15-Word Economy Pivots, Expands Services as Virtual Marketing Agency

From one-man show to one-stop shop.

The past few months have marked a transformation at 15-Word Economy, as the copywriting boutique has shifted gears and become a virtual marketing agency.

Why one can person be a one-stop shop

The key reason for this change was to fulfill client requests for ‘more.’ Specifically, more marketing. It was something of a surprise last winter when one client asked me “Do you also do marketing?”–as marketing has been my career since the very start.

With my penchant for writing and background in marketing, it was a logical development for me to put the two together and fill in the white spaces with outside specialists thanks to the gig economy.

Successful communication across a wide range of channels in a variety of formats defines the main challenge that marketers face today.

This is the way content is headed

Since 2013 when 15-Word Economy was initially just a blog, clients have entrusted me with their investment writing and editorial projects. Recent work on several of these has led me to call upon specialists to bring design or web skills into the mix in order to produce a more complete, plug-and-play set of deliverables.

This makes a lot of sense. The written word alone doesn’t have what it takes to reach audiences in today’s attention economy. Visuals matter. Video and voice are this year’s frontiers. Successful communication across a wide range of channels in a variety of formats defines the main challenge that marketers face today.

So, what can 15-Word Economy the virtual marketing agency offer you?

The skills of one content producer/project manager/copywriter who aligns the project to your requirements and seeks outside support on the other services to ensure that you’re happy with the final result. Emphasis on result. And on happy.

In practice, your project is tailored to meet your specifications. So it may be a ‘writing plus’ or agency-lite formula, depending upon what you’d like to achieve.

1. Writing plus formula

You have an idea for your next piece of thought leadership anchor content. This is a frequent request at 15-Word Economy, and I would walk you through the positioning, brainstorm, outline and writing of a final text.

From there we could take the project a step further with design of the final print PDF, landing page mock-up and creation of a social media campaign.

2. Creative / agency-lite formula

Let’s say you already have your anchor content in hand, but you’re looking to extend the idea in new ways and get more mileage out of your key messages.

We could draw up a communications strategy that incorporates press relations and advertising options.

Or we could address a specific need for sales support material by creating a set of mock-ups for you to shop around internally before refining the one that best suits your needs.

We could even evaluate new potential communications channels or strategies that you may want to develop, and then bring those to fruition.

If you’re interested in learning more, use the contact form to get in touch.


8 Advantages to Starting Your Marketing Career in Investment Management, and 2 Disadvantages

For years, you’ve honed your marketing skills in the investment management space. Sure, you’ve gazed at the greener grass of more creative or bigger-budget sectors on occasion. Keep your chin up. Your training has prepared you for success in more ways that you realize–particularly in the B2B world. Here’s 8 lessons that indicate that you’re on the right path.

Credit: epSos.de via Flicker

1. You know that time = money

You may have had to call a meeting with a portfolio manager, a trader and a product specialist for a major product launch or next quarter’s road trip. Knowing full well that some markets somewhere are open, you’ve made a habit of keeping those sessions fast and infrequent.

A friend of mine working in New York told me that each time the head of trading would call an all-hands-on-deck meeting, he always began with a simple statement. “This meeting is costing the company X hundred thousand dollars per minute, so only speak up if it’s worth it.”  Needless to say, little time was wasted.

2. You’ve got more launches under your belt than NASA

It’s true. Yes, theirs are more complex (even if it doesn’t always feel like it). But you’ve got way higher numbers. NASA launched 135 shuttle missions in 30 years. According to Statista, there were more than 110,000 open-ended funds in 2016, with somewhere between 2000 and 6000 new funds launched in each of the past 5 years. Plus, when you’re not launching, you’re working out a new or refreshed product line-up to showcase for an upcoming event or campaign. However…

Rodin’s The Thinker.
Photo credit MustangJoe via Flickr.

3. You know that product launches aren’t enough

A marketing team that’s only doing product marketing is barely treading water. You know that to cut through to your audience, you have to go beyond the product and make a genuine connection. Thought leadership is the real battlefield in investment management. Investors want to be prepared for what’s to come, even if, in the words of Yogi Berra, “it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
4. You know how to weigh pros and cons to make a sale

Successful investing is about getting the risk/return equation right. There is no single, perfect investment for everyone. Rather, you position and pitch the product for a select investor type and give a full account of what they can expect, ‘warts and all.’ Why? Because you’ve spent countless hours with your compliance team. (Also, you believe deep down that honesty is the best policy.) Post-MiFID, you know that every communication must be ‘clear, fair and not misleading.’ Being forthright and setting proper expectations tends to translate into credibility gains down the line. Speaking of compliance…

5. You can accommodate a very robust compliance framework

All that time spent with the folks in compliance and legal? It wasn’t swapping recipes. It lead you to develop a set of terms that highlight your firm’s offer while respecting clear limits–and made your communications more deliberate and purposeful as a result. One clear downside: the phrase, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results” has been etched forever into your subconscious.

6. You understand the B2B mindset

It turns out that fixed income investors are not the only ones analyzing the breakevens. No one, no matter what business they’re in, wants to run the risk of losing money. So they look to see how much cushion there is available, and under what circumstances they would still come out without a loss. It’s the same story with maximum historic drawdown.

7. You know that decision making is a team sport

When you’re gearing up to launch the next big thing, you know that you can’t do it alone: business-to-business means bringing together your colleagues to address the client, the influencers, the gatekeepers and stakeholders to achieve maximum impact. So, of course you’ll line up RFP, consultant relations, sales and PR team to bring a consistent message to market. Anything else would just be silly.

8. You take the very long view

In this business, there is no impulse buying. You’re not trying to sell a few more candy bars at the cash register. Instead, you’re accustomed to working through a decision-making process in the 9 to 24 month range. From discussions with sales teams, you have a fairly good idea which of the largest institutional investors in your markets are due to put out requests for proposals in the next year–and you’ve quite possibly already started working on them.

While that’s all well and good, there are a couple of drawbacks. For instance…

Disadvantage 1. It’s one of the few sectors where you need a master’s degree in order to be qualified to update a slide deck.

Disadvantage 2. Regular-sized number become meaningless in a professional context. You’re either dealing with millions, billions, or basis points. Anything else is a ratio.

Did I miss anything? Add your thoughts in the comments section.



5 Signs Your Content Machine Is Underperforming And How To Fix It

The relentless rhythm of content production and publishing can be demanding for content marketers, writers and authors of all stripes. Take a quick step back from the whirring engine in order to make sure that your content machine is firing on all cylinders.

Here are a few signs that your content production is underperforming, along with ways to address any hiccups:

  1. The compliance approval is the longest stage in the process.

In most organizations, it takes a good amount of time to plan, prepare and vet good content. Getting compliance sign-off–especially in financial services–is crucial. But it shouldn’t be the limiting factor.

Action: sit down with your review and compliance stakeholders to check the agreed service level, identify and address bottlenecks. Make this a regular thing.

  1. The four-eyes principle applies only to nerds.

The four-eyes principle means that one person writes, another person reviews. Surprisingly, a marketing head at one firm I spoke to admitted to me that they do not check what they produce before it’s published. Unsurprisingly, that firm’s communications often have spelling mistakes, translation errors and poor grammar.

Action: hire an editor, or–at a minimum–implement peer review inhouse. If you don’t bother to read your material, why should your clients?

  1. Your content never made it out the door.

I’ve actually seen a department in one organization deliver ‘finished’ content to internal teams (without a compliance check)–simply hoping that it would be pushed to the outside world by others. It wasn’t. As a result, no prospects or clients ever actually saw the content.

Action: The 80/20 rule does not apply to reaching your audience. Go the full distance. Diffuse content in various formats across an array of communications channels for maximum impact.

  1. You cannot remember the last time you discussed topic ideas with colleagues.

Sadly, some firms hire people to produce content without managing the content process–e.g. no editorial calendar, no key topics, non-existent or constantly revised key messages. While this makes the content producer’s job rather easy (little oversight, vague objectives), it makes achieving success quite difficult.

Action: make content production an organization-wide effort. Good content is a team sport. Your colleagues will have different views and suggestions for improvement that boost the quality of your content.

  1. No one reads your content.

The most severe warning sign that your content machine is underperforming is also the most difficult to resolve. Perhaps you have good content in the wrong place and thus need to adjust the channel mix. Or maybe the messaging doesn’t relate to the audience. Or the tone is off.

Action: Conduct a full review of your content marketing program, from objectives and process to result measurement and analysis. If everything appear to be in good order, use market research techniques (panels, surveys) to gain more insight directly from your target audience. If all else fails, find new ways to integrate existing content into your organization’s activities and look for feedback through that route.

What You REALLY Pay for Content and What This Means for Marketing

“The best things in life are free”–so goes the 1959 hit Motown single Money (That’s What I Want) by Barrett Strong.

Content, on the other hand, is never free. You pay something for content, knowingly or not, though there’s not always a price tag or exchange of money. You pay in the form of time spent with content, divulged online behavior, personal data and–yes–cold, hard cash.

The revelation on price comes from a discussion on value.

This idea came initially from an off-hand remark I took from a discussion that many content marketing fans find shocking: “when you give information away for free, it essentially means that it has no value.” Hearing this from the (still anonymous) head of an award-winning content program sent my head spinning. Quickly, I took to the blogosphere, wrestled the claim in this post and sent the subdued remainder of an argument bouncing around discussion forums, the Twittersphere, and the like. It soon became clear that when content works, not only is it valuable both for the provider and the audience, but that you–the audience–pay for it. Always.

Knock, knock. You’ve been called to action.

The original, analogue example was a report–though any message, note, flyer, prospectus or other dead tree product addressed to you or put directly in your hands will do. Once you have the content in front of you, you make a conscious decision whether to toss it, skim it, or consecrate a few minutes to make sense of the message. In this brief window, you’ve already been called to action. As the seconds tick by, you’re engaged with the content–and you are NOT doing much else. In the time it takes you to pick up the content and decide your next move (ignore, skim, set aside for later, read), you’ve already paid an opportunity cost.

The more you like, the more you pay.

Your opportunity cost represents the lowest level of engagement–the bottom rung (Rung 1) on the price of admission ladder which illustrates what you pay as your involvement with a provider’s or website’s content increases. The more an audience engages with content (a sign that they attribute more value to it) the further they’ll move up the ladder–paying more time, data and cash along the way.

Value and engagement drive the audience to pay more in terms of time, data and money.
The price of admission ladder. Value and engagement drive the audience to pay more in terms of time, data and money.

Climbing the ladder.

As you move online, you continue paying opportunity costs that vary in length from obnoxious pop-up ads to hour-long videos. All the while, an invisible transaction takes place. On Rung 2, cookies record and store and your IP address, geographic location, and web-surfing behavior. As you spend more time on the site, you may move to Rung 3 by creating an account, or using social sign-in to identify yourself–thereby divulging personal identification information such as name, phone number, email address, interests etc. B2B sites may hit you up for corporate identification information (company’s name, your professional role, number of employees, sales turnover, etc). Divulging this information can unlock protected or premium content including special reports, tutorials, and the like.

You reach Rung 4 by opting into periodic communications from the provider–checking a box or signing up for a newsletter. Here you essentially enter into a tacit agreement for the provider to eat up more of your future opportunity costs in exchange for the convenience of being altered to new developments/stories/offers that appear on the site. Rung 5 introduces the distinction between free-of-charge and paid content by giving you a sample, i.e. 30-days free or 10 free articles per month. It serves to convey a single message: “See this paywall? there’s great stuff behind here and we’ll give you a taste while you’re looking for your wallet.”

You cross into Rung 6 territory once you’ve forked over money for content. It’s an initial purchase that likely bite-sized so as to be more affordable and less of a commitment than Rung 7’s full-on subscription.

Not all ladders are equal.

The price of admission ladder shows all possible payments paid by an audience, though each website or content provider’s actual model will vary. If you discover and immediately fall in love with a newspaper’s online site you may only traverse rungs 1, 2, 3 and 7. B2B websites not equipped with e-commerce functionality may only build out rungs 1 through 4.

Implications for marketing.

Understanding the costs your audience pays to engage with your content can be helpful in a number of ways.

1. Design a sturdy ladder. Figure out which height you would like your audience to reach and make it as painless as possible for them to get there.

2. Don’t leave money on the table. It would be a shame to leave data unused in your web team’s closet. Do you have a robust and compliant data collection system in place? Crunch it for more insight about your clients and prospects.

Does it make sense to think about free/paid content engagement as a series of costs paid by the audience? Have you seen something similar? Can you think of other uses for the price of admission ladder?