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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.

Be the expert

front cover of romance novel

‘Show not tell’ is the advice given to writers, and it holds true for business.

In a novel I don’t want to be told that the hero is gorgeous.  Let me see how women react to him.  Let me hear what he says. Make me fall in love with him too.
And the same goes for business marketing.  Don’t tell me your customer service is great, show me how your services help people like me.  Be specific. Details matter.
Demonstrating your expertise is a good way of showing, not telling, that you’re top of your game.
Canadian Business guru Blair Enns, founder of Win Without Pitching http://www.winwithoutpitching.com/founder advocates demonstrating knowledge an inch wide and a mile deep.  Really knowing your stuff puts you in a much more powerful marketing position than knowing a little about a lot.
Case studies, published either on your website, or as part of a broader marketing campaign, are a great way of showing how your business operates and adds value.
Clearly demonstrating how your business solved a client’s problem – resulting in increased turnover, happier staff, a new contract – is the best kind of marketing.  Show how your services boost the bottom line figures, and you’ve demonstrated your expertise.
Experts have opinions, so share yours.  Write the paper, talk at the conference, blog about what’s new, keep your website up to date. Be seen and heard.
And the best bit about this kind of marketing? It’s not expensive. You don’t need glossy adverts, you just need to able to write.  Or know someone who does.

Five Ways to get your business voice right

The case for promoting your business with clear compelling copy is already won. No one would argue that it’s good to be waffly and confusing. Likewise the need for accuracy. Spelling and punctuation matter, because getting them wrong makes your communications look unprofessional and this reflects badly on your brand. You know that already.

But how do you do it?

Here’s my top five tips for creating a clear business voice.

1. Short sentences are better than long ones. Really, they are. For example, if you’re reading this hoping to discover the reasoning behind my implication that the length of both word and sentence impacts upon the readability of said article, or web page, then by this point you might be becoming a little weary of it, wondering aloud to yourself, maybe quietly, maybe not, when, oh when, will it ever reach a conclusion, and I might say to you, maybe quietly too, or I might shout it, or even sing it as an operatic soprano might, in top C, that it’s not going to.

So, short and sweet is better. Cut sentences down. Be ruthless. Don’t be frightened of full stops, they’re your friends, so use them.

2. And it’s the same with words. Don’t say ‘facilitate’ when you mean ‘help.’

I’m not saying limit your vocabulary, English is full of beautiful words, but if there’s a simpler way to say it, then use it. Your aim is to be clear and easily understood. Get potential clients from A to B without losing them on the way in a maze of confusing words and meandering sentences.

Twitter is great for getting you to cut down on the waffle, and it’s good to keep that discipline in mind when writing other copy too.

3. Create a team. Your voice should reflect your brand. If you’re more than a one-man band use ‘we’ when you’re talking about what you do. We help our customers like this. ‘We’ is inclusive and engaging, and can put you on a level with your potential client. But… read on…

4. Look lively. Get some energy into that copy to engage potential clients. A good trick for creating a compelling business voice is to look at the first words in each of your sentences and make sure they’re different. Long lines of ‘we’s are dull; ‘we do this,’ ‘we do that,’ yawn, yawn. Throw in some new ones. Shake it up a bit.

5. But our business is different. What we do is highly technical and specialized. There’s no way round the jargon.

Potential customers need to see how you solve problems for people like them. Expertise can be a stumbling block if you just dump it in somebody’s path. Take a step back and get some perspective on what you do. Ask your clients what they like about you, and I guarantee it won’t just be your technical know-how. If you’re good, it will be your problem solving abilities, the fact you keep your promises, the way you use your skills to make their businesses run more smoothly. A powerful business voice communicates these qualities first, and lets the expertise speak for itself.

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.