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Category Archives: Writing for clients and customers

How to write really bad content

be impressive like a marble statue

Content, content, content. We’re swimming in the stuff, and yet we’re still being told to create more, more, and still more.

The web is awash with shoddy stuff. Thoughtless filler copy, words without meaning, copy without substance.
If you don’t want yours to join the tide of second rate content flotsam, then slow down, and take a deep breath. Our not entirely serious guide to how to get content wrong will help you make sure yours is top quality.

Be impressive. You know what’s really impressive? Long words, that’s what. And industry jargon. They show you’re terribly clever. Fill your content with words that show how much more you know than other people, and they will admire you. No matter if they don’t understand it. Don’t bother to explain it. If your readers can’t keep up, that’s their lookout. You are impressive, like an awesome marble statue, and that’s what counts.

However, if you want content that engages potential clients, you might want to try writing as though you’re talking to them. Talking in a helpful way, using words to connect with readers, not to distance them.

Key words are everything. All you’ve got to do is repeat your KEYWORD a lot, and Bob’s your uncle. KEYWORDS are the holy grail. KEYWORDS are king, queen and the rest of the royal family. SEO is all about repetition, say KEYWORD enough times in your copy and you will rise to the top of the KEYWORD pile and everyone will KEYWORD find your KEYWORD site and KEYWORD love you forever. KEYWORD. KEYWORD. KEYWORD.

Of course, that’s not the case. Knowing the search terms your clients are using will help you shape your copy, and you do want to use them, especially in titles and headers, but not at the expense of writing something useful and making good sense. Google’s not dumb. You won’t get points for ramming repeated phrases into your content.

Be vague. Who needs a point? You write for the love of it and carry your audience with you. You have a lovely turn of phrase, and readers delight in the clever way you string together words and sentences with such charming ease. What was I on about? No matter, you’re here, on my website, reading my copy, and I’m entertaining you. Lovely lovely me.

Or not. If you’re not being useful, people won’t stick around. Write copy with a point, and stick to it.

Be very serious at all times. Business is important. Your business is uber important. Your content should be heavyweight. It’s wearing a tie and very neatly polished shoes. Lecturing is good. Imagine you’re standing behind a lecturn and addressing the nation with some really serious news. That will strike the right note. There’s no place for light heartedness, and certainly no room for jokes. Don’t crack a smile. Stop sniggering at the back.

We say, relax a bit. A little humour will get you a long way. Everyone likes to smile, so don’t be afraid to have fun with your content.

Design is unnecessary frippery. Your content speaks for itself. A great big slab of unbroken text is just what your readers want. Pictures are for primary school kids, white space is wasted space. Fill all the available area with your wonderful words. A good look to aim for is an old fashioned encyclopedia page. Readers just love to roll their sleeves up and get stuck into heavyweight content like that.

Or maybe not. Make your content easy to read, choose images that lift the text, let the words breathe, scaffold your content with helpful headers that let readers scan and guide them through to the end. Yada, yada, yada. You know what works for you.

But if you need help creating valuable content, then get in touch.

The art of the sales follow-up

Sales follow up robots

Not everyone will buy at the first sales meeting.

Inertia, lack of time, budget constraints, other more pressing matters to deal with – there are many valid reasons why the first sales meeting does not immediately lead to a sale. Yet according to research only 20% of sales leads are ever followed up. That’s a shining pile of sales opportunity lost without a trace, simply due to lack of good follow up.

Valuable content makes for perfect sales follow-up. Instead of strong-arm closing or increasingly desperate demands for a decision, keep the dialogue open by sending your prospect information that they will value – the saw this and thought of you strategy.

Send a link to industry news and research that proves the urgency of the approach you recommended.

Write an article that reminds them of the benefits of your solution and nudges them towards the sale.

Invite them to join your mailing list and send valuable newsletters and updates build trust and keep you front of mind until they are ready to buy.

Valuable content can also be used at the proposal / presentation stage and to keep in touch after putting in a proposal without seeming pushy. The content has to stay relevant. If the client feels that they have been put on a database and sent a generic email you will lose their credibility and enthusiasm. Be valuable, stay relevant.

Valuable content can really ease the sales process at every step. Use it to help you open doors, nurture those leads and build stronger relationships with clients and customers.

If you need help creating content to win you sales, get in touch.

Why interruption marketing is a waste of time

do not disturb - interruption marketing is a lost cause

Interruption marketing is a lost cause. Here’s why you need to focus on content instead.

Scenario 1
I need a new phone. I ask my friends what models they recommend. I search on the internet, compare prices, features and deals. I make a decision based on the information I find, and I buy a new phone.

Scenario 2
I want to watch something on 4OD. Ads for HTC phones keep popping up. Clicking on the X makes them open, not close. I get annoyed. I’m offered a survey in preference to an ad. That won’t go away either so I end up with 15 open ads/survey windows, and no TV show. I give up, listen to the radio instead, and vow to never ever ever buy an HTC phone.

Interruptions are annoying

Not only does interruption marketing not work for me, it is completely counterproductive. And I’m not the only one. Being forced to watch something when you’re trying to do something else doesn’t please anyone. Why would you want to make potential customers angry?

How great content helps spread the word

The company would have been far better making some brilliant phones, and then creating some fantastic content that tells the story of how their phones work and how they help their users. If they were great phones, I believe I would have heard about them on my social networks. We all love to share good stuff. Great content spreads and takes root on the web, and I’ve have found it at the right time – e.g. the time when I was looking for information about phones, and not trying to watch something else.

Why we love Valuable Content

The reason we put our time and creative energy into marketing with content is because we know it works. It doesn’t turn potential customers off. It’s means you’re there when potential clients want you – being all helpful and useful and saying exactly the right stuff. And it means you’re not wasting your time being all pushy and persistent when they don’t. Interruption marketing makes no sense. Respect the ‘do not disturb’ and just say ‘no’ to it!

If you want help creating the kind of content that won’t make potential clients scream at their laptops, then get in touch.

Is your website self-obsessed?

dinner party

Ever sat next to someone at a dinner party who talks about themselves non stop, and doesn’t ask you any questions at all? Or been cornered by a party guest who gives you their whole life history without pausing for breath?

Being talked at, rather than listened to, is a sure fire way to make people seek solace elsewhere. And this same self obsession affects websites too. If your website is all ‘me, me, me’ you can guarantee people will be slipping off to refill their glasses, probably never to return.

5 traits of dinner party bores to avoid with your website

1. The waffler. They’re talking, but you don’t actually know what they’re saying. Perhaps they’re trying to impress you, but all it’s doing is making you assess the quickest route to to door. Make sure your site is easy to understand, written in the language your clients use.
2. The show off. Jacinta got 6 A starred A levels, Tarquin is really terribly accomplished on the mandolin, and Geoffrey’s being knighted. By all means, be proud of all your business has achieved, but a little humility doesn’t go amiss.
3. The terribly shy tongue tied one. Opposite to the show off, but sometimes just as trying. Your website needs to have something to say, a clear message that potential clients can relate to.
4. The monotone drone. Everything they say is tinged with grey. It’s not that the words are inherently dull, but the delivery makes you want to put your head on the table and weep or sleep. Make sure your content is presented in an engaging way. Changes in pace, variations in tone – how you say it is as important as what you’re saying.
5. The flibbertigibbet. One second they’re talking about house prices, then it’s Kate’s diminishing figure, then it’s ooh have you caught up with the Wire and isn’t coriander a vastly underrated herb? Quite frankly, you can’t keep up, so you switch off. Don’t make the same mistake with your website, keep it focused so that people keep listening.

Is your website friendly or off putting? A broad mix of engaging content that shows you’re listening, as well as broadcasting, is the best way of keeping your audience interested. If you need help creating the kind of content that people will want to spend time with, then get in touch. There’s also lots of information on creating engaging websites in Valuable Content Marketing, able to pre-order on Amazon.

You might also like:
Five ways to get your business voice right
Five ways to make your home page a hit

It’s not you, it’s me

it's not you, it's me.

It’s a terrible break up line, and a bad premise for a website, yet it’s a mistake that many businesses make with their web marketing. Creating a site that focuses on your business, rather than your customer’s concerns won’t win you many fans.

If you think of your website as an online brochure, a place to promote your services and list your achievements, then it’s unlikely to bring you many leads. It’s a sad fact of life that people don’t really care about your business. What they care about is what your business can do for them. How can you help them?

But surely, you might say, my company website has to be about my company? And you’d be right, in a way. It’s a matter of reframing what you do, and seeing it through the eyes of potential clients. It means putting everything you’re writing through a customer reality check.

Does your customer care that your business was established in 1853, and that you have delightful waterside offices, or do they want to see that you understand the issues they’re facing, and that you have the answers?

This is where valuable content comes in. By creating a lot of helpful content that directly addresses the issues your clients are wrestling with you can show rather than tell that your business can help. Building a bank of genuinely useful stuff, and having it upfront on your website home page is a great way of letting potential clients know they’ve come to the right place. A blog, where you share what you know and give away knowledge for free, speaks far more loudly of a generous approach than any number of awards.

There is a place for your business history and heritage on your website – by all means include it in your About Us section – but make sure it’s outweighed 10, 20, or even 100 to one, by pieces of content that are really valuable to your clients.

How to make your website all about your client, not you.

Valuable checklist – does your website include?
A blog which you update regularly.

Quick win articles – top tips – how-to guides offering useful advice that will help your clients right now.

A longer piece of content – a white paper or e- book -something to satisfy people looking for more depth and detail.

Video – not everyone likes to read, so getting your content into video format increases its accessibility. (NB the video has to be useful. Not you standing in front of your office saying ‘Established in 1853….’)

Case studies – more show, not tell, of the way you help your clients.

If you need help with creating a website that’s all about your clients, or with content creation for your current site, get in touch.

You might also like:

How great content gets you found
Know your audience
Creating case studies that sell

How to just do it!

stop procrastinating with writing

Writing – whether it’s blogs, newsletters or longer pieces of content – is the smartest way to spread the word about what you do.

However, getting down to the act of writing is difficult if you’re running your own business. It’s impossible to just drop everything and focus on writing alone – there’s so much else that needs your attention. And even when you do get the time, suddenly other things seem more pressing. Should I check my email? Tidy my desk? Have a cup of coffee?

Here are some things that help get writing done:

1. Think of the bigger picture.
The words you are writing are part of your big marketing plan. An easy small step in the right direction, not a huge unsurmountable hurdle. Get it into proportion and it won’t feel as hard.

2. Stop wasting time shivering on the edge, just leap in!
Open your computer, don’t turn on Twitter, don’t look at Facebook, don’t open email, just start writing. Once you start, you’ll get into the flow.

3. The sooner you start the sooner you finish.
Anticipate the end. Once you’ve done it, it’s done, and it won’t have to be done again. Get on with it!

4. Promise yourself a treat.
It works for small children and for grown ups too. 400 words and I can go for a walk/have a cake/make that phone call.

5. Remove yourself.
Write somewhere different, away from the distractions of your usual working day. A quiet meeting room, a café, a library, even a different desk. 

6. Make a commitment.
Deadlines work, (it’s the only way we ever get our writing done!)

7. Carve out some real time, and protect it from other demands.
Five minutes a day to record your ideas in a blog diary, half an hour to plan a blog (and write one too, once you’re really up and running), an hour and a half to write something that addresses the question that keeps coming up, and get it up on your website.

Writing really will make all the difference to your business, so set aside the time, and keep to it. What works for you? We’d love to know.

“We also go to Antarctica” – or why you need more valuable content on your website

alps in summertime. image for 'why you need more valuable content.'

Scene 1. A woman enters travel agency.

Woman: Hello, I’m thinking of going on a walking trip to the Alps.
Travel agent: I see madam, we’re excellent at walking trips to the Alps.
Woman: That’s good. Can you tell me a bit more?
Travel agent: We’re excellent at walking trips to the Alps. We also organise walking trips to Corsica, the Pyrenees and Majorca.
Woman: Nice, but I’m interested in the Alps.
Travel Agent: We’re excellent at walking trips to the Alps. We also go to Antarctica.
Woman: Goodbye.

Scene 2. A woman enters travel agency

Woman: Hello, I’m thinking of going on a walking trip to the Alps.
Travel agent: I can help you with that, we organise walking trips to the Alps.
Woman.: That’s good. Can you tell me a bit more?
Travel agent: When were you thinking of going?
Woman: I’m not sure.
Travel agent. This guide to the best times to travel might help you decide. Take it, it’s free.
Woman: Thanks. Summertime probably. My partner is very interested in Alpine plant life.
Travel agent: This might help, it’s our guide to the Flora and Fauna of the Alps. We’ve highlighted the best walks, and put in the details of the places you can stay on the way.
Woman: Thanks. But to be honest, I’m not that interested in the flowers. Is there anything else for me to do while he’s hunting Edelweiss? Something a bit more exciting?
Travel agent: Try this video ‘Ten amazing Alps experiences.’ We made it last year on one of our adventure trips. It’s pretty awesome. Especially the paragliding bit. Amazing views.’
Woman: Thank you, you’ve been really helpful. I’ll get back to you.

Okay, so that’s all pretty unrealistic, but you get the idea. Your website is the travel agency. It’s no good having lots and lots of destinations on offer, if you can’t demonstrate that you know the places inside out. Huge websites with multiple service pages that say ‘we’re excellent at this,’ but which don’t offer further routes to explore won’t engage people.
You need the kind of helpful content your clients are looking for to show that you know your stuff. The right content will keep them interested, help them make a choice, and trust you. And that’s the bottom line. ‘We also go to Antarctica’ will leave you out in the cold.

If you want help creating the right content for your website, call me on 07985 015300.

How to find stuff to write about

pebbles on a beach

Creating the kind of content that your clients want is the best way of raising your profile and winning more business, but knowing exactly what to write about can feel like a hurdle. How can your make your valuable content hit the mark?

Five ways to get your content on target

1) Listen What kind of questions do clients ask you? This blog post was prompted like that. People are always asking us ‘but what can I write about?’ so we’re confident this post is going to find a readership of people who are thinking about their marketing, who may want help from us at some time, or who would be happy to refer us people who know useful stuff about content.

Keep a notebook. Jot down the questions you’re asked. Answer them with 5 bullet points. Each question will form the basis of a short blog post.

2) Research What are the big questions in your market? A quick jaunt around the relevant LinkedIn groups, or the liveliest forum in your industry will show you the issues that are raising a stir. Look at upcoming conferences – what are the speaker topics?

Pick the topic that catches your eye. Draft a simple Q and A blog post that deals with the topic from the point of view of your customers. Don’t worry about being a ‘thought leader’ (you don’t have to give the lecture!) Write about the subject as if you were explaining its relevance to a favourite client. What would they want to know about it?

3) Interview Uncover your inner journalist and interview a client, an expert from your team, or someone in your industry that you admire. Ask them the questions your clients would ask you.

Use the interview as a podcast on your website, or the edited transcript as the basis for a blog post. Or two.

4) Survey 92% of people believe everything they read in surveys. Okay, so we made that up, but there’s nothing like some interesting data to grab headlines, and make an interesting read.

Try LinkedIn or Surveymonkey. There are plenty of web tools that will let you do this for free. Frame the questions in terms your target market cares about. Use what you find for a blog post, or as fuel for an email marketing campaign.

5) Repurpose What content are you sitting on? Most companies, if they do a quick audit, will realise they’re sitting on valuable nuggets of content gold e.g presentations, research created for a different context, information your wrote for sales proposals – even printed guides lying around.

With a bit of reworking you can get these online and make them available to a wide audience. Make the most of what you’ve already got!

Quick tips to keep ideas coming your way

1. Ask your clients and prospects – there’s nothing better than a direct, face-to-face chat.
2. Listen in to the top commentators or bloggers in your field – they have their ear to the ground.
3.Set up Google Alerts on key terms to find out what’s being talked about on the web.
4. Twitter Search tools (e.g.Twilert) are useful – see what’s trending on Twitter.
5. Which of your blog posts get the most comment? Write more on that subject.
6. What questions do you get frequently asked by clients in sales meetings? Answer them with a blog.
7. Guest blog. Ask a related expert to write on your blog, and return the favour next month.
8. Share an infographic that explains things clearly from a different angle- look at Pinterest for inspiration.

How to write content so that search engines will find you, and people will like you

search engines and people love your content

The rush to make the most of SEO has led to a plethora of not so great websites, and a few good jokes.

Have you heard the one about the SEO expert who walks into the bar, public house, pubs, bars, public houses, Irish pub, liquor house, drinks, beer, ale, wine, wines………?

Stuffing your web copy with key words might fool a search engine into ranking you highly (although Google has wised up and won’t rate you if you look like a key word stuffing spammer), but it won’t make a reader stick around for long. No one likes copy that doesn’t make sense. Writing becomes meaningless when it’s overloaded with phrases that add nothing to the flow of an argument, so squeezing in as many keywords as possible won’t win you any friends. The key to pleasing search engines and people is to create well targeted valuable content, written in a natural and engaging tone of voice.

1. Start with people, not Google.

A keyword search can help you plan your article, but your first point of reference should always be your clients and customers, as your aim is to create content that’s genuinely useful to them. Google can help you do this, by showing you the terms that people are searching for in the wider world – throwing up some related search terms that you hadn’t thought of, maybe offering a sideways route into your subject that you didn’t initially think of – but it can’t replace the real people that you deal with, and that you build your business around.

2. Keep your article focused on the issue.

You’ve defined the problem that your clients want help with, and you’ve checked with Google that there’s an interested wider market searching for material on your subject, so write that article succinctly. Both readers and SEO bots like content that sticks to the point. You don’t need to hammer home all the key word search terms, but do use them as a framework for whatever it is you’re writing. Use your keyword research to keep you on a tight rein. Don’t wander off!

3. Be natural.

Write as if you were talking to someone sitting next to you. When it comes to putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, write for a real person. Keep the real person in mind, not a SEO bot. Your SEO keyword research has framed your thinking and planning, but it shouldn’t influence the phrases you use, or the tone of voice you adopt. If you’re writing helpful content that answers a genuine need, it will please everyone.

4. Use your keyword in the title.

Headlines need to grab attention, they have to cut through an awful lot of chatter on Twitter and all the other places you’ll be publicising your blog. Make it easy for people to find you by crafting the search term they’ll be using into your title. For example, if you were writing about the benefits of reclaimed flooring, say so upfront. SEO bots search for relevant titles, so your article will be found and ranked if it’s called – ‘How reclaimed flooring cuts renovation costs’ – but not if it’s called ‘Flooring it – a guide to cost cutting.’ If you keep the title short, you can give yourself room to add some funny/punny words around it to give it a lift on social networking sites, but make it easy for people to see exactly how relevant it is to their query by giving it a clear title upfront. Don’t be too clever.

5. Use keywords in sub headings.

Web readers skim read, so guide them through your writing with sub headings to keep them on track, and show them what’s coming up next. Tying the headings to keywords helps Google see that your article is relevant, in the same way that it reassures readers that your article is targeting the promised issue.

6. Keep producing relevant helpful content.

One well written, targeted and engaging article is great for customers and your website’s ranking. Ten is good, a hundred is even better. Adding more and more pages of genuinely useful content will make your site more attractive to your customers, and it will help your site get found by more people. The thing that will help search engines find you, and will make people like you, is quality content that serves a real purpose. Both Google, and your customer, want you to help them. At heart, it’s as simple as that.

As Adrian Knight, SEO expert at Digital Websites UK says,

“Google’s mission is to serve the highest quality and relevant material to its searches. Help them to do this by producing high quality, valuable content created with the user in mind, and you will do well.”

Related posts

The Seven Deadly Word Sins
Writing for websites
6 ways to get your business voice right

Stop, look, and edit

wait before you publish blog

If your New Year’s goal was to blog more for your business, then we congratulate you. Creating a steady stream of valuable content really is the best way to carve out your niche and get your message out to the right people.

Once you’ve got into the swing of writing, you’ll come to recognise the euphoria that accompanies the finishing of a great blog article. There will be five minutes when what you’ve just written is the most important thing that’s ever been written in the entire world on that subject. There’s not a moment to waste – you have to share it now, this very second, your life and the sanity of the world depends upon it!

There’s also a drive to be finished with it, particularly if you’re in the grip of the resolution fuelled New Year’s spirit. Ticking it off your things-to-do list would make you feel better, so you’re itching to upload.

The very best thing to do now is not to press send, but to save the document, close it, and go back and look at again tomorrow with clearer, more cynical eyes.

Just a few hours distance should make you better able to check the piece for the following common mistakes.

Five things to do before you press ‘publish’

1. Is it on target? It felt like it was at the time, but writing can be deceptive sometimes. Ask yourself if it is genuinely useful for your clients?  It might be that some simple tweaking is all that’s needed to pull it back in line, or it might be that you need to put it on hold for longer. Great ideas are never wasted, but they do need the right format to fly. Don’t be scared of pulling something if you know it’s not right.
2. Have you missed any words out? Easily done when the prose is flying. Check your copy slowly and carefully to make sure it makes sense.
3. Have you repeated words? Again, it’s a common mistake when you’re writing fast. Check again.
4. Is it spelt correctly? Is it the right word? Spell check picks up most errors – but it won’t pick up mis-substituted words. Don’t let something go out until it makes perfect sense.
5. Is the grammar right? Developing a natural and engaging tone of voice doesn’t mean you can stop writing proper, like.  Inaccurate grammar halts readers in their tracks, and it makes your writing hard to understand.  If you’re not sure, ask someone else to check too. Even if you are sure, a second pair of eyes is never a bad idea.

So, do start writing, and keep at it, but make sure you build a window of editing and reflection time into your blogging schedule. And Happy New Year!

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