Tuesday, March 21, 2017

4 Surefire Blog Article Options for Your Business

Successful online marketing hinges on the creation of high-quality marketing content disseminated on a regular basis to your target audience. The simplest way to keep that content train rolling along the track is by posting a steady stream of blog articles on your website and other social media channels. But even if you have a professional copywriter on hand to turn your ideas into text, somebody still has to come up with the ideas in the first place -- and that's where the content train often screeches to a halt. Fortunately, you don't have to re-invent the wheel every time you have to produce a new post. Here are four tried-and-true types of blog articles you can always turn (or return) to.

1. The Spotlight

Do you have something about your business you want to talk about, such as a branding change, new product line, new client or exciting upcoming development? Write a blog article about it! Your blog can throw the spotlight on a variety of buzz-worthy happenings, from a case study of a major problem you recently solved for a customer to that big charity event you're hosting in a few weeks. This option is especially attractive if you don't also have a dedicated news page on your site.

2. The Editorial

If you're an authority in your field, then your opinion matters -- or at least you want it to matter to those who encounter it online. An editorial piece on some aspect of your industry, or recent events that relate to your industry, can put your experience, expertise, and insights on display to powerful effect. You'll want to walk a fairly careful line, of course, because an overly inflammatory approach could easily alienate a lucrative segment of your audience, while a sour or grumpy tone may also prove a turn-off.

3. The How-To Guide

Everybody loves free guidance on how to solve a particular problem, especially if that advice is coming from someone who really knows his stuff. Well, every business on the planet meets some kind of need -- and a need is a problem looking for a solution. Dispensing valuable free advice is never time or effort wasted. Brighten a few lives with your expert how-to articles, and you can expect those folks to come back to you when it's time to pay for more complex solutions.

4. The List

People love to click on list articles. They're neatly organized, easy to read and easy to digest. Bloggers also love list articles because they provide a handy, ready-made format -- which naturally guides the brain into producing relevant talking points to fill those lists. For best results, give your list article a title that will compel your target audience to check it out, such as...oh, I don't know..."4 Surefire Blog Article Options for Your Business." See how that works?

When you're flailing around for blog topics, fall back on any of these categories and see if you don't suddenly get ideas. Happy blogging!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

4 Ways to Use Copywriting for Reputation Management

The issue of reputation seems to be on everyone's mind these days. Who can you trust? What should you believe? Which institutions or individuals are telling the truth, and which ones aren't? If you want your own brand to be trusted, you have to establish and maintain a sterling reputation in an increasingly skeptical world -- especially when that skeptical world is armed with the tools of modern social media. Fortunately, you've got some tools at your disposal as well, including the strategic use of strong, convincing marketing content. Here are four ways you can employ copywriting to strengthen your brand's reputation.

1. Building Your Online Authority

Your marketing content may do a good job of selling your products and services, but are you also leveraging its power to sell your reputation? As important as it is to create brilliant, exciting copy for your sales and benefits pages, don't neglect your About Us page. If you have decades of experience as a trusted provider, extraordinary training or special skills, make them known and stress their value. Then demonstrate that value by posting authoritative blog articles that provide genuinely helpful information.

2. Outweighing the Negative With the Positive

Did you know that negative statements and feeling are processed more quickly and have far greater impact than their positive equivalents? This negative bias means that a few bad reviews can influence your target market more profoundly than several good ones. That's why you need to keeping pumping out positive content over a variety of channels. Regular press releases and feature articles spotlighting your latest achievements, an ever-growing collection of testimonials from satisfied customers, white papers and case studies explaining how you solved specific problems for various clients -- and these other forms of copywriting can help you achieve the necessary weight of positive buzz to push back against any negative tide.

3. Answering Objections in Advance

One not-uncommon complaint that tends to come up in negative reviews is, "They claim to do such-and-such, but they don't actually tell you how they can achieve such miracles." If you leave gaping holes in your marketing arguments, you're inviting skepticism or even scorn from a jaded public. Anticipate your prospects' questions and concerns by addressing and defusing them in your written copy. The FAQ page of your website is an ideal place to do this, but you should always be mindful of objections that might occur at any point in other areas of your marketing content as well.

4. Responding With the Right Rebuttals

Despite your best efforts to serve your customers and put the right foot forward in your marketing content, negative reviews or comments will inevitably surface. Nobody's perfect, and your dissatisfied (and vocal) customers may take to social media or other channels to express their frustration. Their feelings may even be based on incorrect expectations or even sheer delusion on their part. You can't leave these complaints flapping in the wind unchallenged, but you can't stoop to anger or insults, either. As I've mentioned before, a professional copywriter can help you craft sensitive, sympathetic responses that also succeed in defending your point of view and your commitment to quality.

Expert copywriting can help you rise to the top of the trust game by securing and growing your brand's most valuable asset, its reputation. It's the truth -- believe me!



Monday, February 20, 2017

When Your Audience Isn't You

Many years ago I wrote a website for a client in one of the technical fields. The products and services were rather complex in nature, and the owners understood that their own technical backgrounds put them a bit out of touch with their non-technical target market. They asked me to write a set of marketing pieces that would work as a selling tool by sidestepping all the jargon and making the ideas accessible and attractive.

I'm usually a good choice for these "jargon-specific" jobs precisely because of my lack of technical, medical, or legal background. I come to the project as Joe Q. Public. If I can put the concepts into words that I can not only understand but respond to positively, I know I'm on the right track toward attracting that mainstream audience. Ignorance may not be bliss, but it can be highly practical in selective applications.

So I got to work and crafted some clear, simple (but not mindless) copy that stressed the bottom-line benefits of the products, appealing to readers' desire for ease, convenience, and value. A sensible approach, right?

But the owners were uncomfortable with what I'd done and took it around the offices (this was one of those "decision by committee" things), with each decision maker adding his share of comments and notes for the rewrite. Not surprisingly, there were practically no requested cuts -- only additions: "Let's talk more about the specs of this product line." "We need to be really clear about exactly what this does." And so on. I was still fairly new in the writing game at this point, so I didn't feel I had the gravitas to speak with authority against these suggestions (and truthfully, I was just grateful to have a lucrative gig, so I would've gone along with anything). So I employed every single "improvement" the client requested.

The client was delighted with the final result. But to this day, I've never displayed it in my portfolio, and I never will. It's a bloated mass of over-explanation that would put a ferret on amphetamines to sleep. I can't imagine the intended audience responded as the client had hoped; I don't even know for sure if the company is still in business. If it is, those marketing pieces weren't the deciding factor, I can guarantee that much.

So what went wrong, other than Yours Truly lacking the backbone to to correct his benefactors' corrections? Quite simply, the business owners abandoned their initial goals, and they ended up with writing that they liked, instead of what their audience would respond to. The first draft took them out of their comfort zone as technicians because it wasn't written for them.

It's one of the trickiest problems in copywriting, yet also one of the most crucial things to understand: You don't necessarily want writing that appeals to you; you want writing that appeals to your target market. If you are not your target market, then you may need marketing content that would underwhelm an engineer or an attorney or a neurosurgeon but tells your potential customers all they want and need to know.

Be honest -- if your marketing content is drawing web traffic to your site, lighting up your phone switchboard with inquiries or sending new customers through your doors, will you like it then? I'm betting you will!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

4 Ways to Work Valentine's Day Into Your Marketing

We're coming up on another Valentine's Day. If you sell gourmet foods, champagne or flowers, this particular holiday is obviously right up your alley. But any business can use this special day as a springboard for a variety of marketing opportunities. Let's look at four ways you can sweet-talk your target audience.

1. Thank-You Notes


There's no easier way to let your clients know how much you appreciate them than by writing and sending out thank-you notes. While you and your team may not have time to pen each of these meaningful messages by hand, you don't have to take completely generic approach either. Think about what kinds of messages would appeal directly to each specific segment of your clientele -- then write a few different variations on the theme of your heartfelt appreciation of them. For a really personal touch (and to help ensure that the letters get opened), you might even consider hand-signing and hand-addressing the envelopes; if that's not possible on a massive scale, you can at least do it for your VIP clients.

2. Special Offers


Valentine's Day is a time for giving gifts that show your sentiments, so why not give your beloved customers something nice that also happens to help drive more business your way? A Valentine's Day coupon, discount, gift certificate or other special offer can serve as the centerpiece for a "We Love Our Customers" campaign. If you can turn your products and services toward the theme of romance, from chocolates to spa days, so much the better.


3. "Share the Love" Contests


Love isn't just a one-way street, you know; hopefully, your customers think as highly of you as you do of them! Why not give them an opportunity to express their love for your products and services through some sort of "Share the Love" competition? Post the announcement (on your website, blog, social media channels et cetera) that you're looking for videos, photos or other submissions that show your customers using your product or service, standing next to your company signage or otherwise showing their support for your brand. You can even appeal to the writers in the crowd by asking them to include you in a poem or short story. Give out prizes for the most creative entries -- while coasting on a wave of positive buzz!


4. Valentine-Related Blog Articles


I've written before about the benefits of crafting seasonal blog articles, and Valentine's Day is no exception. You may be thinking that there's nothing remotely "romantic" about what you offer, but think again. As a professional ghost-blogger I've composed countless Valentine-centric articles about everything from life insurance (showing your family how much you care) to health services (February is American Heart Month). There are countless ways to turn this time of year toward any business or industry -- especially when you have the assistance of an imaginative, experienced copywriter.

Here's to a perfectly lovely -- and profitable -- Valentine's Day!


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Yes, "I Don't Want to Write It" Is a Good Reason to Hire a Freelance Copywriter

I was talking to a health and wellness professional today about helping her fill out the content on her website -- and at one point she put on a somewhat sheepish expression and said, lowering her voice, "I could do it myself, because I'm actually a pretty good writer. But I, uh...I don't want to." But you know what? That's okay. She shouldn't feel apologetic about her resistance to writing her own marketing content -- and for that matter, neither should you.

This display of embarrassment comes up from time to time, and what I find so interesting about it is that clients who acknowledge that they can't write their own material often seem less hesitant about engaging my services than those who could write their own material but choose not to. Their hesitation may be due to feelings of:

  1. Guilt - "I should be doing this, since I have the ability. Delegating it is irresponsible and lazy of me."
  2. Concern - "An outside party can't understand my business, industry or unique value as well I can."
  3. Frugality - "I don't need to be paying a writer for something I could be doing myself."

Let me address each of these pain points in turn. First, there's nothing lazy or irresponsible about outsourcing; it's just good business. You're no doubt exhausted enough by all the other issues you have to deal with on a daily basis -- issues that demand your attention and no one else's. Writing takes time, effort and mental energy you may not be able to spare, so outsource it and apply your strength where it's truly needed.

Second, it's understandable that you might worry whether your writer can grasp your products, services and corporate mission as well as you do. But a skilled professional has mastered the art, not only of writing, but also of listening and absorbing information. Better yet, as relative outsiders we can view your business from the standpoint of the general public -- possibly even better than you can.

Third, the frugality argument doesn't hold up when you think about the value of your billable time. Should you spend that time selling your wares, growing your business relationships and making the smartest possible decisions to steer your company into the future, or should you spend it writing marketing content -- and which scenario is more likely to help you make money instead of losing it?

Okay, so maybe Bartleby, Herman Melville's famous scrivener whose response to every request is "I would prefer not to," takes this too far. But "I don't want to write this" is a perfectly sound reason (among others) to put that content writing burden aside -- by handing it to me!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Why You Might Not Be Ready to Hire a Copywriter

I'd love it if every business owner out there contacted me and requested my writing services for that next big marketing project on the boards. The only snag is, I'd have to turn down most of those requests -- and not necessarily due to my own creative bandwidth limitations. Believe me, I stuff my calendar like Uncle Bob at an all-you-can-eat Thanksgiving buffet whenever I can, even though my brain sometimes cries out for a brief fasting period. But many times I encounter prospects who simply aren't ready to become clients because they haven't yet arrived at the point where hiring a copywriter makes the best sense for their current needs and situation. So how can you tell if you're jumping the gun? Here are a couple of major indicators:


You don't have a budget in place. 


It alarms me when I see clients paying me cash out their wallet or purse. Why? Because marketing payments should come out of a business's marketing budget, not somebody's grocery money. If you don't have an official marketing budget, you need to make one that fits into your overall business plan, just like any other corporate expense. Save your grocery money for groceries, and pay your business expenses with corporate funds. If you don't have any corporate funds, than your business problems most likely lie deeper than the marketing level.

You don't have a strategy in place.


Just as you need a marketing budget to fund any copywriting or other marketing expenses, you need a marketing strategy that dictates the most sensible way to spend that money. What are your long-term marketing goals for your brand? Which media channels can help you achieve those goals, and how should you use each of them in a way that strengthens your overall message? What is your Plan B if Plan A should spring a leak? These are questions for a marketing strategist, not a copywriter. If I get called in to write a press release and the client asks me, "What do you think we should say? Who should we write this for?" and so on, I gently steer them toward a marketing consultant who can help them figure those things out. Once you know how you'll market yourself, then you can figure out whether you need a copywriter's services.

If you're not whether you're ready to hire a copywriter -- just ask. Most experienced writers are astute and honest enough to point out any preliminary measures you may need to take first. I'm always happy to refer my prospective clients to other marketing experts who can lend a helping hand. And if you know you are ready to pull the trigger, I'm right over here holding up the big red target!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Outsourcing to a Freelance Copywriter? Do It the Smart Way

Once upon a time I received a request from a business owner who needed professional-quality content for his website. I suggested my Small Website Package, a heavily discounted web content service I offer to marketing vendors and end user alike, as the most cost-efficient and time-efficient way of making that happen. Some time went by with no response to my quote. When I followed up, he told me that he had been delayed in responding because he figured he could save money by roughing out the content himself and simply letting me edit it. 

No such luck. The content I received was so rough that it took me many hours of editing to get it into acceptable shape -- more hours, in fact, than writing it from scratch would have taken. As a result, my client ended up paying more for the editing than he would have paid for the writing. And that doesn't even include all the valuable billable time (and for all I know, hair) he lost over that rough draft!

I bring this up because an increasing number of business owners have discovered the power of outsourcing, thanks in part to Timothy Ferris's popular book on the subject, The 4-Hour Workweek. Ferris has carved out a lifestyle for himself based on outsourcing an enormous portion of his daily activities to third parties while streamlining his own share of the routine for maximum productivity in a minimal amount of time. It makes perfect sense, really -- hand over a time-consuming/tedious/specialized job (such as copywriting) over to someone who can do it really well in a fraction of the time it would probably take you (such as a professional copywriter). By having that third party work while you do other things, you're "stacking" your productivity for optimal time and money savings.

But like so many other things in life, outsourcing only works if you work it. The client I mentioned didn't save himself any time or money because he did the job and then outsourced it to be fixed. The lost billable time plus the extra hours required for extensive editing just made the job more expensive to complete. 

Now, there are certainly situations where editing is all a client needs, and I will recommend that course of action if it makes sense. If the writing's already done and mostly where it needs to be, then a quick polish can do the rest quickly and affordably. But if you're starting from zero, take advantage of the power of outsourcing and let your copywriter take the whole thing off your plate. You'll breathe easier, you can go back to doing what you do best, and you'll be getting more for your money.