instance:

  • What is . . . ?
  • Why does . . . matter?
  • Who can benefit from . . . the most?
  • What makes . . . so unique?
  • Where can we learn more?

You get the idea.

The goal is to create a list of questions that reflect the structure of your finished piece. Writing a blog post? You need about eight questions. An e-book? You’ll need several more questions.

Remember to include a few persuasive copywriting ingredients many B2B marketers overlook.

Step 2: Make an audio recording of the interview
Recording your interview is important, because it will create an accurate record of the conversation.

Recording the conversation also captures the emotions often missing in business writing.

A side benefit of recording the content interview is that it eliminates having to write notes while listening, allowing you to carefully listen to your guest.

Step 3: Transcribe the interview
Once the recording is finished, it’s time to transcribe the audio into text.

You can transcribe the interview yourself, or you can outsource it to a transcription service. Either way, you want a transcript to work with; it will save you tons of writing time later on.

Step 4: Write/edit
Once your interview is transcribed, it’s time to write your blog post.

Use the transcription as a rough draft to polish into final copy. Some of the responses can be left intact; others will need editing. Move the copy around until it flows smoothly from beginning to end.

Since the transcript reflects the order of the content to be written, it’s just a matter of polishing up the copy so it shines.

Step 5: Proofread
The final step is to have someone (besides yourself) proofread your copy.

Many professional proofreading services offer more than just correcting typos and grammar mistakes so be sure to find one that meets your needs.

But what if you’re not interviewing anyone?
What if you’re writing the copy yourself?
Can this process still work?

Yes, it can.

Write the outline and speak the answers into an audio recorder. Or simply write the answers (that’s what I do). Either way, make sure to always use an outline.

Summary
Having a simple, reliable system will not only speed up your content creation but it will also create interesting, relevant advice your audience will love.

Now that a system is in place, it’s time to plan the interview with your content expert. We’ll see how that’s done in Part 3.

In Part 4, we’ll cover how to fix a common mistake interviewers make when directing the interview, so stay tuned.

Do you know someone who would like this article?
If so, feel free to share it with them.

P.S. I'd love to hear from you on this content writing system idea.

Drop a note in the comments and let me know what you think.

What did I miss?
What questions do you have?
What do you want to know more about?
What feedback do you have to make this idea better or more useful?
_______________________________________________________________________________________

Get your FREE 28-page e-book now

5 (Ridiculously Simple) Ways to Write Faster, Better, Easier

"Thomas Clifford has made something useful here. This report will give you some really catchy, useful ideas. It made me reconsider how I do what I do, so you might give it a look-see too!"
— Chris Brogan, President, Human Business Works
_______________________________________________________________________________________

When you subscribe for future blog updates, you’ll receive a professionally produced, gorgeously designed, 28-page e-book that will help you write faster, better and easier.

Here’s what you’ll discover:

  • How to beat article chaos and stay organized (in just four steps)
  • How to never run out of ideas—even when you’re up against the wall
  • Why the “Whack-a-Mole Factor” prevents you from writing at your optimum speed
  • The little known trick to writing faster that your teachers never told you about (but probably used themselves)
  • How the 10-20-30 Principle can help even the busiest person find time to write

Just enter your email address at the top right of the page or click the button below.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

ThomasCliffordB2BCopywriter Google+ profile.

Tuesday
Feb112014

Content Expert Interviews: A Time-Saving Writing System for Busy B2B Marketers (Part 1)


Your next project is “in the can.”

You’re confident it hits the target.

You’ve shared it with colleagues and they love it.

However, did writing it feel like it took forever?

If so, you’re definitely not alone.

A 2014 Content Marketing Institute survey of trends and benchmarks in North America revealed the top challenge for B2B marketers:

  • Sixty-nine percent cite lack of time as their biggest challenge.

Since lack of time is the biggest challenge B2B marketers face, I thought I’d show you a simple solution to speed up the content writing process—interviewing content experts.

Interviews: The heart of the system

The heart of the system uses interviews with subject matter experts so the content “writes itself.”

This system is based on my own copywriting process.

Using a system like this not only saves time, it’s a great way to create fresh, relevant and interesting material for your audience—without the jargon.

Interviewing content experts isn’t hard, but it does require three steps:

1. Planning and developing an interviewing/writing system to capture the right content for the final product
2. Preparing yourself and your guest for the interview
3. Directing the interview to create customer-friendly answers

It’ll take a little time to get your system finely tuned, but once you have it in place, you’ll have it forever.

“Listening” copy, not writing copy

Legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz emphasized that writing copy is a matter of “listening” it—not “writing” it.

Fascinating, isn’t it?

Part of Eugene’s writing process included interviewing content experts (or customers) and recording the conversation so the final copy would reflect the language and emotion the interviewee used.

Writing relevant copy means becoming a successful listener

And becoming a successful listener requires developing a dependable interviewing/writing system so you can focus on what’s being said and not worry about how to cobble all the pieces together later on.

So that’s where we’ll start in Part 2: How to create a dependable, repeatable interviewing/writing system.

In Part 3, we’ll cover two important steps to prepare the interview, including two checklists you can easily customize.

Part 4 covers a simple, powerful strategy to direct the interview in a way that captures ideas that will be relevant to the audience.

I developed this system from interviewing more than 1,500 content experts during a 25-year period

The ideas covered in the series reflect a scaled-down version of the system I currently use.

Feel free to adapt the ideas to suit your own needs.

Stay tuned for Part 2, because you’ll learn how to create a dependable, repeatable interviewing/writing system.

Don't forget to share this post with someone who could benefit it from it.

See you soon. :)

P.S. I'd love to hear from you on this content writing system idea.

Drop a note in the comments and let me know what you think. 

What did I miss? 

What questions do you have? 

What do you want to know more about? 

What feedback do you have to make this idea better or more useful? 

ThomasCliffordB2BCopywriter Google+ profile
Friday
Jan312014

5 Persuasive Copywriting Ingredients (Often Missing in B2B Copy)

Over the years, two pillars have served marketing writers well: features and benefits.

They have become the building blocks for B2B, and deservedly so—they do a lot of heavy lifting for marketers.

But features and benefits are just two out of more than a dozen copywriting ingredients available for marketers and writers to choose from. Why not tap into the other copywriting ingredients and put them to use?

By using a few (often missing) persuasive ingredients in B2B marketing copy, you can increase engagement levels with your audience.

Mix and match different techniques to see what works best for you.

Tip #1: Write benefit-driven headlines

When writing headlines, focus on the benefits an audience receives from your ideas. “How to Speed Up Your Blog Post Writing (by 60 Percent)” tells the audience exactly how they will benefit from your idea. “Time to Get Moving” doesn’t tell your audience a thing; it leaves them guessing what you’re going to say. B2B folks are too busy to decipher whether or not a message is relevant to them.

Tip #2: Demonstrate empathy

Instead of introducing your solution right away, consider starting the copy with the problem your audience is facing. Create empathy by demonstrating that you understand the particular problem. Talk about the consequences of the problem and how it affects them. Create context and empathy first—before rolling out your specific solution.

Tip #3: Spotlight your testimonials

Are you using testimonials in your copy? Consider adding a mini-headline above the testimonial. Use a different color and a different font from what’s used in the main copy. Bold the headline too. These three small changes will help give your testimonials the attention they deserve.

Tip #4: Raise and overturn objections

Most prospects and customers have objections when buying something or receiving free content. Instead of ignoring these objections, use them to your advantage. Include an objection or two in your copy and then overturn each one by using testimonials, endorsements, awards, statistics, etc. You’ll be a step closer to moving the prospect along in your sales cycle.

Tip #5: Write persuasive calls to action

Many calls to action provide a phone number or email address and nothing more. Take your call to action a step further. Tell your audience why your offer is valuable. Then walk them through the call to action by describing the offer, listing the benefits, and outlining what the prospect has to do to receive the offer. Adding a persuasive call to action on each page is another simple (and easy) way to boost engagement with prospects and customers.

Did you find these tips helpful?

Stay up to date on the latest writing and business communications tips by receiving free blog updates (and other special announcements) from me.

If you haven't done so already, just enter your email address in the top-right corner of this page. You’ll receive an email to activate and confirm your blog subscription.

When you subscribe for future blog updates, you’ll receive a professionally produced and designed e-book that will help you write faster, better and easier. The strategies in the e-book will help you overcome five common writing challenges:

  1. Staying organized
  2. Generating ideas
  3. Writing quickly
  4. Using time efficiently
  5. Eliminating distractions
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT:

I just finished writing a three four-part blog series on how to plan, prepare and direct content expert interviews. It's a simplified version of my current copywriting system based on 1,500 content expert interviews. Stay tuned.

Here's what you'll learn in the series:
Part 1:How to capture content you need from a subject matter expert by planning and developing a system.
Part 2: The two important steps to take when preparing the interview (with two interview checklists included).
Part 3: A simple (but powerful) strategy to direct the interviewee to give customer-focused answers.

Written by ThomasCliffordB2BCopywriter Google+ profile

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Get your FREE 28-page e-book now

5 (Ridiculously Simple) Ways to Write Faster, Better, Easier

"Thomas Clifford has made something useful here. This report will give you some really catchy, useful ideas. It made me reconsider how I do what I do, so you might give it a look-see too!"
— Chris Brogan, President, Human Business Works
_______________________________________________________________________________________

When you subscribe for future blog updates, you’ll receive a professionally produced, gorgeously designed, 28-page e-book that will help you write faster, better and easier.

Here’s what you’ll discover:

  • How to beat article chaos and stay organized (in just four steps)
  • How to never run out of ideas—even when you’re up against the wall
  • Why the “Whack-a-Mole Factor” prevents you from writing at your optimum speed
  • The little known trick to writing faster that your teachers never told you about (but probably used themselves)
  • How the 10-20-30 Principle can help even the busiest person find time to write

Just enter your email address at the top right of the page or click the button below.