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Category Archives: How to write

How to make Linkedin love you

Linkedin heart made from ribbon

Some business owners feel happier on Linkedin than Twitter. It’s less frivolous. It focuses on work, side-stepping the ‘I’m eating an apple’ updates that some people find irritating and pointless. I’m not saying they’re right – I love Twitter – but I know what they mean.

But if you’re looking to win more work and putting all your eggs into Linkedin’s basket, you really need to make the most of it. So how do you do that?

First of all this means filling it all in properly. Linkedin makes it easy for you – just fill in the boxes with all your contact details, your previous experience, and some testimonials, and you’re away.

That’s a good start, and lots of people leave it there, but they’re missing out. Past experience and recommendations are important, but what can really sell you is the summary and specialities section. Not filling these in is like going to a party and sitting in the corner not speaking to anyone. This is your chance to answer ‘and what do you do?’ in the most compelling way, so give it some thought.

As much thought, I’d suggest, as you would your website home page. And in the same way that your home page should demonstrate how you help your clients, make it clear here how your experience solves clients’ problems.

5 ways to write a better Linkedin profile

1. Make it clear what kind of projects you’re looking for – what work do you want? There’s no harm in being upfront, and it makes it easier for potential clients to find you. Don’t leave contacts to read between the lines to find the things you might be good at, spell it out for them.
2. Tailor your experience to fit the projects you want. Linkedin works best when you treat as more than an online CV, so pull out the details that are relevant to projects you’d like to have and add them to strengthen your case. BUT
3. Be succinct. I don’t mean all the details. Pick and choose, and think in headlines rather than essays.
4. Think about clients needs first. A section on ‘how I can help’ makes your profile stand out. Ask for help yourself here by getting feedback from clients, or asking a copywriter to work on your message with you.
5. Keep it up to date. Linkedin profiles are easy to edit, so there’s no excuse for not keeping it current.

And finally, update regularly, read other people’s updates, comment, think, join in. Recommend the good people you work with, and they’ll return the favour. Linkedin is a networking tool, so get networking.

If you need help shaping your Linkedin profile, give me a call.

Make your offer crystal clear

ice cube or make your offer crystal clear

It’s the one thing that holds so many companies back, and it comes up time and time again. It seems obvious yet it ties people in knots. We’re talking about the question of clarity.

This month at Valuable Content we’ve been working on several projects distilling the messages of new clients, and working on masses of content creation for existing ones. We’ve been wrestling with the importance of getting those most basic messages clear, so we thought we’d share our thoughts with you.
Before you think about starting your marketing, get your story absolutely straight. If you want to get really good results out of marketing, put time and effort into making sure your proposition is crystal clear.
No amount money on your website, no amount of tweeting, blogging, or public speaking will get you the results you really want if people don’t really know what you do. Want to get more referrals and leads? Be clear on what you do and who you do it for. Let people know what you want to be famous for, and then spread the word.
We know it’s difficult. Many business owners fear closing the door on potential opportunities, and see being pigeonholed as a recipe for lost sales. The temptation is to want to be all things to all people, but this leads to nebulous positioning. Dilute your message and it becomes weaker. The result?  No one truly understands what you do. So what can you do?

5 ways to get clear on your message

It’s all very well saying you need to get your offer clear, but how do you achieve this clarity? Here are 5 ways we help our clients to get to the heart of their business message:
1. Look at what you do from your clients’ perspective, not from your own. Your clients don’t care about your products or services, they want to know what’s in it for them. Put yourself in their shoes.
2. Talk to your clients. Everyone talks about knowing what your customers want, and listening to them, but if you want real clarity you should ask them directly.
3. Think like a book author. We find that the clients we help to produce a business book have a blinding moment of clarity on their business proposition too. So, think like a book author. If you were going to distill all your knowledge into a book for your client base, what would it be about? What would it say?
4. Get some emotion into your offer. People respond to emotion, not logic when they’re buying, so appeal to hearts as well as minds.
5. Get some outside help. This is really, really hard to do by yourself.  Get a view from the outside. Hire a copywriter like me to help you here.  Helping businesses get to the valuable heart of what they do, and creating the voice to tell their story, is what I like to do most.
So what are you waiting for? Get thinking, asking, and talking. Cut out the waffle surrounding what it is you do, polish up the jewel at the centre, and shine!

And if you need help getting your proposition clear, give me a call on 07985 015300

More articles to help you get your proposition straight:

Be the expert

How to stand out from the crowd

Know your audience

The 7 deadly word sins

apple with 'sin' written on it

(Or 7 words you won’t find on Valuable Content websites, and which shouldn’t be on yours.)

We write lead generating websites for businesses, so we get through a lot of words – thousands of the things. There are some we try not to use any more – either because they’re overused, or because they’re not clear, or because we just don’t like them.

1. Solutions. Offering solutions to a clients problem is a hackneyed way of saying you can help. Next time you’re sitting in a traffic jam count the number of vans with ‘solutions’ written on them. Dry rot solutions, office furniture solutions, decorating solutions. Be more specific about exactly how what you do will improve your client’s situation.
2. Facilitate. Don’t use it if you mean ‘set up,’ or ‘organise.’ It’s a bit of a prissy word, sounds like you’re trying to make something simple sound more important.
3. Orientated as a suffix, like results-orientated, or worse, solutions-orientated. Of course you work towards resolving the client’s problem. Just bunging ‘orientated’ on the end of a word doesn’t help show your method or describe your USP. Say how you do it, specifically.
4. Focused as a suffix. Or worse, focussed. See above. Results-focused, solutions-focused, we don’t like it.
5. Dynamic. Maybe we’re getting old, but we don’t really like dynamic agencies. For a start it’s a bit of a cliche, a lazy way of saying you’re not lazy. Plus, if you say you’re dynamic we imagine you wearing patterned socks and running round screaming into your Blackberry like an Apprentice wannabe. We’d rather see examples of original thought and genuinely helpful content.
6. Passionate. Being passionate about customer service makes you look a bit silly. No one believes it, so don’t say it. Caring is good, so is attention to detail, but passion? Save it for your lovers.
7. Synergy. Paradigm. Proactive. Just stop it.

If you want help writing the right stuff, let me know on 07985 015300

How to stand out from the crowd

How to stand out from the crowd

Let’s face it, you’re probably not the only one in your field. There are other designers, consultants, suppliers all doing the same as you, give or take an inch or two.

You can niche all you like, but there’ll always be somebody else, with a similar offer, ready to snatch potential clients away.

So how do you stand out? How do you frame your offer to get them to pick you and not them?

Here’s a quick guide to using words to make you stand out from the crowd.

1. Be the clearest. Chances are your business is mired with jargon. Be the one who strips that away and writes about how you help in a way that your clients really understand. It’s refreshing to find someone who tells it like it is – so be that person.
2. Be the most understanding. Always write from the clients viewpoint. Put their problems before your solutions. (But don’t use the word ‘solutions’. It’s on my banned list.)
3. Be the boldest. Copy that’s written with attitude is invigorating to read, so inject some va-va-voom into your words. Active verbs, no conjunctives, short and snappy.
4. Be the brightest. Brightest doesn’t mean complicated – it can mean seeing things from a different angle – making connections that can surprise and inspire. Write thoughtfully and your words will rise above the crowd saying the same old thing.
5. Be the smartest. Invest in good design so that your words look as good as they can. Good design shows you care.
6. Be the most useful. Fill your website with content that’s valuable to your potential clients, so they’ll turn to you first for help.
7. Be the most in demand. People want to work with the best, and the best are likely to be busiest. Use your website and social media to let the world know what you’re up to. Write about the nuts and bolts of what you’re doing – it shows you know your stuff. Walking the walk and not just talking the talk – that’s what get results.
8. Be everywhere. Blog it, tweet it, comment on forums, ask questions, answer queries – spread your words around to raise the chances of being found.

What have I missed? I’d love to know your tips for standing out from the rest. And if you need help with making your copy unmissable, call me on 07985 015300

Be the expert

open book

‘Expert’ is in danger of becoming meaningless.

It’s going the way of ‘passionate’ as a business buzz word so heavily overused its become detached from its real meaning. The world is apparently passionate about customer service, fresh ingredients, packaging, air fresheners, consumer risk reduction. Passionate? Really? Are you?
And ‘expert’ risks slipping in the same direction, which is a shame, because its a useful term that should carry weight. It means you absolutely know your stuff, your opinion can be trusted, and you’ve got valuable knowledge to share.

So here are some ways of proving you’re the real deal.

1. Demonstrate your expertise. Just saying it means nothing. Use your website to show me your expertise in action. Deliver that talk. Write the book.
2. Share it. Be generous with your expertise. Social media is a great place to help. Don’t worry about giving it away for free, people will like you for it, and likeability counts for a lot. It means you’ll get referred, recommended, and in front of the people who can pay. Spread the word.
3. Learn more. Experts know there’s always more to find out. So read around your subject, ask questions of other people in your field, dig deeper.
4. Be niche. Carve out your space and stick to it. The longer I go on copywriting, the clearer I’m becoming on my own space. I think mine is knowing what people need to hear, and saying it clearly. And that’s it. Tiny! It makes me perfect for getting messages spot on or web projects – creating high performing websites that really make a difference – but if it’s a white paper you’re after, I’m probably not your girl. I distill the essence of things, I’m not a reams of detail writer.
5. Have a story. What brought you here? Experts are made, not born, and understanding the steps that led you here will help you be clear about how your knowledge fits into the bigger picture, and how exactly you can help.

What have I missed? I love to know your thoughts on how you can prove it’s expertise and not empty words.

If you need help distilling your business message, call me on 07985 015300.

How to write less, (and say more.)

tower blockYou know that sinking feeling you get when you click on a web page, and the text is far too long? Pulled in by a great headline, but confronted by a dense slab of over-wordy words, the chances are you’ll just click elsewhere to find what you wanted more quickly.

So how do you stop that happening? It’s easy. Follow these copy rules to keep users happy.

How to write less (and say more.)

1. Be very clear about the purpose of each section. Knowing exactly what your readers want to find on makes it easier to start shaping the content.

2. Don’t try to make too many points on each page. Focus on getting one message across strongly, rather than showering the page with weaker points. You can always add more pages. An engaged reader will be eager explore further, and drip feeding little by little works better than a huge wall of text.

3. Work on your sentence structure. Rid your lines of slow-you-down conjunctives. So no ‘however’s, or ‘moreover’s, or ‘hereby’s.

4. Using active verbs in the present tense gives the impression of purpose – just what you want to make readers feel they’re getting somewhere fast.

5. Short sentences make for an easy read.

6. Metaphors condense ideas and feelings succinctly, so weave some in and cut straight to the heart. Pick ones with an emotional resonance to pull readers in and make them more receptive to your message.

7. Focus on the first words of each sentence. If you’ve written a succession of ‘the’s, you need to think again. Starting with the subject of the sentence gives your writing impact and purpose.

8. Can the ‘can’s. Don’t say ‘we can deliver x,’ say ‘we deliver x.’

9. White space helps your readers breathe. Overloaded webpages make me feel like I’m stuck in a tube train during rush hour. You might be telling me something interesting, but all I can think about is getting out. Give your carefully crafted text some space and people will want to read on.

10. Make it scannable. Use headlines as scaffolding to sum up your main points and give your content structure. Signposting with headlines is a great way to make web pages fast rewarding reads.

And finally,

11. Embrace editing. Write it, leave it, come back with new eyes and cut out anything that isn’t absolutely necessary.

If you need help sharpening the content for your website, call me on 07985 015300

How to write great Twitter headlines

Sun Gotcha headlineFor the busy web reader, headlines are crucial. Faced with an immense sea of information, we scan for the ones that pull us in and anchor us to something relevant. Headlines matter on web pages, and even more so on social media sites like Twitter. How do you get people to click on yours instead of swimming past?

1. Be succinct.

Summarise the point of your article or blog in as few words as possible. Short and snappy is more appealing than convoluted. It’s a good test of your content too – if you can’t sum up the point in a sentence, maybe you haven’t got it quite right yet.

2. Put your reader first.

Think about what they want to know. What will they be searching for? How is your content going to help them? Use the phrase they’ll be searching for as your headline. Home page design – a quick guide, Networking etiquette – what to say first, and Key components of winning press releases are examples of reader focused, straightforward headlines.

3. Ask a question.

Headlines that engage are good news, and conversational questioning style headlines do just that. Are your business cards working? Is your recruitment process up to scratch? Do your clients know how to find you?

4. ‘How to’ headlines.

People are searching for information, and the’ how to’s’ are easy to spot and easy to click. How to design your about us page, How to boost e-commerce sales, How to sell your house in 6 weeks

5. Promise success.

We all want to succeed, and are tempted by people that offer it to us. Spiking your headlines with positive success words can encourage clicks. Win more clients with smart business networking, Successful sales start with three words, Boost profits with smarter working.

6. Raise the spectre of failure.

Fear of failure is as big a drive as the desire for success. Scare people into reading your stuff! Five costly PR mistakes to avoid. How to lose customers and alienate people. Is your web copy costing you sales?

7. Offer some inside knowledge.

Who doesn’t want to know a secret? It’s not hard to pique our curiosity. The secrets of successful bloggers, The trait top novelists share, Which blogger do twenty world leaders follow?

8. Play the numbers game.

Maybe it’s the promise of a quick read, perhaps because it seems to offer something easily graspable and definitive. Whatever the reason, Twitter can’t get enough of the numbers headlines. Five ways to improve your SEO instantly, Seven ways to keep readers on your site. Three writing rules you must break.

9. Get active.

Words like boost, drive, run, leap, soar, make headlines more compelling than passive words. Injecting some energy into your headlines grabs attention. Boost sales with clever marketing, Drive customers to checkout faster.

10. Say something different.

Originality is like a breath of fresh air in the crowded Twitter marketplace. Headlines created from a different lexicon leap off the page. I’m not talking jargon, just unexpected words – nouns or verbs – that shake up the stream of salesy Tweets. I’d put Mick Dickinson’s Silk purse, sow’s ear, crappy photographer, blog post headline into the refreshingly different category.

And if all else fails……

11. Capitalise Everything.

It’s in your face, brash, and hard to avoid. Personally, I don’t like this headline style, but it doesn’t stop me clicking if the content is promising. How To Win More Sales Overnight, Why Your Content Sucks, How To Write Killer Blogs.

So there you have it. Ten headline styles, and one for luck. It’s useful to mix them up, and vary your approach. I’ll often use four of five different headline styles to flag up the same article. Different readers respond to different types, so experiment with what works best for your followers.

Last but definitely not least, have something to say. Content always comes first in my book. The greatest headline in the world will tempt people to click, but you’ll only disappoint and frustrate if your content doesn’t live up to the headline’s promise.

If you need help with content for your website, do get in touch. I’d love to help.

You are my one and only

love heart sweets

With love in the air it feels like a good time to get a bit Match.com, and to explain what writing love letters got to do with great business copy.

I thought I’d start by sharing a secret with you – who I’m thinking of when I write my blog posts. Because I’m always writing to a person. A real one, that I know in the real world, and I think that’s what makes my writing feel immediate.

I’m usually writing to Sonja, my Valuable Content partner. She’s the one I want to impress. She absolutely knows her content stuff, and I know I can’t get away with anything less than good with her.

Though I’m writing to Sonja, I know that what I have to say will be relevant to more people. And the writing attitude that I take, of talking to a friend who knows as much and more than I do, means I’m writing on a level. Talking either up or down to a reader is a turn off, and I want to keep her switched on.

Of course it’s not always Sonja. Sometimes I write blog posts with a particular client in mind. If I know someone is facing a business challenge that I can help with, I’ll write a blog post and send it to them. (John BD, the newsletters one was for you.) And of course, I know that lots of businesses are facing the same dilemma, so I’ll post it on the website too. The fact that it was written with John BD in mind gives it an immediacy and relevance that makes the copy come alive.

So, here are seven reasons why you should write with that special person in mind.

1. It makes your writing warmer.

2. It makes you think of the best and clearest way of saying something. Friends don’t talk in jargon.

3. It makes you want to impress, make them smile, share something – all good ways to engage.

4. It makes you focus. Cutting out anything unnecessary gives your writing more impact.

5. It gives your writing immediacy. You’ll choose words that connect, rather than distance your reader.

6. It will make your writing pacier. We use active verbs rather than passive ones when we’re talking to friends.

7. It will make your writing more real. Authenticity is valuable, and you’ll achieve it by writing from the heart.

If you liked this, try these too.

The seven deadly word sins

Writing rules you should break

How to make Linkedin love you

Know your audience

cinema audience in 3D glasses

It’s possible to fill your website with a constant stream of content without making more sales. Content alone won’t do your business any good. Untargeted content is just white noise, irritating and easy to ignore.

The valuable kind of content is the type that hits home, that makes people feel you’re talking directly to them. So how do you go about creating that sort?

Understanding why people buy from you is key to creating the right kind of content. You’ve got to know your audience.

Knowing that will help you shape your content. Let’s think of an example.

Greenleaves is an environmental design consultancy. They’ve read a bit about content marketing, they’ve started a blog, and joined Twitter, but haven’t seen any benefit. It’s like nobody’s listening.

And that’s probably because nobody is listening, because they don’t know their audience. They clarify their clients as ‘medium sized companies in the residential, industrial and commercial sector.’ Way too vague. If you try and talk to everybody at once, you end up speaking to no-one.

Understand your USP

Greenleaves’ problem was they didn’t understand what was different about them, so the content they were creating was too generic. There are dozens of environmental design consultancies offering holistic approaches to planning and design so their blogs about planning law and waste management floated unread in the ether.

It was talking to their clients that helped them define their USP. Asking direct questions, ‘why do you enjoy working with us?’ revealed a different answer to the one they had been expecting. It was their connections to other experts that their clients most valued. Working with them was easy and rewarding because they knew the right people. They were a small company that offered a much bigger service through their expert network.

Knowing this gave their content some direction. Writing blog pieces that emphasised their joined up approach was a start. Getting guest blogs from their affiliated experts began to build their site as a hub of environmental design expertise. Understanding their USP gave them a voice and a picture of the kind of person they were talking to.

They discovered their strongest advocates were those in the residential sector; industrial and commercial set ups favoured bigger outfits. More fine tuning of their direction made a difference. Now they could produce content with real readers in mind – the blogs became livelier, more relevant, and gave a clearer picture of their company as the kind who really knew their stuff.

Blair Enns talks about demonstrating knowledge a mile deep and an inch wide. Far better to be an expert in something, than know a little about everything. Knowing your audience means you can specialise and demonstrate expertise.

What does your audience want?

So you’ve specialised. You’re focused on your target. You know who they are, what they look like, what they had for breakfast (okay, maybe not that.) But what do they want to hear from you? How do you make your content relevant for your audience?

You need to see things from your customer’s point of view. Understand their business, and how what you’re offering helps them.

Help is the key here. Making yourself useful is at the heart of the valuable content marketing strategy.

Three ways to get to know your audience better

1. Go to the right places
Networking with your audience, both the real and the virtual kind, is crucial. You need to know the word on the street if you want to be part of it. Learning to speak the right language happens much faster if you immerse yourself in it.

2. Listen
Content marketing is a two way thing. It’s not all about shouting ‘me me me‘, it’s more ‘you, you, you.‘ Take some time to read comments on forums, ask questions at networking events, give people a chance to talk about themselves so that you understand their challenges.

3. Ask your clients for feedback
Put some searching and detailed questions to your existing clients.

Be specific – why did you choose our service? what did we offer that our competitors didn’t? have you learnt anything from us that has changed your way of working?

This kind of feedback is invaluable for businesses. Providing you’re doing a good job, you’ll gather some useful material for your website and marketing materials. If you’re not doing a good job, then you need to know that too so that you can make changes. So ask away.

We can help you define your market and get to grips with you USP, and create the kind of content your audience will love. Call on 07985 015300

Five ways to make me leave your website immediately.

tumble weed

There’s lots of great advice out there about how to make a good first impression with your website, so I thought it would be interesting to look at how to make a really bad one.

Here’s how to turn people off your website instantly.

Turn off 1
Pop up ads

My biggest pet hate. In your face and in the way – pop up ads obscure your message. They’re as subtle as white stilettos and orange fake tan …..like being seduced by Kat Slater in Ann Summers or Peter Stringfellow in Spandex.

However much they’re paying you to put them there, it’s not worth it. They don’t make you look good.

Customer surveys can be offputting too. The experience is akin to being asked round for tea by a new neighbour who opens the door and asks for help unblocking the sink before you’ve even taken off your coat. Obviously I wouldn’t mind helping a friend, but we don’t even know each other yet! It feels wrong to ask for something before a relationship exists.

Turn off 2
Tumbleweed sites

You know the ones. Christmas pics in June. News page last updated 6 month ago.
Your website is often the first and best chance you’ll get to promote your business. If it’s like a ghost town -peopled by ex-employees showcasing lost clients it won’t do you justice.

Keep your website at the heart of your marketing strategy – feed it regularly with valuable content, and people like me will be happy to stay and look around.

Turn off 3
Primark at 5 pm on a Saturday sites

Chaotic websites. Everything’s all over the place, falling off the rails and in heaps on the floor. Lots of offers but you don’t know where to start looking. The sheer amount of it makes you doubt the value, and you can just tell the customer service is going to be bad.

See your website from your customer’s point of view. Is it in order? Can you get around it easily? What exactly are you offering?

Turn off 4
Bedroom websites

Not as exciting as they sound, I mean the kind that have obviously been designed by your neighbour’s son on work experience.

Professionalism shows – in the design, the layout, the use of headlines, the quality of the copy. You can see if it’s not there, without even reading the page.

Turn off 5
Woolly sites

Your home page should tell me how you can help. I shouldn’t have to look hard to find the essence of your offer, and it should be obvious where to look next. Don’t make it hard for me, I don’t want to burrow through fuzzy layers before finding out if you’re what I’m after.

So what do you have to do if you want me to stick around? Clean looking sites appeal. Clarity is important. Demonstrate value, show you’re alive and buzzing, be relevant, engage with me.

First impressions are important. If you want help with getting your website content and copy right, call on 07985 015300.