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Tag Archives: Valuable Content

How to get the best results from your content writer


Content writers are greedy. We devour information. This is why.

The best and most valuable content distills your expertise, approach, and experience into copy that connects with readers. All the research, reading, talking and thinking goes into the distillation, so for the best results, give us lots to go on. To stretch the analogy probably one step too far, giving us a rich and varied diet leads to copy akin to the best malt whiskey – interesting, with depth, layers, heritage and a kick. With nothing to go on, the best we can manage is weak tea.

So to get the best from us you need to feed us a lot. Here’s what we like to eat.

1. Your current website. Why are you reworking the site? What don’t you like about it? Which elements are successful? Talk it through with us before you take it down.
2. Any marketing material you’ve produced in the past. We know it’s out of date, but it helps us get a feel for your business.
3. Blogs, articles in journals, anything you’ve already written around your subject. It will help orientate us in your area of expertise, and will also spark ideas and questions for future blogs. Content writers are always looking for connections – to clients, organisations, groups that we can make links with through the new website. The more we’ve got to go on, the better the results will be.
4. Sales letters, recruitment ads. Both useful for helping see how you define your proposition.
5. Back of an envelope stuff. You know that lunch you had, where you had that really brilliant idea about where the business was going, so you wrote it down and you were going to send that memo but something else happened and you didn’t get round to it…….well, dig it out and give it to us. Turning ideas and thoughts into concrete copy is what you’re paying us to do, so share your ideas, and we’ll be able to do it for you.
6. Minutes from meetings. Meetings where you discussed branding, marketing, or finding new customers are useful background. Don’t be shy, let us read them.
7. Conversations with your clients. Really important, this one. We always start content writing from the point of view of your client. How do you help them? How does your business solve their problems? Talking to your clients and customers is the best way of getting to the heart of this, so put us in touch and let us talk.

What if you don’t have any of the above? What if it’s a new business? Then just talk to us. Creating web content is a collaborative process so carve out some space in your diary. We’ll come to you, ask you lots of questions, record our conversation and get the information that way.

At Valuable Content we’ve put together a questionnaire to kick start web projects – lots of structured questions that help us shape your content and define your message. Call me if you’d like to know more.

How content gets you found

illustration of man on top of a mountain

I’m doing some research for a new project – writing landing pages for a Pay Per Click web campaign – and I’ve been assessing my client’s competition.

The pages are for a legal practice, so it’s a very crowded market, yet one firm keep coming up top, again and again. And the thing that’s keeping them there is a very simple piece of valuable content.
This firm has created a straightforward and well written pdf document that answers all the ground level questions that I, (and I presume potential clients) will have on the subject. It’s not flashy, or particularly visual – nowhere near as comprehensive as an e-book – it simply lays out the key areas you need to understand.
Their expertise in the area isn’t explicitly referred to – but is implicit in the fact that they have created this ‘all you need to know’ document, and put their name to it.
For me, and potential clients at the information gathering stage of a project, resources like this are invaluable. We don’t want to ‘ring for a free appraisal’ – talking is something that comes a bit later, when you’ve orientated yourself in the area, and you know what you don’t know, and where you need help.
However their website would be the first I’d go to, if I wanted more information. And were I looking to pick up the phone to someone, they’d be top of my list, because they have already shown themselves to be understanding of my situation, authoritative, and ready to help.

Creating a valuable document to signpost people to your company

It’s not difficult to create this kind of valuable document, it just needs a clear understanding of your potential clients’ problems and a willingness to share your expertise. Here’s what you need to remember

1. Choose the right topic. What terms do people search for in your business? What are the most frequently asked questions from your newest clients? Build a document that addresses this, and get it up on your website as a simple download.
2. Don’t write the book. This law firm’s pdf worked because it answered the basic questions, and laid the ground rules. Going into too much detail would be a mistake here. Signposting documents aren’t the place to show off everything you know, rather they should answer clients first questions, and lead them to the next stage.
3. Think ‘quality’. Had this document been poorly written – stuffed with SEO filler words or simply not good to read – it would have had the opposite effect on me. Constantly being sent to a poor resource is irritating. If it’s going to surface again and again, make sure it stands up to all the attention.
4. Consider design. You don’t need to go overboard and invest in something too polished. Nor do you need images, it’s fine to produce something text only. However do think about typography –
a) pick a user friendly font.
b) consider judicious use of headlines to make your content easy to read on the web.
c) allow enough white space to give the words room to breathe.
d) break the text up into chunks. Potential clients are hungry for information, but they’ll still thank you for making it easy to digest.
e) Clear calls to action. This kind of document is the opposite of a hard sell sales piece, however you do want potential clients to know where you are once they’re ready to talk. Include some suggestions for further reading, and do include your contact details.

If you’d like my help putting together a valuable ‘signposting’ piece, call me on 07985 015300

Related posts:

How to stand out from the crowd

How great content gets you referrals – six rules to follow

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

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.

7 signs your website needs spring cleaning

fifties housewife

If you’re running your business on Valuable Content principles, then your website is the powerhouse. It’s the engine that drives everything, and most of the time – if you keep the content coming – it all runs smoothly, refining your niche and generating leads. 

 
Every once in a while though, you need to stand back, and ask yourself whether it’s working as well as it should. Peer into those neglected corners, scour the pages you usually skim over, and take a hard look at the way it’s arranged.
 We’re calling it our Valuable Content spring clean – and here are the seven signs that show your website needs one. 

1. You can’t update it yourself.

The best sites are really easy to manage – if you can’t make changes, add pages, and post the kind of information your clients are looking for without a phone call, then you need to do something about it. We recommend WordPress sites, but any content managed system that puts you in control will work.

2. You don’t know how many hits it gets, or how long people stick around.

How will you measure the impact of your valuable content if you don’t know who’s reading it? Get your analytics sorted, and use them to market yourself smarter.

3. You’ve still got too much text on the home page or a really long Flash intro.

We know it looked so good a few years ago, but now the world’s moved on. Your customers want information fast. Cut the distractions and get to the good stuff quicker.

4. It doesn’t make the right first impression.

Your content is static or out of date, or perhaps you have a blog but it is hidden out of sight. High performing websites lead with their content. One glance is enough to tell you that business is buzzing, and that these people can help you with your problem.

5. Your users don’t know where to go next.

Websites designed with users in mind work smoothly with the content on one page leading you to another. If the web copy sparks a question, the next step is a natural click away. Is this the way it happens on your website?

6. It’s not obvious how to get in touch.

Put addresses, phone numbers, email and Twitter details somewhere easy to find.

7. No calls to action.

Be bold about it. What do you want people to do once they’ve read your stuff. Sign up for your newsletter? Download your guide? Call you? So say it, clearly.

So, what are you waiting for?  Roll up your sleeves and get stuck in.  If you’d like an independent view of the way your website’s working, we’d be happy to help. And if you’d like to know more about Valuable Content’s high performing websites, give us a call.

The really Valuable guide to ‘Things to give up for Lent’

chocolate coated strawberry

Chocolate, wine, and cake – just three of the things that aren’t on Valuable Content’s list of things to give up for Lent.

We hope you’ll find our real selection more useful. Read on for a quick-fire list of the things we’d like to kiss goodbye today.

1. Jargon.
There’s always a better way of saying it. Make your content clear and accessible to all your clients. An independent view on what you’re writing can be handy to make sure you’re not slipping in phrases in that will alienate your readers.
2. Flash websites with no function.
There are still a few about, and we’d like to see them gone. Design your website with your user in mind. We guarantee they’ll want useful information that helps them solve a problem over something gimmicky any day.
3. Spamming people with messages, over and over again.
If you’re not getting results, you need to try something else. Search your content toolkit for a different approach.
4. Websites you can’t update yourself.
Your website should be the hub of your marketing – the living breathing centre of your business – bursting with relevant news, blogs, and information that potential clients will love. If every change demands a phone call to your designer, the chances are you won’t make them. Switch to a blog based site, we’re sure you’ll thank us for it!
5. Tweeting without listening and engaging.
As more and more businesses wise up to the marketing potential of Twitter, the good Tweeters are becoming clearer, and rarer. They’re the ones that talk as well as promote. Good Tweeters retweet others’ links, and say ‘thank you’ when you retweet theirs. Twitter’s not a free listings page, it’s a conversation that can engage and entertain as well as inform. Join in and play nicely, that’s the Valuable Content way.

What’s on your list? We’d love to know. And if we can help you with social media, new websites, or content for your business, please get in touch.

Five ways to make your home page a hit

estate agent board

When you’re trying to sell your home, estate agents recommend clearing out the clutter to show off your best features. I think the same applies to your home page. It’s the first place new visitors land, so you want to make a good impression.

Here are my five tips for a winning home page.

1. Clarity of purpose

Your home page should tell me very clearly and simply how you and your services can help me, so share your mission in a few well chosen words. I’m talking a paragraph at most. About Us will go into more detail about you and your ethos, so you don’t need to say lots here. Keep this page very clear and straightforward.

2. Navigation

I want to know exactly where to go next. Your home page should set the agenda, so your choice of words and destinations is important. Being too clever here can be a mistake. I see an awful lot of websites, and am a fan of the ones with the easiest navigation. The home page isn’t the place to surprise me, or to be oblique. Help me find my way around.

3. Call to action

What do you want me to do now I’m here? Call you? Read more? Look at this? Think about that? Don’t go overboard with your demands, but do try and get me to engage. The right words can pull me further into your site.

4. Evidence of life

Empty houses are harder to sell, and so are empty websites. I’d like to know you’re around, hard at work, helping people like me. Twitter feeds, blogs, video content. Have something on the home page that shows me you’re in business, right now. We’re talking tasters – headlines, logos, boxes – not the whole thing. Use your up-to-date content to lead me deeper into your website, and to reinforce your expertise.

5. Room to breathe

Sometimes I use the home page as a reference point, somewhere to go back to and orientate myself. In a large website, packed with valuable content, it’s good to have somewhere clear and simple to take a breath. (It’s a bit like returning to the blurb on the back of a book you’re reading. That concise reminder of the story that grabbed your attention is useful.) So don’t overload it. Less is more.

If you want Home page help, get in touch.

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

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.