Category Archives: Featured

Be a better financial writer: 4 ways to sharpen your financial game

financial writing educationWhether you’re a seasoned financial writer who wants to navigate nuanced topics or a general copy writer who wants to improve your depth of knowledge, continuing financial education is essential. If you want to land complex assignments and assure clients that you’re fluent in their language, check out these four ways to sharpen your game:

  1. Get in the news flow: Subscribe to several relevant financial publications. The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and The Economist are a good start for mainstream news. Specialized publications feature interpretation and analysis of market moves and industry trends. Some popular choices include Barron’s, Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, Breakfast with Dave, Investor’s Business Daily and Institutional Investor.

Niche publications can help you stay current on a specific corner of the financial world – for example, The Deal specializes in intelligence on financial transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, and private equity exits.

While you won’t add “avid newspaper reader” to your resume, the habit will build your financial vocabulary and help you write better, more topical pitches and pieces than you would if you didn’t keep up to date.

  1. New York Institute of Finance certificate: You can put this one on your resume. Attend classes online or on-site to obtain a professional certificate. Programs range from introductory (Capital Markets Professional Certificate) to specific (Advanced Derivatives Professional Certificate). Completing a course earns you a certificate of completion, and if you score 70 percent or above on the final exam, you’ll receive a certificate of mastery.
  1. CFA Institute Investment Foundations™ certificate: Designed for anyone who works in the investment world – from information technology teams to marketing folks – the program is built to give a clear understanding of how the investment management industry works. Its modules cover investment instruments, ethics and regulations. You’ll study with an e-book and use the online learning platform, then take the exam at a local testing center.
  1. University certificate programs: Most universities offer finance courses through their continuing and professional studies departments. For example, the NYU School of Professional Studies offers several self-paced online classes, including focused topics, such as real estate capital markets. Many universities also offer robust curricula, like Georgetown University’s corporate finance certificate program, which requires completion of seven in-person courses.

Writers who work exclusively in finance may also consider obtaining a FINRA Series 7 license or earning the Chartered Financial Analyst® credential. Both have stringent eligibility and registration requirements.

How do you continually build your financial knowledge? Let us know in the comments below.

The copy editor: Content’s superhero?

editorial oversightTo get started, let’s review some key items that you need to accomplish as you create content for your business.

Content checklist:

  • Tap into experts and thought leaders when creating content for your company (easy if you know who they are).
  • Produce a variety of content that speaks to your audience in various stages of your sales lifecycle (easy if you have a formal content plan).
  • All content that is created should have editorial oversight (not easy unless you really know what you’re doing).

Let’s focus on the “not easy” part of this equation — editorial oversight.

What is editorial oversight?

Briefly, it’s ensuring that all the content pieces that are created for your company have a consistent voice and tone while also satisfying your marketing goals. This is no easy feat, so you need a content editor (aka content superhero) to fearlessly lead the way.

A content editor’s most impressive superpowers follow:

Power: Omniscience

A content team that has a strong editor at the wheel can fine-tune your company’s voice and help you reach your long-term communication goals. This do or die world of SEO, where content is king, demands that you adopt a dependable and trustworthy voice.

Your copy editor’s key role is to know everything there is to know — from voice and tone to audience makeup and Associated Press style rules. With the power of omniscience, copy editors make sure that all content contributors understand the rules and follow them. They ensure writers adhere to the unique voice that defines a company. They’re the final eyes that make sure all content produced is consistent, understandable and relevant.

Power: Invisibility

As you can imagine, managing an editorial workflow requires significant thought and time. Most of the effort occurs behind the scenes. It all starts with defining your content objectives (voice, tone and style guidelines) and finishes with a final editing and proofing pass to ensure that your readers are not being subjected to typos, missing punctuation and redundant information.

Copy editors also encourage content creators to push further and answer unasked questions. They ensure that all content is well-produced and showcases your credibility in understated and authoritative ways. The goal is to have the team produce content that educates and demonstrates thought leadership. They want you to stay engaged and read each piece from start to finish because it’s constructed well and guides you to a place of learning.

Do you admire any editors?  What superpowers do they possess? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow up fearlessly with this guide

sales follow-up best practicesIf you have a good system in place for following up with your prospects, you’re already ahead of most salespeople. According to Hubspot and the LinkedIn Sales Solutions blog, 80 percent of sales occur during or after the fifth point of contact between seller and buyer. Unfortunately, Hubspot finds that 44 percent of salespeople give up after just one contact attempt. Only 10 percent of sellers make three or more contacts, according to LinkedIn.

Clearly, lack of a good follow-up system can lose a lot of revenue. Since buyers do business with those they trust, building familiarity through simple repetition can result in a relationship and, ultimately, future sales. But even if a sale never occurs, you still cheat yourself by not following up. To get in touch with a prospect is to train yourself. Thus, following up is beneficial regardless of outcome.

What are the logistics of following up?

It’s important to follow up with your prospects at least five times in order to see significant returns. The maximal benefit comes from using as many channels as possible, but since it may not always be appropriate to text or send fruit baskets to your prospects, phone and email suffice. The typical recommendation is three calls and two emails – with an email coming after both the first and third phone calls. Because busy prospects aren’t always at their desks, you may also want to leave messages so they know you called.

By the same token, you don’t want to come off as overbearing or, worse, annoying. One way to stay on your prospect’s positive side is to space your follow-ups a few days apart to give them some breathing room. Not only does this keep you from seeming intrusive, but it also stretches out the period of time where the prospect can expect to hear from you.

What to do once you’re on the phone

Of course, you may as well not follow up at all if you don’t know what you want to get out of it. Determine your goals for contacting a prospect – and you should have more than one so more calls are successful. Say, for instance, your primary goal is to set an appointment. If that doesn’t work out, having a secondary goal – such as signing your prospect up for a newsletter, sending an email, or scheduling a firm time for another follow-up – comes in handy for keeping you on their radar.

Relatedly, you should understand the value of your product or service to your prospect, because that’s what you need to communicate to them. It’s important to be able to explain what your product or service is and what its features are. More importantly, how can it help? This is where sellers have the opportunity to be educators, particularly if the prospect doesn’t see a need for the product or service at first. This approach builds trust, and we do business with those we trust.

How do you build trust with your prospects? Let us know in the comments.

Infographics 101

how to use infographics

The basics about why they work, what they are, and how to use them.

Why to use them

  1. We process images much faster than text.
    It makes sense, doesn’t it? Imagine a world where all the road signs looked the same, but had different messages. Stop. Deer crossing. Yield. School zone. How effective would these signs be in keeping traffic informed at the speed of travel?
  2. Images are engaging.
    We humans are wired as visual creatures. Don’t get me wrong, copywriters – I love a well-written piece. But when it comes to getting me to click something to get to that great tidbit of writing, there’s nothing like a compelling visual.
  3. Visuals aid memory.
    Think about your first experiences with reading. A is for…apple, right? When it comes to memorizing data, visuals are a key strategy. That works unintentionally, too. When it comes to getting your clients to remember you, a good visual can be a key aid.

What they are

An infographic is a graphic used to convey information. Seems obvious, right? Regardless, this term is used loosely to describe a wide variety of graphics. Here are a few key features we look for to define an image as an infographic.

  1. The pictures do the heavy lifting.
    Infographics do often have text. However, the best ones don’t rely on text to do most of the communication. Keep the text short and sweet, and let the pictures do the talking.
  2. There’s a clear message.
    Can you get the main theme of the message in three to five seconds? Congratulations, you have an infographic. No? Maybe you have a really cool graphic. But it’s not an infographic.
  3. It’s cohesive and concise.
    Infographics tend to cover a single topic. Think of them as 30-second commercial spots. You’re not going to cover the history of your business, the work you do, and your founder’s backstory; it’s too much. Instead, you’re going to make a single, very compelling statement about your business, and back it up with some relevant facts.

What they aren’t

Infographics are not well-designed flyers. They’re not sell sheets, or white papers. There are compelling reasons to have those, too. But these things aren’t the kind of shareable, hard-hitting, visual data-drivers that infographics are. Don’t ask for an infographic and expect it to contain a full page of text!

How to use them

Infographics can be a great addition to your marketing toolbox. Whether you are looking for compelling social media content, shareable blog visuals, or handy reference guides, an infographic can make a great contribution to your communication plan.

How do you use infographics? Let us know in the comments below.

10 reasons to appreciate a kick-ass editor

How editors transform contentEveryone needs an outstanding editor. Even those writers who have years of experience and the skills to match need fresh eyes on their copy. Great editors find and question holes, ensure stories flow logically, make dull copy shine, trim flab, erase errors, and work with writers to help them improve.

For many writers, the devil is in the details. They may not recognize that using five words instead of 50 in a paragraph can pack a powerful punch or that alliteration like the ps in this paragraph put pizzazz in ordinary prose. Editors do – and they often make magic.

Let’s explore 10 ways editors transform content. They:

  1. Create a smooth reading experience. Content should flow logically. It should have a strong beginning and end, answer readers’ questions, have clean transitions for each paragraph, and tie everything together in a nice package.
  2. Banish bloat. Unnecessary words are a distraction. Cutting them makes content direct and readable. Start by deleting “very” and “really.” Really, it’s OK. Another tip: Don’t start sentences with “There are.” It’s weak and lazy. Make every word count.
  3. Power up wishy-washy. A strong, confident writing voice instills trust. Starting sentences with “I believe” and “I think we need to,” is a power stealer. Delete these and the message will be clear.
  4. Vaporize redundancies. The Department of Redundancy Department gives editors plenty to do. Examples include “at the present time” and “the end result.”
  5. Boycott buzzwords and jargon. Content should be accessible and understandable. Don’t try to fluff up writing with big, important-sounding words and industry terms. No one will read it.
  6. Pummel passive voice. Active voice is clear and concise, while passive voice is impersonal and adds unnecessary words. Passive voice also makes the subject ambiguous. “It was heard by Susan that a companywide audit was scheduled.” Who scheduled the audit?
  7. Fact-check. Trust but verify. Dates, names and places are examples of the content editors target.
  8. Plug holes. Weak writing leaves unanswered questions and frustrates readers. Holes can range from a click-bait headline that doesn’t tie back to the content to a story that trails off without resolution.
  9. Spice it up. Varying sentence length and punctuation is one way editors put the sparkle in ho-hum content. Other tricks of the trade: incorporating long and short paragraphs, substituting power words for weak words, and making dull headlines shiny.
  10. Polish until its professional. Grammar, punctuation, spelling and style errors will burn a writer’s reputation faster than using alternative facts. Writers often miss these, especially when they’ve read their copy 10 times.

An amazing editor is behind every piece of effective content. Whether they work on websites, e-books, blog posts, case studies, email campaigns, articles, brochures, postcards, or other initiatives, editors make content the best it can be.

Have you worked with an editor? How did it help your content? Share your experience in the comments.

What will content marketing look like in 2022?

The future of content marketingA five-year time frame is an eternity in digital marketing. In 2012, content marketing was uncharted territory for many businesses. They were investing heavily in social media, but the idea of a holistic content marketing plan was relatively new.

Fast-forward to 2017, and nearly 90 percent of B2B marketers use content marketing as a foundational piece of their marketing strategy, according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), the go-to source for all things related to the art and science of content marketing. CMI also found that most B2B marketers now use at least 13 content marketing tactics, from blog articles and landing pages to short-form video, white papers and more.

The proliferation of content over the past five years begs the question, What will content marketing look like in another five years? Here are a few possibilities.

A 180 to brevity

Currently, blog writing is trending toward longer reads of 1,500 words or more, largely for search engine optimization. A bigger piece has more keywords organically and improves topic relevance, which Google uses to separate keyword-stuffed articles from meaningful, well-written content.

Long-form content will always have its place in search engine optimization and among highly engaged readers. The reality, however, is that the human attention span is literally shorter than that of goldfish. We’re at eight seconds; they’re at nine. Since Google updates its algorithms constantly, it seems to be a safe bet that quality short-form content will rise to the top of search results eventually.

Faces

Content marketing, for all intents and purposes, is synonymous with branded content. We look to our favorite brands to produce content that speaks to us, and the ones who “get” content marketing know how to deliver time and time again. The brand value of content will never go away, but we’re also seeing executives aim for for thought leadership on LinkedIn and online publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg and Entrepreneur.

Small to midsize business owners are increasingly seeking ghostwritten content – material that someone writes for another person. I wouldn’t be surprised to see executives from big brands start to seek bylines on a regular basis, too. Thought leadership content is the ultimate soft sell, because it puts a face to the business that produces the content, and speaks more about challenges and solutions than products and services.

Condensed metrics

With just about every business investing in content, the need for unimposing and easy-to-manage data is becoming apparent. While many marketers might suggest that data is the future of content marketing, I’m going to lean the other way and say we need less data. My prediction is that data-driven marketing will peak in the next few years, and then come back down to Earth. Analytics and content management platforms will become so overwhelming that marketers will eventually find their own comfort zones with just a handful of metrics that matter to them.

Social media is a perfect example of the type of shift I’ve described. When social first burst onto the scene, businesses were scrambling to jump on every single platform in existence. Now, most marketers hone their strategies on only a few social media platforms they have deemed to be the most effective.

Chime in!

“Five years from now” always makes for an interesting discussion. What do you think content marketing will look like in 2022? Tell us in the comments below.