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Tag Archives: clients

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 things your newsletter needs

dustbin

A good newsletter is a great communication tool. A dull one goes straight into the trash. Here’s how to make yours stand out.

Think about why you’re producing the newsletter. If it’s just because you think you ought to, the chances are it won’t succeed. Newsletters are a great way to keep in touch with customers, reward clients, share knowledge, demonstrate expertise, convert warm leads into sales….so make up your mind what your goal is before you start.

Having a clear aim in sight makes it much easier to create relevant content that targets your readership and makes a real connection.

Authenticity

Chances are your business isn’t the only one offering your services. True uniqueness is rare. But it will have qualities that make you different from your competitors, and these need to shine through in your newsletter. Create content that spotlights the way your service is different. Demonstrate how your particular focus helps your clients.

Voice

Write it well, in a voice that reflects your brand guidelines. In practice this probably means finding a designated person in your business to write it every month, or outsourcing it to a good copywriter. (What is doesn’t mean is passing it round the office so that everyone can write their bit.) Consistency, accuracy and style count.

Brand

Newsletters have a privileged position in your communications toolbox. Your clients have signed up for it, they’re already interested in you. But just because you’re preaching to the converted it doesn’t mean you can churn out any old sermon. Treat the newsletter with as much attention to your brand values as you would your website, or special marketing campaign.

Design

Invest in design – just because they’ve signed up for it doesn’t mean they’ll read it. A good designer will work with your writer to make the content engaging, accessible, and easy to navigate They’ll work together to create headlines that draw people in, and make sure the page is balanced and reader-friendly.

I can help you get started with your newsletter. A new perspective is often helpful when you’re trying to define goals and identify brand strengths. Or I can write it for you. Do call if you think I can help – 07985 015300

How to write your ‘About Us’ page.

Picture of Kermit the Frog

Chances are the most viewed pages on your website are About Us and your client list. Who are you, and who trusts you with their business ? Two key things that potential clients want to know before getting in touch.

Client lists are self explanatory – names, logos, testimonials, and soundbites all linked to case studies add credibility to your business.

But what about About Us? The section is a chance to let potential clients see the real you, and to show a bit of personality. But what bit of you, and how much personality? There are infinite ways of doing it, and we thought it would be useful to outline an approach we like.

So here it is, some Valuable Content tips to creating a powerful About Us page.

Do see the page from your potential client’s point of view. Your golfing prowess might be awesome, but how does that help them? Write about your approach to the business, not your hobbies.

Do think about the page as part of your business story. Write about how your role fits and contributes to that story. ‘Before joining x I worked as a sales consultant for fifteen years. My understandings of what can make or break a sale help my clients succeed’.

Do share your mission. What do you believe, and why? Define your audience – what kind of people can your business help?

Do interpret your data with your offer clearly in mind. So don’t just say ‘I worked as an accountant for 20 years before starting my payroll business,’ write ’20 years in accountancy showed me how crucial payroll services are to business success.’ Keep asking yourself ‘why is this relevant?’

Don’t write too much. Remember the rules of good web writing. Short and to the point is good. Strong headlines will draw people in, so link to further pages if there’s more to say.

Do make sure the whole page links well to the rest of your site. Relevant About Us copy will make natural links to your clients and services and approach, so embed them in the site. Fire enthusiasm, and lead people seamlessly to the rest of your content.

Do use good professional pictures of you and your team. People like to see who they will be working with.

Don’t be too obscure. You might feel that you’re best represented by a picture of a lovely smooth pebble, or a snap of Kermit the frog, but not everyone will get it. (However if you do want to go down an alternative visual representation route, make sure your explanation is easy to find and written with wit.)

Don’t be boring but…….

Don’tbe ‘wacky’ or ‘zany’ or anything that could be remotely interpreted as something Timmy Mallet might do. Nothing along the ‘you don’t have to be crazy to work here…..’ lines, please.

Do ask for help. An independent view can be really valuable in helping you see what’s most relevant and most compelling for a potential client. If you’d like us to help you create an About Us page that gets your message across, please get in touch.

Six steps to great web writing

A funny thing comes over some businesses when they start putting together their web copy. Rather like having a posh ‘telephone voice’, they write about themselves in an artificially ‘proper’ way.

Instead of saying ‘we run coaching workshops for new businesses’, they’ll write ‘we facilitate training sessions to leverage success for business.’ It’s a bit like having Hyacinth Bouquet answering your office phone. More than a little off putting.

When I’m writing web copy, I imagine I’m telling someone in the same room. My tone is conversational. I use the same words to explain something that I’d use if you were sitting next to me. Good web copy makes a connection with its reader. Lacing your sentences with unnecessarily long words puts your readers at a distance, and that’s not where you want them.

Sometimes I think it’s a confidence thing. People don’t feel they’ll be taken seriously if they talk in everyday language. Big words are good for hiding behind. My advice would be to take a deep breath, and just tell it how it is.

Top six web writing tips

1. Be clear. Say it out loud before you write it down.
2. Use short sentences. They’re easier to understand.
3. Keep technical language to a minimum. Of course some pages demand it – especially if your offer is a technical one. But your Home page and About Us copy should certainly be straightforward.
4. Be accurate. A conversational tone doesn’t mean you can forget your grammar. Good grammar makes your writing make sense.
5. Get to the point. There’s no room for rambling digressions in web copy. Users want information fast, so cut anything superfluous and give important stuff room to breathe.
6. Be yourself. Connect with your reader.

Top tips for successful newsletters

  1. Get sign up first. However lovingly worded and beautifully designed, if they didn’t ask for it, it’s spam.
  2. Be brief. People are busy. Even scrolling down too far is too much. One page max.
  3. Grab their attention. Headlines matter. Newsletter 73 isn’t going to get anyone rushing to click, but a great offer just might. Be careful though. We all love a bargain, but too many once in a lifetime sales make you look desperate.
  4. Use your voice. Newsletters need to follow your brand guidelines, in a tone of voice that matches the rest of your communications. So no text speak if you’re a firm of solicitors, and no stiff formality if you plan parties. (Actually, no stiff formality anywhere. Straightforward, honest and warm covers most bases).
  5. Reward. People on your mailing list are your special customers. Make them feel part of an exclusive club and they’ll reward you with loyalty. Money off deals work, but so does information. Letting your favourite customers in on the news before the rest of the world makes them feel important.
  6. Get the timing right. Once I signed up for a diet newsletter and they mailed by twice a day. Way too much. Once a year, and your customers might have forgotten who you are. (Unless you sell Christmas trees).
  7. Share success. Letting your clients know about your latest award makes them feel happy to be associated with you. It’s an affirmation that they might the right choice in working with you. We all like to be right.

Writing for new business start ups

cutting the ribbon on a new venture

Sometimes you can be too close to a great idea to see how to market it. Your unique selling point can become buried under everything else that goes with starting out on a new venture.

It’s all about communication. Expressing your idea in language that speaks to your potential clients.

Often less is more. One great image can often say more than a page of explanation. Like distilling, branding concentrates the essence of your proposition into something truly potent.

I can help you define your offer, and capture it in compelling marketing material, sales letters, web copy and brochures.

Creating case studies that sell

Case Studies

Packing your site with valuable content is the best way to showcase your operation – and case studies are the kings of valuable content. Demonstrating how you add value, case studies bring your website to life, and will always be clicked on by prospective buyers.

There’s an art to creating good ones – here are my tips for case studies that sell.

Do your homework.
Set aside proper time to interview the client at a time that suits them. Set the agenda. Have your questions ready. Record the conversation so you have time to listen properly without scribbling like a maniac. Give the client time to say other things that might not be on your agenda. Keep asking ‘why?’ It’s a hugely valuable process, and you can learn a lot about what it’s like to work with you.

(If the idea of this makes you uncomfortable, ask someone else to conduct the interview for you. People often find it easier to talk to a third party, so this approach has other advantages too.)
Headlines matter.
Case studies are the heavy weight evidence proof of your expertise, but don’t treat them too reverentially. You want people to read them. So apply the usual rules of smart business writing and grab attention with a headline – Don’t say ‘Monetizing the Web Operations of AN Company: A Case Study.’ Say ‘Profits doubled in three months – here’s how.’

Make the challenge clear.
Your case study is your chance to show precisely how you add value, so explain it in lovely plain language.

Streamline the process.
In the real world, projects can be fairly rambling affairs. The parameters change, people change jobs and roles, life happens. The project had a bit of a hiccup in the third month when Jane from HR went on maternity leave…..But for the purposes of the case study, keep to the brief. Your aim is to show how you moved your client from A to B. Show your focus.

Use direct speech.
Use your client’s words. It’s partly a style thing, speech lifts a piece of writing and makes it much lighter to read. More importantly, it adds real credibility. It’s show not tell. An advantage of getting someone else to write your case studies is it makes that harvesting of this kind of valuable information much easier. Tell me again, how great am I?

Break it up.
As well as using speech, use bullet points to highlight your targets, list your objectives. Keep the busy web reader in mind and make it really easy for people to read.

Results.
Make it clear and unambiguous. How your help raised the bottom line. It’s the most important bit. Don’t let your case study dribble away at the end. End on a high.

And finally.
Put your case studies up at the front of your website. Too often companies stack them at the back of their site, like dusty old volumes at the top shelf of a library. Make them grabby and glossy and stick them in the waiting room. Think Grazia*, not the Encylopedia Brittanica.

*insert magazine of your choice here.