NYT on Content Marketing: ‘Single Fiberglass Pool Article Made Over $2.5 Million in Sales’

Did you see this recent and interesting New York Times article on content marketing? It talks about an appliance store in St. Louis, Goedeker’s, which wasn’t doing so well. So the owner had his son and daughter build a website during their summer vacation, and he started taking online courses and reading up on online marketing and search engine optimization.

And it worked. From 2009 to 2013 their sales grew from $6 to $48 million and they went from 18 to 90 employees. Most of their sales now are online.

And that was even before they discovered content marketing in 2013.

From the New York Times article Retailers Try Offering Expertise Online Along With Products by Ian Mount, December 24, 2014:

For its content marketing push, Goedeker’s hired two full-time writers and began publishing daily blog posts about home renovation and appliances, which were then shared on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and Pinterest.

Today, the company spends $100,000 to $150,000 a year on its content marketing efforts, according to Mr. Goedeker. He says the goal is for the company to get 80 percent of its online traffic and half of its online sales with its content marketing efforts. So far, sales generated this way have risen from 8 percent to 14 percent of the online total.

“It’s been slow so far,” Mr. Goedeker said. “It takes some patience and persistence. With a paid ad, you get a return on investment immediately. With content marketing, it takes a while for the search engines to recognize your value.”

The number of links back to the company’s website increased from 3,000 in late 2013 to 40,000 today; one blog post, about painting walls with watercolors, got 30,000 visits.

Leslie Lang, Content Marketing WriterThe article also discusses a pool and spa company in Virginia that writes blog posts about questions they hear most from their customers.

In 2009, Mr. Sheridan, an owner of River Pools and Spas in Warsaw, Va., published a post about how much it cost to install a fiberglass pool, a useful piece of data but one most pool companies aren’t eager to publish. Using a web-tracking tool, Mr. Sheridan then followed how many customers came through that post.

“That one single article has made us over $2.5 million in sales,” he said. “For a $5 million-a-year company, that’s a ton of business.”

What an interesting article. It really shows the power of writing compelling narrative copy that resonates with your customers. Sales pitches aren’t what captures people’s attention. You have to engage them. Answer their questions. Make an emotional connection. Compel them to remember your brand and think of you as a resource.

Read the full New York Times article here.

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Thanks For All the Fish!

We made it to the end of the month, you and me! I blogged every day in June and successfully completed the Freelance Success 2014 30-Day Blogathon. Thank you for reading, or at least hanging in there. (I only got one “unsubscribe” during the month.)Leslie Lang, Writer, Memoir, Biography, Content Marketing, Hawaii

My goal was to take some of the things out of my head and get them onto my website. I wrote some articles about how much I love the genre of memoir and biography, and a little about some of my work in this area:

And about my other specialization, content marketing, including what that is and some examples of work I’ve done:

And I wrote about books and the power of words:

and a little about Hawai‘i, too:

I will now give you a bit of a break and will stop pelting daily emails at you — though this did get my blogging muscles back in order, I must say, and I will probably be blogging here more often than I had been.

Therefore: “So long!” but only for now, and Thanks for all the fish! (If you don’t know the reference, you should probably read the book.)

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Driving to a Hawaiian Volcano

Here’s an article I wrote about the volcanoes here on the Big Island awhile back. It also hints at a little bit of my own family’s history.

We really live in a remarkable place.

Leslie Lang, Writer, Ghostwriter, Content Marketing, HawaiiOn Hawaii’s Big Island: Powerful Pele’s Playground

By Leslie Lang on 08/30/13

My grandmother used to tell me about her Hawaiian great-grandfather, who drove long-ago tourists up to the Volcano in a horse-drawn carriage.

Back in the late 1800s, the journey from Hilo took two days, with an overnight stop to rest the horses and travelers. But once they arrived, the landscape undoubtedly looked very much as it does now.

Still an otherworldly land worth visiting, the unique Volcano area is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes. Sprawling, huffing and erupting within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Kilauea and Mauna Loa exhibit nature’s drama in action. But while change and creation, and birth and destruction, are part of the park’s inherent nature, I can still see what my ancestors very likely saw: a moonscape in places, where ghostlike trees hold their ground as ethereal steam swirls from a landscape pocked with vents….

Read the rest here

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I’ve Got ‘Em! or, Five Things to Look for When Hiring a Content Marketing Writer

Good news, people! This article (by someone who’s run a corporate writing agency for 15 years) lists the five things he looks for when hiring content marketing writers and editors – and I’ve got all five covered. Were I to move to Australia, I bet he would hire me.http://www.leslielang.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Screen-Shot-2014-06-20-at-9.55.28-AM.png

It’s all about these five things, he says, which spell WRITE:  Write, Rapport, Interest, Trust and Edit. Click the link to read the whole story, which is from the Content Marketing Institute.

By GRANT BUTLER published JANUARY 8, 2014

How To Hire Effective Content Marketing Writers and Editors

We’ve all heard the theory: It’s easy to hire good content writers because so many are being fired from traditional media, such as newspapers and magazines. Unfortunately, this just doesn’t seem to be the case.

I’ve run a corporate writing agency for 15 years, and hired many writers and editors. During this time, the media industry in Australia (where my firm is based) has been imploding. Australia’s largest newspaper publisher alone has cut hundreds of journalism jobs in recent years. Despite many of those people being among the finest writers in the country, few have become content marketing writers. And there’s good reason why.

How do you evaluate an effective content marketing writer/editor for content “newsroom” positions? How can you determine whether a journalist with a strong portfolio can generate material that’s engaging to customers, appropriate for your organization, and unlikely to create legal or other headaches? I use a methodology I call WRITEWrite, Rapport, Interest,Trust, and Edit. 

Write 

First, be sure your candidates can write. That may sound trite, but you’d be amazed how many people present well and have appropriate resumes, but lack a real aptitude for writing. And be warned, journalists can be published for years and even rise high despite having mediocre writing skills. Their saviors are the bosses and copy editors who fix their spelling, grammar, and even facts.

To avoid getting caught out, ask candidates where they believe their strengths lie; give them short writing, editing and proofreading tests; and ask their references what the person’s first draft copy is like. And be sure to verify they can write quickly enough to meet your needs.

Read the rest.

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Content Marketing & Amazing People

Recently I wrote some articles for Full Life Hawaii, and I thought I’d share them here as an example of one type of content marketing. Full Life is a Hawai‘i Island non-profit agency dedicated to helping people with developmental disabilities lead happy, productive and self-directed lives, and I wrote about some of their clients and their Full Life support workers (with authorizations all around, of course).

It’s a wonderful organization and I loved working with them. Amazing support workers there are doing work that really makes a different for the individuals who are getting helped, or being able to live independently, because of them. Every one of the Full Life clients I interviewed, too, made a lasting impression on me.

Read the online feature articles here:

Kauila Haumea: Healing the World a Little at a Time

Next Chapter Book Club: Friends, Food and Fun

Louie Perry: Hitting His Stride

Kamakoa Dela Cruz: A ‘Brave Warrior’

Daylan Toribio: ‘The Person I Am Now’

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Were They Blogging On Cave Walls?

Remember those free AOL disks that used to be everywhere? They came unsolicited in the mail, and it seems like they were packaged with every magazine you bought (remember buying magazines?).

Things have changed a lot in this online world. Today I’m thinking about how ubiquitous blogs are these days, when they really haven’t even been around that long. Before blogs, there were digital online communities (now they seem kind of primitive to me) like the moderated discussion groups at Usenet, GEnie, the early CompuServe, email lists and bulletin boards.

I can remember getting on those boards and lists and thinking the whole thing was so cool, but also pretty limited. Back then, I would have loved knowing where we were headed with this Internet business. Those were the dial-up days. Before that, people drew their messages on cave walls. Leslie Lang, Writer, Ghostwriter, Blogger

I wonder what’s still to come.

Justin Hall is said to have been one of the first bloggers. He started writing online in 1994 while a student at Swarthmore College and he’s still going.

We didn’t even have the rather ungainly word “weblog” until 1997, when Jorn Barger coined the word for web + log.

In 1999, Peter Merholz jokingly turned the word “weblog” into the phrase “we blog” in the sidebar of his, well, blog, and gave us the word “blog.”

Shortly after that, Evan Williams started using “blog” as both a noun and a verb, and he concocted the term “blogger” (he was helping to create the blogging software Blogger at the time).

That’s about when blogging really took off as a result of blogging “tools” coming on the scene. Open Diary started in October 1998 and had thousands of online diaries. That was the first blog community where readers could comment on other writers’ entries.

Also in 1998, the Charlotte Observer live-blogged Hurricane Bonnie, and that’s thought to be the first known instance of a blog on a traditional news site.

LiveJournal started in March 1999. Blogger.com started in August 1999 and brought blogging to the mainstream (Google bought it in February 2003).

Popular American political blogs started appearing in 2001, how-to manuals started appearing for bloggers, and established journalism schools started researching blogging and noting the differences between it and journalism.

Leslie Lang, Writer, Ghostwriter, Blogger
Steve Case, CEO of AOL back then, recently responded to a Quora question about how much money AOL spent in the 1990s sending out all those disks. “A lot,” he said, among other comments. Another Quora reader calculated it at $300 million.

Movable Type, which spawned TypePad, started in September 2001.

Since 2002, blogs have gained increasing notice and coverage for their role in breaking, shaping and spinning news stories.

WordPress started in 2003.

In 2004, blogs have become increasingly mainstream. Political candidates were using them, the Columbia Journalism Review began covering them regularly, and Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary declared “blog” the word of the year.

In 2006, I set up a blog for Richard Ha, and I continue to help edit and write posts. We have blogged close to three times a week ever since – eight years now! – and we’re still going strong.

Since then I also spent a couple years with a business partner running the now-defunct blogs Honolulu On The Cheap and Big Island On The Cheap, blogged here at my own website, and blogged for clients at various sites including at Fodors.com and Ancestry.com (alas, no byline at Ancestry, but I write some of the posts at that link).

This month, I’m participating, along with a lot of other writers, in a 30-day blogathon. I really enjoy blogging. There’s a nice rhythm to posting to the same blog over time, and it’s a comfortable way to bring your message – one that resonates with and is important to you – to your readers. The writing is often a little less formal, while still being professional. Readers can respond to what you post, and sometimes there’s some back and forth. It’s a very satisfying style of communicating.

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Painting Pictures About Hawaii

Hawaii writer, Leslie LangI specialize in writing about Hawai‘i, where I live and have deep roots, in addition to ghostwriting memoirs, biographies and family histories. I help Hawai‘i individuals, small businesses and larger ones with their content marketing.

From the Content Marketing Institute:

Content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.

I’m familiar with Hawai‘i’s culture, its language and orthography, and many of the islands’ movers and shakers. Whether it’s writing content about Hawai‘i’s business, travel, culture or people — or something else — I do it. My master’s degree in anthropology, specifically the cultural anthropology of Hawai‘i and the Pacific, makes me knowledgeable about and able to write well about Hawai‘i’s culture and people. My journalism degree and background means I know how to conduct research and find the information I need.

Who hires a writer like me to write content? Hotels (I’ve written for the Kohala, Halekulani, and Trump Waikiki hotels, among others), representatives of trade industries (like Hawaii Hospitality magazine), airlines (Hawaiian Airlines, the former Aloha Airlines), travel companies (such as Jetsetters, Fodors.com), online behemoths (such as Ancestry.com), human resources companies (ALTRES), other corporations (Trek Bicycles) and local businesspersons (Richard Ha, and many others). Just about anyone who has a business and a message to impart, in other words.

I’ve been in this business full-time now for about sixteen years, and it’s been interesting to see content marketing emerge. It’s sort of a new buzz phrase, content marketing, but really it means writing articles, web copy, blog posts, white papers, reports, and the like to help tell someone’s story. It’s very much what many of us writers have been doing all these years.

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Hawaii Content Marketing & Rock Stars

Do you know that buzz phrase “content marketing?” It’s what businesses are calling the content they hire us writers to provide. Here’s the best definition of content marketing that I’ve come across; it’s from the Content Marketing Institute:

Traditional marketing and advertising is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content Marketing is showing the world that you are one. – Robert Rose

Content marketing is a focus for me, and much of the content marketing I do is related to Hawaii, where I live and work. I know Hawaii well, and my journalism background and years as a freelance writer makes it easy for me to research and write (or ghostwrite) about just about anything – whether it’s related to Hawai‘i’s business, travel, culture, people, or something else.

I don’t have links to many of my articles on my website right now, so I am compiling a list here. This is just a small number of the many and varied magazine articles, books and blog posts I’ve written for various businesses, corporations, hotels and media outlets in Hawaii and elsewhere.

On Business & Current Affairs:

Hawaii Travel

Hawaii Culture

Hawaii People

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‘America Writes Home’

mailbox2America Writes Home is a website with a wonderful collection of some existing pre-1920s letters, giving a flavor of that time before iPhones and email.

They are indexed by state, for the most part. Really fun to poke around in. So many stories!

Do you have old letters? Have you thought about how to preserve them so others, now or in the future, can enjoy and learned from them too? There are suggestions at this website.

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Christopher Kimball & The Troll

kimballI have been on Christopher Kimball‘s email list for years, and though I don’t live in New England and I don’t have time right now to cook the wonderful foods he writes about, it’s great writing and I always take time to read it.

He is, according to Wikipedia, the bow-tie wearing founder, editor, and publisher of Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines, and formerly publisher of the now defunct Cook’s Magazine. I know him from Cook’s Illustrated — what a neat magazine that is. Here’s his Christopher Kimball blog. And I love reading his occasional emails, which talk about the sugar season in Vermont and relay charming small-town stories.

This is a funny, timely, small-town story that came in his email today. Could it be true? He represents it as though it is. And of course it could be — people are crazy.

Back in Vermont, here is a recent story that sounds completely made up. A resident of a nearby town is very well liked but more than a little crazy and a bit of a drinker—you never know what he will do next. His wife came home one day and noticed that he looked a bit shaken. He said, “I caught a troll!” and proceeded to lead her upstairs. When they got to the bedroom, she heard a voice from the closet shouting, “Let me out! Let me out!” Well, he had all sorts of furniture stacked up against the door to keep the troll in. Once the way was cleared, she found a very pleasant, rather short gentleman in disarray, shaken after having spent a few hours locked up inside. He was working for the U.S. Census, had rung the bell, and, as soon as the door had opened, the husband had somehow mistaken him for a troll, spiriting him upstairs. No word yet on the impending lawsuit.

My favorite sentence in this bit is: “…as soon as the door had opened, the husband had somehow mistaken him for a troll, spiriting him upstairs.”

I cannot think of anything else to say about this, except: Thanks for the good laugh!

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