Would you be more likely to trust an ad from a company or an article about the same company in a magazine?

Would you prefer to read an ad full of puffed up claims, or would you prefer to hear an informative, helpful explanation of items you’re interested in – even it it’s presented directly by the company?

Information, stories, answers to questions and breaking news can all be extremely powerful marketing tools. Here’s how you can add these to your arsenal.

Why an advertorial will outperform most ads

If you’re considering placing an ad in a newspaper or a magazine, stop for just a moment. Have a look at the space and size you’re considering, and imagine what the space allows you to communicate. Try and visualize how your ad will stand out from the rest – or if it will at all.

Fortunately, you do have another option.

An advertorial is a marketing piece designed to look and read like an informative article – in fact, it should be an informative article. Topped by a headline that’s provocative or compelling to its intended audience, this article engages readers more than an ordinary ad nested among other ordinary ads. And because it’s no longer bound by the conventions of ad layout, you can suddenly include more information; even a relatively small space-ad can accommodate a brief article.

Here are some of the ways you can use advertorials to power up your marketing.

A paid advertorial gives you full control over layout and message, allowing you to say and display exactly what you want. While you’ll be required, in most cases, to flag your advertorial with a notice at the top (to distinguish it from the rest of the articles in the publication), the “article” format carries a certain authority. Because it’s presented in a layout familiar from actual newspaper and magazine articles, it suggests a third party endorsement of its statements.

In some cases, you can have your advertorial included as actual editorial content. (This really carries the weight of third party endorsement!) Some publications will offer to publish an article about your business or product when you book a more traditional advertisement in the publication. That way you get more than double bang for your buck – since the article is really part of the newspaper or magazine. If you’re prepared, you can provide the copy to the publication – which saves them time and lets you control the message. You won’t have the same control over layout you’d have with a paid advertorial, but the more publication-ready material you provide, including graphics and photographs, the better your chances of having the article appear as you’d prefer.

Don’t stop there. If the publication is one that carries some weight with your prospects, check into reprint rights and consider having the page (or pages) reproduced for distribution to potential customers.

You can even create your own tear-sheet to simulate a publication, and mail this to prospects. (Remember, you’ll still need to flag it as advertising.)

Check out these advertorial samples.

How to turn an ordinary press releases into a powerful marketing and SEO tool

In The 4-Hour Work Week,Timothy Ferriss claims the “press release is dead for most purposes.” But rumours of that death are greatly exaggerated! Here’s how a press release can still do wonders for your marketing.

Publications, from local newspapers to trade publications to national magazines, are hungry for editorial content. Package your press release in a format they can easily use (without having to edit out puffery and flowery adjectives), and there’s a good chance your release will find its way, verbatim, into many publications.

Beyond that, as Ferriss acknowledges, the press release has found new life online as a search engine optimization (SEO) device. Services such as PR Newswire and PRWeb will publish your press release/article (for a fee). Just having a press release published on the company’s website gives you valuable links back to your site and improved ranking for your website. And if you do it right, the article may get picked up by publications worldwide.

To really get your money’s worth, the trick is to actually derive value from the content of your press release. That means getting it read.

A press release that simply touts your company or offers bland, boring clichés about how “innovative” you are will, at best, deliver 25 percent of its potential value. A press release that offers value – to both your reader/prospect and the publication editor (by providing an interesting, publication-worthy story) – will have a greater chance of being published in its original format and finding the readers you want.

Even if you’re paying a service to publish and distribute your releases online, why waste the opportunity to find readers by putting out the same dull, formulaic release PR department assembly lines pound out every day.

More tips to get actual results from your press releases

Two effective ways to publish articles online

Getting an article placed in a print publication usually brings simultaneous online publication. But don’t stop there. Find reputable online-only publications, and offer to provide articles with valuable how-to advice about your industry or related to your product or service. Provide the article for free, in exchange for credit and a link to your website.

In addition to offering readers valuable information and gaining their appreciation and trust, publication on relevant, respected websites will do wonders for your search engine rankings.

The individual approach – offering the publication exclusive use of the article in its current form – is more attractive to the publication and carries more weight with search engines.

But you can also get results by publishing your article on one of the myriad distribution services offering free content for online or print use. These services require your credit and link to be included whenever they’re published.

How to gain exposure with guest blogs

By now you may be getting it. Yes, the same article can, with slight variations, do the job in a variety of marketing formats. Find blogs catering to your target audience, and offer to give them free content, in exchange for credit and a link. In most cases, you’ll get a quick “yes”.

Use white papers to generate leads

Articles and reports on issues of importance to your customers can also be a great lead generation incentive. Offer visitors a free report or how-to information in exchange for their email addresses. Or distribute your articles through services which capture this information for you.

Leverage true stories for case studies and testimonials

If you have happy customers, you have an extremely valuable source of information which can provide value to prospective customers while demonstrating the quality of your product or service.

Testimonials are straightforward. Ask customers to provide you with a brief note about their experience with you. Or interview them and write a short paragraph for their approval. The key is to make these as natural sounding as possible. Shoot for a conversational tone. Use contractions (“I’ll” vs. “I will”). And get photos if at all possible.

Case studies are a little more involved and provide more information of value to your prospects. These can vary from slice-of-life stories about how a product “changed my life” to insight into return on investment from a more expensive business-to-business product.

To create these, check with past clients and tell them you’ll make it as easy on them as possible. That is, they don’t need to write up their whole story. Interview them and use their comments and explanations to draft up the case study. During the interview, seek out details that will bring the story to life and show exactly how they used your product or service, and how it improved their life or business. Once you’re done, ask them to review it to make sure you’ve got it correct. You may consider offering them an incentive for the time they’re spending on your behalf. Include photos whenever possible.

Contact us to find out which information marketing techniques will help grow your business.