Monthly Archives: August 2015

How to get people to buy t-shirts

> As of today I’m working for a screen printing business that is based out of my school. There is an $1,000 “scholarship” at the end of the year for the student who brings in the most sales. I want, no, need to win it. Any social engineering tips that would make someone more inclined to buy shirts? Any general sales or retail advice would also be appreciated.

Hey, I sell t-shirts.

In my experience, there are two reasons why people buy my t-shirts:

  • It allows them to perform an identity that they like. (“I’m so witty / clever / self-aware”)
  • It’s a great gift for a friend because it leverages some inside joke or in-group (“OMG, this t-shirt is TOTALLY him).

People also buy things that they perceive to be status symbols, but that’s hard to do if you’re a smaller store that doesn’t have brand equity (you can’t compete with a Nike or Chanel logo, so don’t).

You say you’re based in school– what are the funny things and events that happen in school? Is there a teacher or principal you can SUBTLY make fun of? (Directly insulting people will get you in trouble… try celebrating them rather than mocking them, it’ll be funny.)

Does your school have a rivalry with another school? Could you do a t-shirt that subtly mocks the other school? (I was at a burger joint recently that said “If you’d prefer crappy burgers, the Clown is just around the corner”, with the W being the upside-down McDonald’s logo).

You want to identify people’s feelings about things and play around with that.

How to develop an online writing career

> Anyone who writes often for marketing/advertising/a business/your personal blog, please share what you do and what your writing habits are!

I’ve had a few different phases to my writing.

  1. I started out as a writer with a personal blog, blogging about daily life and random thoughts. (I’ve since archived this.)
  2. I got a lot of responses on my writing about local politics and social issues, so I did more of that.
  3. I got headhunted to join a tech startup because the founder enjoyed my writing, and needed somebody to head up the blog.
  4. I weaned off my local political writing and focused my time learning to do business goal-driven content marketing. Lots of trial and error, lots of learning.
  5. I used to write heavily on Quora, which boosted my craftsmanship as well as my self-esteem.
  6. I have a personal writing project on the side, where I’m working on writing 1,000 sets of 1,000 words, for fun.
  7. I’ve sometimes posted some things on Medium when it felt appropriate. I’ve had two particular posts go pretty viral– one about Mean Girls, and one about How To Bullshit Everybody.

Prescriptive advice?

  • Write as much as you possibly can.
  • Write about as many different things as you possibly can.
  • Pursue what is strange, funny, weird, interesting. That’s where the good stuff is.
  • Be willing to ship stuff that’s imperfect. If you’re worried about damaging your reputation, publish under a pseudonym, or ask a trusted friend to give you negative feedback.

How to reach an inaccessible target market

> How do you reach a target market that is by definition unreachable? Are there tools to help with this?

> Basically, I need to reach people who smoke cannabis, but aren’t really open about it. They enjoy getting high, but they’re not stoners and they don’t post on social media about it or follow stoner IG/Twitter/YouTube accounts. My target market people have good taste and appreciate high quality products. They like to play and be creative.

It’s a bit of an impossible problem. It’s like asking, how do I sell electric cars to people who aren’t really passionate about electric cars?

The answer on both counts is: You always start with the geeks and early adopters.

The mainstream will only catch on after the early adopters (who’re more willing to take risks) have tried it and given it their vote of confidence.

So you’ll have to win over some subset of the social media stoners.

I do think there’s a gap in the marketplace for a really tasteful, classy cannabis product. I haven’t really seen any yet.

But I imagine you’d have to start the same place the rest of them do.

Good luck!

How to prioritize what to write for a company blog

> How do you prioritize (or come up with) what topics to write about for ReferralCandy?

Good question. As always, it helps to work backwards from the outcomes we want.

So we ask ourselves…

  • What are the missing content pieces that would give us the most traffic?
  • What would give us the best conversions?
  • What would help the product and support teams do their jobs better?
  • How do we break those massive things down into littler minimum-viable chunks?
  • What are the keywords and search intent that would go into those posts?

That’s a sort of top-down overall view. There are other approaches, too– searching for content in our keyword space and seeing if we can improve on it.

Does that make sense, or did you have something more specific in mind?

To be honest, each of those sentences can probably be expanded into entire blogposts by themselves. I’ll probably make an effort to make my processes more explicit sometime soon.

> Then how do you go about planning your content calendar?

I try to have a mix of content from across the full spectrum of the buyer’s journey– more “pop” stuff (how X company does its word of mouth) for traffic and more specific stuff (how some specific facet of referral marketing works) for conversions.

But beyond that I just try to have us publish as much as we can.

I’ve toyed with the idea of having themed months in the past (eg “storytelling september”), but I don’t quite have the bandwidth to execute something like that while focusing on our main challenges (getting more leads, primarily).

> In theory, how would you envision yourself executing a themed months campaign? And why would those themes be selected as opposed to some others? 

I don’t really have the luxury of thinking about that in too much detail, but I’d probably just do whatever I find most exciting.

Because what I find exciting is something that I’d be eager to tell other people about, and what I’M eager to tell other people about is liable to be something that some other people would be eager to tell OTHER people about.

How to distribute content as a marketer

> Every time you publish a blog post, or a new piece of content, what are the steps you take to promote that content?
> Any must-dos, checklists, or secret “sauce” tactic? (aha.)

This might sound a bit simplistic, but the most important thing is to make sure that the content is SO GOOD that YOU will want to PERSONALLY share it with anybody that it would help.

That means solving a very specific problem for a very specific targe
t audience. I’ve been doing content marketing for about 2-3 years now, and actually those moments are less common than I’d like to admit.

But when you DO create a piece of content that you decisively know is better than anything else in its category, then YOU’LL be proud to tell somebody else about it.
Because it’ll help them.

Once you cross that threshold, distribution is something that can spread faster than you can keep track of it. Because very often, if you’ve made something that ONE person is crazy about, chances are that there are hundreds of others just like him.

How to cope with full-stack demands as a startup marketer

> Being at a startup requires you to possibly learn (almost) everything. How did you balance these out? 

My boss sometimes jokes, “when you do a startup, everything is shitty, and you have to ruthlessly prioritize whatever most needs to be less shitty.”

And it’s true! If you haven’t started a blog yet, you don’t need to learn about lead capture or drip campaigns. That’s premature optimization (which some say is the root of all evil.)

Prioritize whatever is most critical, and fix that first. It’s often also the most uncomfortable thing to do– so acknowledge that upfront, remind yourself why you’re doing it, and remember that it’s better to get it wrong than to not do it.

How to be a ‘world-class’ marketer

Answering a question posed to me in person.

The question about world-class is an interesting one to ponder.

To use a sports analogy, if you’re a “pretty good” athlete, you’ve probably got a better shot at winning the 400m hurdles gold than the 100m gold, because the 100m is that much more competitive.

So to get world-class at something, you want to narrow down your skillset into something highly specific and highly in demand. (To get cheesy about it, you’re world-class at being YOU, because you’re the only you there is. But you want to be world-class at something beyond that.)

In my case, I can pretty confidently say that I’m a pretty good content marketing lead. I know how to start a company blog from scratch, come up with an editorial direction, write and publish posts, do distribution, SEO, keyword research, get more traffic, manage other writers, set up lead capture, and flesh out an email drip campaign.

I wasn’t born knowing how to do all those things, though. I started out as a writer, which I developed on my own in my spare time. After getting hired, I was tasked with writing and publishing posts, and basically doing everything I could to grow the blog. So it’s a piecemeal, progressive process.

How to be a world-class marketer

Answering a question posed to me in person.

The question about world-class is an interesting one to ponder.

To use a sports analogy, if you’re a “pretty good” athlete, you’ve probably got a better shot at winning the 400m hurdles gold than the 100m gold, because the 100m is that much more competitive.

So to get world-class at something, you want to narrow down your skillset into something highly specific and highly in demand. (To get cheesy about it, you’re world-class at being YOU, because you’re the only you there is. But you want to be world-class at something beyond that.)

In my case, I can pretty confidently say that I’m a pretty good content marketing lead. I know how to start a company blog from scratch, come up with an editorial direction, write and publish posts, do distribution, SEO, keyword research, get more traffic, manage other writers, set up lead capture, and flesh out an email drip campaign.

I wasn’t born knowing how to do all those things, though. I started out as a writer, which I developed on my own in my spare time. After getting hired, I was tasked with writing and publishing posts, and basically doing everything I could to grow the blog. So it’s a piecemeal, progressive process.

How to get better at marketing

This was my answer to a question asked in person. The FULL answer would be much more vast in scope.

To get better at marketing (or anything else, really) is just a matter of simple experimentation, like secondary school science. You work backwards from the outcome that you want to achieve.

So say you’re the first marketing hire (or the marketing co-founder) at a startup. The first thing you want to do is to work backwards from the money.

Suppose you’re selling t-shirts (I have a side-project selling t-shirts at statement.sg). You want to look at how many you’re selling, how much traffic you’re getting, where that traffic is coming from.

Then you want to think about what you can do to increase traffic– blog, guest post, social media, whatever. You come up with experiments to run– maybe you write 10 blogposts over a couple of weeks.

Then you look at whether your efforts have had any impact on the outcome you’re trying to achieve. If yes, great, you’ll wanna double down. If not, you’ll want to ask why. There’s always a lot of great literature online that will guide you through.

So it’s really just about doing lots of little experiments and learning from them. The hard part is rarely the experimentation itself– it’s staying focused, managing your time effectively, etc. At least, for me.

Why marketing?

In response to a question, “Why marketing, over everything else?”

Well first of all, we live in civilization, where the rules of the survival dictate that we have to contribute economically in order to pay for cash and shelter.

To contribute economically, we’re typically going to take part in some sort of enterprise with other people.

Simplistically, there are three parts to business:

1. you make it (innovation)
2. you sell it (marketing)
3. you handle the money (accounting, HR, etc).

I hate handling the money.

I DO like like making stuff, but I’ve encountered other people who are obsessive about making good things, and I know that I’ll never be as good as them.

I focus on the thing that I enjoy the most and have the best shot at being world-class at (because being world-class at something compensates you disproportionately)– marketing.

I particularly like marketing because it allows us to make the largest impact with the smallest differences. We literally create real value out of thin air by helping people reframe how they perceive things.

The better I get at marketing, the more I can contribute to any particular enterprise that I choose.