How to Create Engaging Content for Boring Products

The company I work for sells boring products. Dull. Uninspiring. Necessary.

Our products are completely necessary for so many homes, offices, businesses, etc, that I feel fortunate to be a seller of the mundane.

Your company probably sells boring products or services. It’s unlikely you work for Ferrari or Burberry or Nike. Those products basically sell themselves.

No, you’re probably like me and stuck with boring-but-essential.

Bored

Sigh.

I’m often tasked with finding creative ways to write about our products. As we all know, unique content that is interesting, engaging, and relevant is what Google wants these days.

But what the hell is there to write about toilet paper, plastic forks, or wall-mounted soap dispensers? How do I engage the audience who is shopping for toilet bowl cleaners?

Your Audience is the Answer

Consider why your shopper is looking for this particular product. Why would *you* look for this product? Everyone needs toilet paper, but who’s shopping for a case of 72 rolls? Probably someone with a small business who’s looking for a cost-effective, non-sandpaper product.

painful toilet paper

Remember that “engaging” is a relative term. We’re not all writing for Cracked.com.

To that end, think about what engages your reader as they shop for a specific item. My company sells products from Cambro. Cambro makes kitchen containers, largely for restaurants or commercial kitchens (not the home).

Who is doing the shopping for these places? Who’s the person behind the computer at the 15-seat café that needs some new iced tea pitchers? Who manages the deli with sliced meats and cheeses and needs covered plastic containers for the cooler?

Think about the audience that you want to read this, and try to answer their questions. “Easy to clean? Safe for commercial dishwashers?” “Fits standard food pans sizes X, Y, Z” “Pour spouts don’t splash ice into glasses while pouring.”

interesting

I tried to think outside the box when I wrote an article for protective plastic sheeting. I was scraping the bottom of the bucket for ideas when I thought about famous people who use plastic. Like… Dexter!

That gave me the article: Creating a Proper Dexter Kill Room. Satire, obviously, but it ended up being our most-shared, most-discussed article ever.

Creativity is the Hardest Part

Yes, it’s hard to be creative. On my best days I’m only so-so… but that can be enough. Take a step back from your desk and away from the boring widgets you sell. Think about your potential customers and the things they’re trying to solve when they buy your widget. Think about atypical uses for your widgets, whether amusing or pop culture or otherwise.

Literally Everyone Poops, and the guy who wrote that probably made a bundle on it. You can do the same for your company’s widget. Maybe.

“Crappy” Marketing: My Banned Medical Glove Ad

Last year I created (what I thought was) a clever advertisement for Duracell batteries.

The company I work for, ReStockIt.com, sells a ton of different products and one of them is Duracell batteries. What’s more, we have a co-op agreement with Duracell so as a marketer I have extra incentive to try to sell more batteries.

The wiser heads prevailed and it was decided to not use my ad creative, despite the support I received from friends and colleagues.

Well I’m not one for learning on the first go-around, and I decided to create another ad! This time the product is medical gloves.

This one didn’t win support from the C-suite either, but I’m fighting for it! :)

Medical-Gloves---Running-Out-LQ

Also – I know I’m not a wizard at Photoshop. If I’d gotten approval, I would have shipped the concept to someone with a lot more talent!

It was still fun to make, and stay tuned for another one coming soon…

The Duracell Ad They Wouldn’t Let Me Use

I had a really clever idea for an ad for my company to promote battery sales during the holidays.

The trouble is, the ad is a little risqué (prudes!) and draws on some copyrighted images. (Oops! Damn lawyers.)

So while I won’t get to use it in an official capacity, I still felt proud of the concept.

Hit the jump to see the ad, and try not to judge my Photoshop skills too harshly. I had to hack this thing together with my VERY limited experience!

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Marketing Yourself: The Online Dating Challenge

I recently signed up for eHarmony in an effort to kick my dating life into gear. My career keeps me busy, and short of a serendipitous encounter at a bar or the beach, I’m probably not going to meet many eligible women in my day-to-day.

Creating a profile is easy enough…answer twenty million questions about yourself and eHarmony will begin sending you matches. Voila!

While I may work in marketing, I hate marketing myself. Or, I hate marketing the non-professional side of me.

I have my elevator speech down pat if I’m at a conference or networking event. I can wax poetic about the benefits of a tightly integrated CMS for eCommerce marketing, or how Google PLA is killing Adwords, but if asked to name what other people first notice about me, I draw blanks.

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Google PLA is Making Adwords Obsolete

For advertisers with a product (not a service), Google’s Product Listing Ads are much more effective than Adwords.

It’s that old adage again: a picture is worth a thousand words.

Of course, Adwords doesn’t allow for a thousand words… just 25 characters for the title, 70 for the body, and 35 for the display URL. Product Listing Ads are picture + title, and such a better choice.

I attended the Google/Channel Intelligence Shopping Summit in Chicago recently, where the topic of discussion was Google’s transition away from free listings in Google Shopping, and moving to a paid product.

As a marketer and advertiser for my company, I grumbled about spending more of my budget, but hearing Google’s Senior Manager of Shopping Jon Venverloh talk about it quickly changed my perception.

Google Shopping used to include “Froogle” and then Product Search, and it was a free way for advertisers to get their products in front of eyeballs. Google realized they were missing out on $$ as well as weakening the quality of the results.

Now with a bid cost for appearing in PLA, spammy advertisers are dropping away while legitimate businesses can fill in the void.

Google Changed Their Real Estate

It’s been a subtle change, unless you work with this stuff, but Google is devoting a much larger space to PLA than they have with Adwords.

When PLA shows up on the right rail, it dominates the SERP visuals. On the right rail, advertisers can include CTA text and offers with the ad too. This essentially negates any benefit of Adwords for having control of the messaging. An image PLUS an attractive, strong offer? Sold.

CI already has some pretty convincing data about the effectiveness of PLA. They are showing CTR’s 3x higher than traditional Adwords. Conversion rates are higher, and there is now less competition in the space.

Wait, less competition?

Right now many retailers are working furiously to get their PLA plans in place. It’s really a matter of fine-tuning the feed that’s uploaded into Google Merchant Center, but there are budgets to be figured, allocation of resources, and PLA is still an unknown for many.

In fact, according to an Internet Retailer survey from July 16 2012, 23% of retailers are opting OUT of Product Listing Ads, and 29% say they are still undecided!

To me, that represents a huge opportunity. With fewer shops competing for eyeballs, as long as I’ve got the right image and right data in place, I’m going to get the sale.

My company is currently working in PLA and striving to optimize our data feed. We’ve already seen PLA orders overtake the free Google Shopping orders on a daily basis. In some weeks, we’re seeing higher YOY sales via PLA than we ever had with Froogle.

So I’m completely sold. Between the data I’m seeing in our account, and hearing Google’s people talk about their plans for Product Listing Ads, I think there’s a strong argument for the decline in relevancy for text Adwords when it comes to product advertising on Google.