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In all honesty, I was surprised to hear that one of my favourite quotes in recent times came from a man who I probably might not have imagined as someone who held a deep understanding of content. Clearly, I was wrong.

In an essay published in January of 1995, Bill Gates declared, “content is king”. Could the tech innovator, business magnate, and international philanthropist really have predicted the degree to which content would reign over the internet more than two decades ago? While he could and he did, content still remains largely misunderstood by many people. Let’s take a closer look at content writing, how it differs from copywriting, and what it can do for you.


From Bill Gates to Don Draper


People in the industry struggle to understand the difference between copywriting and content writing. I can recall more than a few instances when our clients wanted to hire content writers in-house, but ended up onboarding copywriters instead. While the two roles share similarities, they each serve a unique purpose.

American Writers & Artists Inc. declares the former to be “the process of writing advertising promotional materials. Copywriters are responsible for the text on brochures, billboards, websites, emails, advertisements, catalogs, and more.”

While this definition captures the concept in its most elemental sense, it misses out on explaining what elevates ordinary copywriting from the extraordinary. For a glimpse into this separator, let’s take a minute and turn to the fictional expert himself: Don Draper.

Millions of people tune in every week to watch used car salesman turned brilliant ad man Don Draper lead Sterling Cooper to copywriting supremacy on the hit TV show, “Mad Men.”  Perhaps Don’s words summed up the very best kind of copywriting, along with why he was considered the best around: “But there is the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash if they have a sentimental bond with the product.”

Draper’s sentiments echo a definition from CopyBlogger, which proclaims that “the art and science of direct-response copywriting involves strategically delivering words (whether written or spoken) that get people to take some form of action.”

And here lies the bottom line: a copywriter’s goal is to prompt people to take a single action — in many cases, the purchase of a product or service, but also anything from making a phone call to visiting a store. Building relationships and making connections along the way are simply the means to an end. Copywriters by nature must put the desired action first. They must prioritize results as if their jobs depend on it. Because — let’s face it — they do.

Perhaps, copywriting guru Joanna Wiebe of Copyhackers puts it best when it comes to expecting results. She writes that not only do “persuasion and conversion go hand-in-hand,” but that “if you’re not persuading visitors — to sign up, to comment, to share, to buy — it’s going to be very hard for you to boost your conversion rate.”

In other words, copywriting is ultimately a numbers game, even if the rhetorical prose tugs on the heartstrings to get where it needs to go.

Content writing, meanwhile, approaches things from a completely different angle. Sales is not the end-game — although when well-executed it can certainly be a by-product. Rather than prompting consumers toward a finite option, content writing is really an act of cultivation intended to attract customers, educate them, enhance understanding, and ultimately add value to their lives. Or to lift a phrase from many an inspirational poster, “It’s not about the destination, but about the journey.”

According to a research report (March, 2014) by the Content Marketing Institute, 82% of marketers cite brand awareness as one of their key content marketing goals — which of course can lead to increased sales. Other top goals of an organisation’s content marketing program include lead generation, thought leadership, website traffic, and customer retention/loyalty.

Content writing often involves going deep into someone’s expertise in a specific domain, and conveying it in the form of a captivating, consumable story. Fast forward to 2015, and a talented content writer is a subject-matter expert who can swiftly invoke the skills of a nimble copywriter and a seasoned journalist into their work.


Coca-Cola on Content Marketing


Let’s go to a real-life industry leader to learn more about how content marketing works in action: Coca-Cola. This 123-year-old institution leads the pack when it comes to creating content that works. The key? Storytelling that is relevant, consistent and compelling to consumers and media alike.

In a presentation at BlogWell Bay Area, Ashley Callahan, Coke’s Manager of Digital Communications and Social Media then, shared the not-so-secret formula for the company’s content marketing success.

Before rolling out content, content marketers at Coke first ask the following seven questions:

  1.    Does it pass the “Why Should I Care” test?
  2.    Is it surprising?
  3.    Does it offer universal appeal?
  4.    Is it interesting?
  5.    Is it something that hasn’t been seen before?
  6.    Is it differentiable from the competitor’s content?
  7.    Is it able to be monitored and measured in real time?

Here’s a different way of looking at it: Today’s consumers are suspicious of overt sales, but relish the opportunity to expand their knowledge and awareness. Share-worthy content writing, then, boils down to the following: what’s the story, how can it be told, and will it reach the right person? Because if it doesn’t serve a purpose that not only offers a benefit but is also — like a Coke itself — worth sharing with a friend, then it’s missing the whole point.


So, Do You Need a Copywriter or Content Writer?


If you’re still on the fence about whether you need a copywriter, content writer or both, take a moment to consider your objective. Are you specifically looking for sales conversions? If so, copywriters are the consummate sales professionals. Their tactics involve putting together the right combination of compelling words within a particular context in order to inspire a specific action. They’re a great fit when you have a product or service that’s intrinsically comprehensible, unambiguous, and self-explanatory to your audience.

Alternatively, content writers are not motivated primarily by sales, but instead by the overriding goal of creating long term value, from generating web traffic to building brand reputation. While effective content writing may or may not result in a sale within a specific time frame — nor is it intended to  — it’s the gift that keeps on giving, and can continue to generate revenue for years to come.

Keep in mind that the ‘commercial value’ of your product or service will likely be directly proportional to the length of your ‘conversion cycle’. What I mean by that is, the more expensive your product, the longer it will take for you to convert your prospects. If you think that your pricing may be perceived as even a slight deterrent or that you may need more real-estate to explain your value proposition clearly, taking a more elaborate approach at targeting each stage of a prospect’s purchasing funnel is a prudent step.

The truth is that while skilled copywriting may propel sales, effective content writing leads to lifelong consumers.

More than 20 years ago, Bill Gates went on to say, “Opportunities are remarkable, and many companies are laying plans to create content for the Internet.” Two decades later, the imperative is stronger than ever before.

While copywriting was, is and will always be part of business practices, if you haven’t incorporated content marketing into your overarching strategy yet, you’re missing out on a major opportunity to grow your consumer relationships, your brand, and your bottom line.


Making time

Content marketing is back-breaking work. We’ve been doing this for a fairly long time, so believe me when I say this. Behind every blog post, video or whitepaper lies countless hours of careful planning and tireless execution.

Here’s the reality though: many companies out there find it hard to quantify their investment into content marketing, and that’s because they’re not paying enough attention to the subtleties involved in this trade.

If there are a few things that we’ve learned working with all our clients, they are:

  1. Content is not just something you create for the heck of it or because everyone else is doing it. Think it through and then do it well. Or, don’t do it at all.
  2. You have to start by being completely invested into it yourself first, before you expect it to show any returns.
  3. You have to reinforce the belief that you started your content marketing program to add significant value to your audiences.
  4. You have to make a conscious and aggressive effort to rise above the deluge of content that’s already out there.

This post is about helping you understand the overwhelming importance of investing the time to nurture your content, in-house team, and your outsourced partner or partners, as the case may be.


Lack of Knowledge = Lack of Power


According to the Content Marketing Institute, 40% of business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers lack a written strategy regarding their content. This means that two out of every five content marketing teams throw content on the web without any defined plan for maximizing its effectiveness. This is in direct contrast to the basic premise of content marketing, which states that content is what drives customers to a brand as they proceed along the purchasing funnel. Every dollar invested into content marketing should clearly help achieve this goal.

Content for content’s sake accomplishes nothing.

All of this is to say that it’s very easy to lose your way when it comes to content marketing. That’s why it’s so important to take the necessary steps to ensure everyone involved with your content marketing endeavours are on the same page.


Making Time



A lot of companies assume that the very act of participating in content marketing guarantees them success. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. The many different moving parts of content marketing must all be in the right place. Any chink in the armour means you’ll miss out on conveying vital information, that is key for your audience’s evaluation process. Maybe there’s a broken link in your post. Maybe your landing page isn’t specifically tailored to the content in question. Maybe someone forgot to include a compelling call to action. All of these factors, when left to chance, can completely derail your content marketing campaign.

Success in content marketing requires a top-down focus on crafting great content. After all, if people don’t care about what you’re producing, your efforts are worthless.

Consider the case of Red Bull, a company that markets itself in many different ways. It’s also a company that understands that advertising an energy drink isn’t nearly as important as promoting the Red Bull brand. Among other things, Red Bull creates videos of extreme sports that simply have to be seen. It’s a great formula for generating viral content, and it helps to brand Red Bull as an exciting, risk-taking company.



But it isn’t just the creation of these videos that makes Red Bull successful. It also makes the entire organisation a part of its marketing team. Even the lowest-level employees can participate in marketing the brand. The content can’t just come from a copywriter or a video producer. The whole company has to think of content as ‘stories that need to be told’. By giving a voice to the voiceless, Red Bull has set itself up to be on the cutting edge of content generation for years to come.

An important capacity builder for in-house teams is periodical training. A great way to get your team up-to-speed with the latest in content marketing is to get them enrolled into a reputable online course or certification program. Hubspot Academy’s Inbound Certification is a widely known program. So are CMI’s Online Training and Certification program, Copyblogger’s Authority, Google’s Analytics Academy, and Marketing Profs’ Content Marketing Crash Course among others.

Many forward-thinking organisations, both large and small, who’re aiming to become publishers have a dedicated content team in-house. Although this is subject to Finance and HR mandates, designating at least one person on the team who can lead the company’s content strategy and act as a liaison between interdisciplinary teams within the company and the external partners would be a prudent step to take.



Like most international companies, Red Bull relies on a variety of partners to facilitate its content marketing. Red Bull has its own dedicated content website, Red Bull Media House, curated by experts in their respective fields. Additionally, Red Bull is involved with content of all kinds, editorial as well as interactive, covering bike races to sports teams to music festivals. By embracing a wide variety of contributors and activities that have a similar underlying theme, Red Bull can take its message forward while staying true to its principles. It’s a testament to the power of identifying key partners and building long-term relationships.

Partners come in all shapes and sizes. Not to mention, competencies and personalities. While larger agencies prefer working with larger brands and larger budgets — on the other hand, boutiques and independent writers prefer working with interesting people and challenging projects, regardless of the size of the client.

Large agencies will likely be able to execute a project across several countries and localise your content effectively under stringent deadlines. Boutiques & freelance writers will be to spend a lot of time with you and your team to understand the problem statement intrinsically and take an avant-garde, hands-on (read: roll up the sleeves!) approach to executing it.

There are distinct advantages to having each kind of partner on your roster. What matters most is being able to identify the right partner for your specific needs, and then allowing them to take on an advisor’s role in your business, by trusting them with key decisions related to making you truly successful.


Getting on the Same Page


According to Curata, more than 70% of marketing professionals surveyed planned to increase their content marketing spending in 2014. On the surface, this is a good thing. But it’s not a good thing when neither a specific direction nor a curated environment for that increased expenditure is provided.

This can be particularly difficult for those further down in the chain. Directors and Managers may feel a need to produce “more”, but more of what? This can lead to unfocused, irrelevant content that does more harm than good.

David Fallarme from ReferralCandy advocates the use of the Hedgehog Concept, which zeroes in on creating content in line with a company’s specific niche (aka. the sweet spot!). It combines the company’s passions with their skills and their revenue drivers. Using this allows a company to really drill down on what works for them; more importantly, it enables them to become immune to competition.

The Hedgehog Concept is just one way for an organisation to find out how it should focus its content marketing efforts. However, without a top-down understanding of what the company really wants to accomplish with its content marketing, any additional spending on content is a futile endeavour.

As your company’s marketing visionary, it’s your job to let everyone involved in the content marketing process – internal teams, outside agencies, freelancers, etc. – know exactly where your organisation wants to go with content marketing. If it’s a priority for you, it should be a priority for them.

By making the time to go in-depth with your associates, you’ll create a culture that emphasizes quality and consistency. You’ll also ensure that all of the supporting factors that go into conversions, such as forms and calls to action, do what they’re designed to do.

With this framework established, and with your undivided attention, you’ll get the most out of your content marketing, and you’ll finally be able to pin down that elusive ROI number.

Let me start by wishing you a very happy and successful New Year 2015! It is indeed the time for sharing, building, and helping people who matter to you the most.

And the people who matter to us are our dear families, our close friends, and of course, our fabulous clients.

2014 has been a great year for BUZZVALVE. To start with, our revenues have grown by over 100% and our client base has nearly doubled since the last year (2013–14). Thanks to all the good karma shown by our dear friends in the startup & corporate fraternity, as well as the media — our cost of customer acquisition is at a record low, noting that 7 out of every 10 new business relationships were driven purely through word-of-mouth/referrals. Quite honestly, we couldn’t have done it without your help, support, and generosity.

We had the opportunity to work with some unbelievably nice people on the most amazing projects.

From a boutique honey brand to a global pharmaceutical company, from a men’s fashion startup to a major industrial manufacturing conglomerate, and quite a few in-between — the past year has been nothing short of sheer awesome-ness. If there’s one thing that comes to mind today, it’s this:

Let’s do it again!

We started the year uncertain of where we were heading. In hindsight, I think we have always been a little anxious about our growth rate ever since we started the business back in 2010, because we have had to iterate and tweak our business model quite a few times to make sure that we hit our “sweet spot”.

The elusive “sweet spot”. Took us a while!

The elusive “sweet spot”. Took us a while!

Some companies hit it early. Some hit it late. And then some, who never hit it. I’m just glad we did and validated the point of being in business for a long time to come. There were times when we grew too fast, too quick — and had to hit the brakes.

I could confidently say that it has taken us nearly 4 years to find a good service-market fit. Now that we seem to have found it, all those weeks of turbulence may not have been a bad thing after all considering we learned a lot along the way ☺

People who believed in us embraced this uncertainty and encouraged us to keep moving forward, especially when we were not sure of many things about our own selves. It takes a lot to be able to do that for someone else. That trust is something that we have valued most dearly. Thank you so much for believing in us!

By no means does this mean that we have “arrived”. Far from it, actually. But is that even a thing? We want to work doubly hard this year and keep doing what we do best. We’d like to “crush it”.

Waiting. The train hasn’t “arrived” yet.


Nothing gives us greater pleasure than working with amazing companies, large and small, and managing their content marketing programs. By creating, distributing, promoting, and converting their content with a data-driven focus, we want to help our clients attract more customers, generate more revenue, enter newer markets, create more thought leadership, and build more brand recall for them this year!

To achieve our goal, we will be adding a lot of structure and process to a significant part of our business and how we go about conducting it. But not in a way where we cease to become a human-centric entity or anything that takes away our biggest value proposition to you. The industry has a jargon for it: ‘productised services’. I believe there couldn’t have been a better time for us to take this call and move in that direction.

What I can tell you definitively today is that we are going to be listening to you very closely and building this out based on what we have already learned from working with you. The road ahead is challenging, but exhilarating. So, here’s a toast to 2015.

I’m taking the liberty to tell you that you’ll love us even more than you do today.

FYI: We’re hiring top-notch writers and editors across every specialisation, function, vertical or industry you can possibly think of! Location isn’t a big deal. Join us and you’ll live on to tell a grand story. Drop me a note at and we’ll get the conversation started…

Mahalo & god speed!

Manifesto |manɪˈfɛstəʊ|

noun ( pl. manifestos )

a public declaration of policy and aims.

ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Italian, from manifestare, from Latin, ‘make public’, from manifestus ‘obvious’.

Courtesy (i.e. lovingly stolen from): Dictionary, by Apple Inc. 

For starters, let’s talk about what we don’t believe in.

We don’t believe in meaningless chaos. We don’t believe in pretence. And, we definitely don’t believe in losing.

So, while other agencies and consulting firms are busy polishing their mission and vision statements, we wanted to make this simple manifesto about what we do believe in.

We believe in delivering real value, beyond any and all expectations that our stakeholders set.

We believe in being honest and transparent about our work and the way we go about doing it.

We believe in growing, both as human beings and as a business.

It’s pretty simple, really. We want to make the web a better place for everyone – consumers and brands alike. And, we want to do that using meaningful content. Because we truly and inherently believe that content can never stop disrupting itself.

It’s a scary proposition; betting this high on ‘content’ – we know. But then, we look at what people and companies have achieved with content in the past – how we are contributing today by adding more spokes to the wheel – and it paints a clear picture of what lies ahead. Believe us, it looks remarkable and game changing.

While we’re talking about this, the lines between technology, content and people are blurring. It’s getting harder to tell the difference between ‘what once was’ and ‘what currently is’. That very cusp of convergence – between paid, owned and earned media – has spawned an entire industry, today.

Join us. You’ll live to tell your grandkids about quite a story! That’s a promise.



In our 3 years as an emerging business, we have designed community websites, Facebook apps, social intranets and pretty much everything in-between. To be honest, not every element we design is created from scratch each time.

Ideally, they don’t need to be either.

Our designers invest a significant amount of time researching what works best for our clients, and once epiphany strikes, well… then there’s no holding them back. Usually, that time is directly invested in designing what we call as the ‘Most Unique Proposition’ (or, MUP for short) of the project. In other words, what is it that differentiates our work for one client from what we may have done for another client, or for that matter, different from what the client’s competitors may have executed already. And believe it or not, the process of identifying the MUP for each project is a very time-consuming affair. So, our boutique team of visual designers & project managers pride themselves in having an eye for that kind of an effort.

Every visual design project that we take on is a mix of identifying the MUP along with customising a set ‘constant elements’ to suit the requirements of the project. Now, constant elements are nothing but UI blocks that you would find commonly across most projects in the same genre on the internet.

For example, if you were re-designing a corporate website, you are bound to see similar looking buttons, icons, fonts, background textures, navigation menus, and even vector illustrations across other corporate websites on the web. By using constant elements across projects, designers are not copying/stealing/re-using anything. They are just saving precious time by not re-inventing the wheel again. In effect, constant elements are customised to the project in question and not designed from the ground up, saving heaps of time.

It’s a practice that is religiously followed by experienced and efficient designers all over the world. If your designers aren’t doing it – maybe they should be.

The ratio of the MUP against constant elements, depending on project specifications, can be as high as 50-50 sometimes. Although, visually speaking, the project output looks fresh and unique each time. Given their many years of experience, our designers know where and how to strike a good balance, and demonstrate fine craftsmanship.

There are many sites out there offering constant elements in the form of free PSD’s, vector graphics and UI kits to give time crunched designers a helping hand. Here’s a curated list of the top 3 ones that get our vote.


1. PSDDD – Beautiful Dribbble Freebies For The Creative Professional.


Psddd is a hot stove, somewhere between heaven and Dribbble. For those who are not familiar with Dribbble, they are by far the most exclusive think tank for the crème de la crème of creative talent across the world. This think tank is full of people who, from time to time, are benevolent enough to post their high-quality design elements as ‘freebies’ for the community to use. Elements are selected manually and fetched via the powerful Dribbble API.


2. PREMIUM PIXELS – Free Stuff For Creative Folk.


Premium Pixels is a destination well-known among passionate designers for its collection of design elements that are created and curated by eclectic web designer Orman Clark. All elements are offered free of charge with very little restriction. Premium Pixels is renowned for its stringent quality standards and only those UI elements that are a ‘cut-above-the-rest’ make it to its sought after list.


3. CREATIVE MARKET – Handcrafted Fonts, Graphics, Themes and More.


Creative Market is a marketplace for handcrafted, mousemade design content from around the world, and popular among those who are passionate about making beautiful design simple and accessible to everyone. The site carries almost every conceivable UI element including Photoshop brushes and WordPress themes. Creative Market is also the only paid online resource among the three sites in this post, where digital design goods are sold by independent creative professionals to use in personal as well as commercial projects.

Are there other online resources you frequently visit and trust? Let us know in the comments below.


Photo credits: © Eldkvast


In really simple terms, an online community is a destination on the ‘world wide web’ where people like us tend to hang out and spend a lot of time doing things of interest.

Does that make a Facebook brand page, an online community? Well, no! A Facebook brand page, or for that matter a Twitter brand account, is more like a ‘pit stop’ as opposed to a ‘destination’. People spend endless hours on Facebook, and brand pages get only a tiny fraction of that time. “Fans”, as Facebook would call it, come and go. A vast majority of people come on Facebook to be recognised (read: notifications!), stalk their friends’ wall, admire their own timelines, announce & sell things, compete on games and let’s not forget… spam like hell!

Does that make an online community? Yes, it does. And a very large online community at that. Didn’t someone place it at being the 3rd “most populous country” (if it were one in-fact)? That someone was right. But, for brands, Facebook comes with heavy constraints. For instance, could a brand (if they wanted) create an activity feed of their fans? Could they create document storage for fans? Could they create mood messages of fans for other fans to see?

Believe it or not, Facebook brand pages were created with only 2 objectives in mind:

  1. As a brand, how do we speak to our fans and how could we get them to speak to us?
  2. As a brand, how do we create widespread awareness and get more people to become fans and join our page?

Some marketers take the route of ‘intellectual ignorance’ in saying that the number of fans on a page does not matter to them. That may be true, but it defeats the fundamental premise of creating a brand page to begin with. I would invite those marketers to embrace an ‘online community’ instead, where the big idea is to create passionate users, grow loyalty and increase advocacy — perhaps even hint at cultivating a sense of brand fanaticism.

Think about it — every action that a fan takes on a brand’s Facebook status update or app is visible to only those people in his/her network (maybe everyone or maybe no one). What about those fans who are already on the page? What do they get to see, or are even motivated enough to see? Chances are — nothing. As a Facebook user, when you’re approaching a “popular” status update to comment on it, you proceed knowing the content of the status update and not knowing much (if anything at all) about what others have commented about. Unless you’re a patient person, you are not going to “un-roll” those 800+ comments to see what others have said about this topic of common interest.

Bottom line?

Facebook makes it easy for you & me to interact with our friends & family, but makes it very hard for page fans to interact with other fans.

An online community is all about bonding between members of that community, which manifests into a whole lot of good things, more importantly into a win-win relationship between brands and community members. Here, members win because of the honest recommendation from other members about the brand, and brands win because they get a customer for life. Let’s talk about what I mean by “good things” for a second — sales enablement, talent acquisition, product marketing, customer support, workforce collaboration and much, much more.

By now, you should be wondering what an online community looks like and how would it impact your brand. I’ll demonstrate that in my next post. As a progressive brand marketer, if this doesn’t get you salivating, you are best sticking to Facebook brand pages and loosing the ‘progressive’ tag. Cheers!


Photo credits: © luc legay