This hashtag has my brand all over it.
Can I copyright it?

In a word … no. No matter how powerful or perfectly suited to your brand, no matter how fully it speaks to your campaign, regardless that it feels like your intellectual property in every way, no, it can’t be copyrighted.

Popularized on Twitter as a means of indexing tweets, hashtags have taken on a life of their own on most other social media platforms, allowing us to quickly search and view related content, and have even creeped into communication in general. What’s more, hashtags have become the slogan or central focus of many social media movements, generating conversation, emotion, action and – you guessed it – going viral.

The power of hashtags has not been lost on the marketing industry. Appreciating their trendsetting value, their ability to drive conversation, traffic, and sales has made brands eager to create their own hashtags and keep a firm hand on the reigns, keeping control of their hashtag by preventing other brands from using it.

But too short to copyright, and unlike inventions or ideas one can patent, the only way to protect your hashtag is to trademark it. And yes, you can trademark a hashtag. If you can effectively demonstrate why you need to do so, and if your product or service can be directly associated with that hashtag, trademark registration is possible and can offer you some protection. Although it won’t stop others from using your hashtag, you can legally challenge a business who appears to be using it to undermine or directly compete with you.

But is it worth it? Naturally, you can assume that challenge won’t be simple. You can also assume it will be time consuming, costly and downright frustrating – and quite possibly unsuccessful in the end.

So, what do you do with that perfect hashtag? If you come up with one that’s truly irresistible, one that’s sure to drive engagement and conversation about your brand – and it hasn’t already been branded by a competitor – go for it. Then relax, enjoy the attention, and don’t worry much about others wanting to use it. After all, isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

Ring, ring. Business builder calling …

Although technological advances have dramatically changed the way we do business, outbound calling remains a go-to strategy for businesses of all sizes and industries from high-growth startups to Fortune 500 companies. Why? Because it works. But like any tactic, outbound calling only works when backed by a solid plan.

So what’s the best way to build an effective outbound calling campaign? Much depends on your strategic objectives – every plan is unique. But as a general rule, we’re sharing some tips that lay the foundation for any successful campaign.

First, here at Brickworks, we prefer to call outbound calling – outbound conversation. Although each dial starts as a call, the minute a real person is on the other end of the line, your call becomes a conversation. Framing each contact as a conversation reminds your callers that helpful, friendly conversation is their goal.

Next, start by gathering your data. Develop a list of prospects who would actually consider buying your product or using your service. Does it offer any value to the prospect? Does it meet any of their needs? There’s no point calling if you can’t fill a gap.

Now, consider the road blocks. You believe you’ve created a list of hot prospects, but what might be their potential objections? Prepare responses to these objections ahead of time so callers can keep the conversation alive.

And speaking of the conversation, should you use a script? Absolutely. A carefully planned conversation builds caller confidence, and when well-written, it allows for flexibility. Effective callers can make any script sound fluid and natural. And, since you’ve already anticipated potential objections, remind your callers that although they’re using a script as a framework for their conversation, they’re strongly encouraged to take extra time to address any barriers, and should never force a close just to stay on track.

And finally, plan for persistence. It’s not easy to get your prospects to the phone, never mind keep them on it. It could easily take several calls to get a decision maker on the line, so build time for persistence into your plan. Simply decide how persistent you’d like to be, then set your guidelines for repeat dial ups and leaving messages.

Set your benchmarks. We’ve blogged about measurement many times before. You’ll never know if your campaign is successful unless it’s properly measured. KPIs like handling time and conversion rates allow you to analyze your results and make improvements for even greater success down the road.

Clearly Persuasive Website Content

Let’s talk website content – again. If you read our last blog, you’re probably already sold on the benefits of a one-voice website. So let’s move a little deeper into the topic of website content by looking at two critical features for effective writing: clarity and persuasiveness.

Let’s start with clarity. Unless you strongly believe that visitors enjoy reading long, drawn out, copy-heavy sites – which I’m sure you don’t – when creating copy for your site, aim for simple and clear messaging. Here are some basic tips to ensure you’re keeping it clear:

  • Aim for short sentences. A maximum of 18 words per sentence is a good guideline.
  • Use common words. Leave the thesaurus alone.
  • Write directly to the reader. Use words like you and your. It’s so much more personable.
  • Expand on acronyms the first time you use them, and every time you use them on a new page.
  • Use bulleted lists whenever possible.
  • Avoid wordiness. Think of the KISS theory and keep it simple. (I’m not going to call you stupid.)
  • Use short descriptive headings to clearly describe the content of each section.
  • Make link text descriptive. Rather than click here, write an accurate description of what will be found at the link.

Now that you’ve grabbed your reader with clear, simple, easy-to-navigate content, how will you persuade them to stay engaged with your site?

First, understand that your site content, no matter how creative and savvy, will be scanned, not read. Just accept it. Site visitors are on the hunt for information and they’re in a hurry. But you’ve already made their hunt easier by offering up clear, concise content, right? Right! Succinct headings, imagery that relates to the copy, and bulleted lists appeal to scanners.

Next, expect that people will NOT read your home page before clicking elsewhere. Like a falling leaf, they could land just about anywhere. Each page should be a clear collection of content based on one topic. Clear navigation and well divided content satisfies every reader.

Be a little top heavy. Place your most important information close to the top of each page. Here’s what most visitors are thinking as they scan your site: What do you do? What’s in it for me? What will I find on this page?

To persuade visitors to stay where they are, remember – you can’t possibly be everything to everybody. Just be yourself. Say who you are, what you do, and why clients and customers want to stick around.

One Site, One Voice

The time has come. You’re ready to revamp your website and you want to start with the copy. You have several departments. You’re surrounded by knowledge workers. So many people with so much to offer. You accept multiple contributions to your website by choosing a number of staff to write content. Next, simply put it all together and you’re all set, right?

Wrong. It all sounds good in theory, but having several writers create content for your site – no matter how skilled they are – can lead to a disjointed, inconsistent site that’s a disappointment to your visitors.

With your website, your blog, and even your tweets, your objective is to present your business in a unified, consistent, recognizable way. Would you design every page differently, asking multiple designers to put their own spin on it? Of course not. Your copy should be no different. So take the most direct route to consistency by using one voice. Let’s look at a few strategies to make this happen.

  • One voice = one writer. You can still accept contributions from a variety of knowledgeable staff, but they don’t need to wordsmith their contributions. Instead, they need only present the highlights, even in bullet form or through conversation with your writer/editor who connects with all contributors, pulling vital content, and compiling it into a draft document. One writer, one voice, one tone, one style.
  • Define your tone. As a business, who are you? How do you want to present to the world? Are you serious? Straightforward? Witty? Relaxed or more formal? There’s no right or wrong answer. It simply depends on you and who you are.
  • Consider your audience. Who visits your website and for what purpose? Detach from your own office space and put yourself in their place. What might they expect when they visit your site? How do they like to be spoken to? And if you can keep it conversational, great.
  • Define your brand and keep it consistent. Brand consistency makes you recognizable and familiar, and it comforts your consumers. Your customers want to know you. Familiarity feels good and it makes regular visitors believe you can be trusted. If they feel they know you, they identify with you and want to return to you, time and time again.

Direct Mail: Is It Still a Direct Route to Your Audience?

Let’s investigate. Is direct mail (DM) still an effective marketing strategy, or has it gone the way of the horse and buggy combo and door-to-door milk delivery? Personally, I’d gladly forgo the effort of hauling those awkward bags of milk to my car in favour of having cold, bottled milk delivered to my door every week. But that’s a Dragon’s Den pitch for another day.

So in this day of advanced capabilities and lightning speed digital tactics, is DM still worthwhile? To find out, let’s ask some direct questions.

Is it measurable? Absolutely. You can track the success of your DM campaign just the same as your ability to track your digital campaign. With visits to custom landing pages, registrations, sign ups, inquiries, coupons redeemed, and more, you can track and analyze to your heart’s content.

The score so far? DM Disciples – 1. Naysers – 0.

Is it tangible? When it arrives, your recipient must at least touch it. And if you’ve delivered a targeted message in a striking, curiosity-building package, it’ll get noticed. Think about it. It’s the one strategy that puts your message physically into your customer’s hands. Move from postcards and letters to a three dimensional package and you just scored. DM Disciples – 2. Naysayers – 0.

Is it suitable for every audience? Even “kids these days” will attend to a piece of paper. In fact, just this morning my 17-year old grabbed a private college brochure from our kitchen counter and said, “This is neat. Can I take this to school and show my Guidance teacher?” I’m not making this up. And further to our last blog questioning the potential disconnect between seniors and social media, DM is no doubt a suitable strategy for every audience. Game on – it’s a 3-nothing lead.

Can it provoke a call-to-action? 74% of consumers look forward to browsing the contents of their mailbox*. Correct – that’s mailbox, not inbox. And 79% of consumers will act on DM immediately*. Game over.

DM is clearly a winner. But just one closing thought. At risk of flogging a dead horse (attached to an obsolete buggy), the choice to use DM is entirely yours, even though we’d clearly recommend it. But either way, always be sure to choose an integrated marketing strategy. We never get tired of saying it because we believe in what we’re saying – the most fruitful campaigns make use of a diverse collection of tactics. Why? Because it’s all about integration.

*http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-taylor/why-direct-mail-marketing_b_10627116.html