Tuesday, January 14, 2020

3 Tips for Writing a Better Bio

Who are you? That may seem like a simple question, but think about it. Most of us present different personae in different situations, or to different people. So if you're posting a professional bio to your website or a popular social media channel such as LinkedIn, then you'd better customize that bio to produce optimal results. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Imagine Your Audience

Would you use the same approach to ask for a date that you would use to ask for a job (assuming that asking for dates isn't your job, obviously)? Business owners or representatives need to introduce themselves, not just to the public, but to their public -- the specific target audience that they aim to cultivate. Think hard about exactly who constitutes the ideal reader of this bio. What do you want that person to do -- offer you a job? Check out your products and services? Recommend you to an associate? Focus on telling that person exactly what they'll want to hear as a means of triggering that response.

2. Match the Surrounding Tone

I've been called in to rewrite employee bios that stuck out like broken teeth on the client's website. in many cases, they simply didn't match the style and tone of other previous bios, or of the site in general. There's always one guy who insists on providing 500 words when everyone else has made do with 100 (or vice versa), or a first-person address in a sea of third-person entries. Some bios may seem overly friendly or even childish within the larger context of the page, while others may seem dry and stiff. If your bio will be added to a general bio page, read the existing entries carefully and try to match their tone and length.

(The exception to this rule comes when you've been asked to provide a bio that will sit next to your competitors' bios on a directory page. On those occasions, by all means stand out, as long as you can do it in a way that scores points over neighboring entries instead of making you look silly.)

3. Keep It Clear and Readable

A bio is not a resume. Your goal is not to include every single detail of your professional, academic and personal life; it's to get the reader interested in who you are and what you offer. Ever looked at the author bio on a book jacket? In most cases, you get the least you need to know, just enough to make you think, "Wow, this author has some impressive credentials. I think I'll give this book a shot." Feel free to write a long draft, but be willing to go back and cut (and cut, and cut). As for word choices, go for clarity above all. Impress the reader, not with your vocabulary, but with the high points of your professional history, skills and experience.

Good luck with telling your story -- and if you need help, just let me know!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

4 New Year's Marketing Resolutions You Should Make

Have you made your New Year's resolutions yet? Maybe you're resolving to lose some weight, change your look, or get more exercise. But what resolutions have you made concerning your business -- and which of those resolutions involve your marketing efforts? A new year should offer  fresh opportunities for boosting revenues and attracting new clients or customers. Here are some New Year's marketing resolutions that could help you achieve your 2020 goals.

1. "I Resolve to Update My Digital Marketing as Needed."

When you first created your company website, you probably heaved a sigh of relief that the work was done. Unfortunately, the work is never really done. Businesses change, brands and industries evolve, and target audiences seek their products and services in new ways.

One prime example is the explosion of mobile search as a key shopping tool. When people are looking for help with something in their area, they search for those things by location on their smartphones. This means two things for your digital marketing: (1) Your web content needs to be optimized for your location, and (2) you need a responsive or mobile website that will look good and function well on smartphones and tablets. Commit to making those changes now.

2. "I Resolve to Keep an Editorial Calendar for Marketing Content."

How many times did you miss a blogging or other social media posting deadline in 2019? When you're bogged down with tons of other worries and tasks, falling behind on marketing content creation may seem inevitable -- but it doesn't have to be.

Creating an editorial calendar, with specific type of posts scheduled at recurring intervals over the course of the year, can help you stay on top of that content creation so that you're never caught with your marketing pants down. Still stumped as to how you're going to get all that content made? Contact some freelance copywriters, graphic designers or videographers. Explain your goals, send them your calendar, and let them do the rest.

3. "I Resolve to Create (or Tweak) My Buyer Persona."

How accurate is the buyer persona you're using in your marketing strategy? Did you even have a buyer persona in 2019? This "imaginary customer" is central to your efforts to attract and persuade your target market. You build your buyer persona on all the data you can get your hands on about this target market -- from location, annual salary and other demographics to poll responses that reveal your customers' challenges, needs and preferences.

Even if you created a detailed buyer persona in years past, that buyer persona may not be paying off for you now as well as it once did. Maybe it's time to update your numbers, adjust your demographics, and feed some fresh customer input into your creation.

4. "I Resolve to Focus on Marketing Strategies Instead of Just Tactics."

Some business owners will look back at their lack of marketing success in 2019 and protest, "But we made so many [fill in the blank: brochures, blog posts, website updates, YouTube videos, brochures, direct mail pieces....]." The thing is, working hard isn't always the same thing as working smart. If you were throwing out marketing pieces and content updates here and there, without any attempt to pull them into the Big Picture, then you're guilty of relying on tactics instead of strategies. You need both, of course. A marketing strategy without tactics won't do anything for you; neither will individual marketing tactics that don't support an overall strategy. Resolve to fix this disconnect in 2020.

Whatever New Year's marketing resolutions you decide to make, don't just make them -- stick to them. Best wishes for a prosperous year!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Expertise That Sells: Why Original Marketing Content Matters

Once upon a time, a consultant contacted me about possibly ghostwriting some informative articles that he could post online to display his industry expertise. He explained that this would be a relatively easy job: "All we'd really have to do is take some existing articles we like and change the verbiage a little so we can post them as ours."

Well, no. Apart from the (I hope) obvious ethical considerations of simply dressing up someone else's article and sticking your name on it without that person's permission, a generic article simply won't do you much good. This is the Internet era. We have online articles coming out of our ears. Your readers don't want more anonymous information -- they want your information.

Here are a few tips for promoting your expertise:

Write your article. Not someone else's, and certainly not everyone else's. You can create a piece that works for a general audience and still bears your individual stamp. That's the point of posting an expert article -- you're the expert. 

Sure, being the expert means relaying general industry trends and observations, but it also means interpreting them for your readers. I don't need a financial expert, for instance, to relay the latest stock reports or unemployment numbers; I can get those myself from Google or Yahoo or wherever. What I do need, since I'm not an expert in that field, is my trusted advisor telling me what, in his opinion, it should mean to me. 

When I have industry experts in various fields explaining things to me and advising me on how to respond and strategize, I'm receiving the direct benefit of these advisors' expertise, and I begin to rely on them for all my needs in those areas.

Keep it short. Boiling a thorny topic down into something understandable to the public also means delivering the least we need to know. Give us a few good pointers, provide a brief rundown, or ask some leading questions to get us thinking in the right direction. If we need more information, we can contact you. The whole point of inbound marketing is getting that phone call.

Brand yourself. It's no use writing an expert article if a first-time reader has no idea who the expert is. Always include a sentence or two about yourself in a little blurb positioned somewhere near the article (most web-based article directories require this before they'll post the article). If possible, include your company email address or website link. Make it easy for the reader, once he's dazzled by your insight into his problem or question, to click a link and start a conversation that might lead to business.

Writing an expert article doesn't necessarily require expert writing skills on your part, by the way. An experienced professional copywriter can communicate your ideas, expertise, and insights in your own words, only better. Want proof? Contact me today!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The Year Is Winding Down -- Don't Let Your Marketing Do the Same!

As another business year comes to a close, you'll notice that people start turning their attention to other things, from holiday vacations and gift-buying excursions to dealing with a houseful of school-aged children. It's only natural to say, "Well, this year's done, so let's just button this one up and take a breather." You've certainly earned a rest, after all. But does your marketing campaign has to go on hiatus as well -- and can you afford to present your target audience with the sound of silence?

Smart marketers know that promoting a business is a year-round concern. The marketing you do right now will have a direct impact on your Q1 sales (and beyond) next year. Feel free to put December to bed if you wish, but don't neglect January in the process. A new year represents a new opportunity for fresh initiatives, changes in your corporate direction, re-branding efforts or any other kind of "face lift" you may want to give your enterprise. Schedule those meetings with your copywriter, graphic designer, or marketing strategy team so that you can roll those changes out to great fanfare right on schedule.

Does your company actually experience its peak activity between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day? Many seasonal businesses and non-profit organizations have more work than they can handle right now, with products and services flying off of the proverbial shelves to accommodate holiday demands. It's all too easy to look around during a particularly profitable time and say, "Well, who needs marketing when the money's rolling in?" That's when some marketing departments and business owners slack off on their marketing efforts -- only to wonder why they have no revenue coming in once the seasonal dust has settled.

The good news is that you don't have to labor away at your desk like Bob Cratchit through the end of December -- not if you plan your marketing content creation wisely. Create an editorial calendar to ensure that you always know what marketing content you need for each week, month or quarter. Your marketing pros can then produce that content in advance so that it can be released automatically at the appropriate intervals. When the holidays come, you all get some well-earned time off, secure in the knowledge that your pre-built marketing engine continues to chug along in your absence.

By the way, it's still not too late to produce that much-needed web page content, blog article, sales letter, press release or other piece of marketing content. Even this close to the end of the year, you'll find us freelance copywriters happily working away like Santa's elves to help our clients enjoy the most profitable season possible. So don't be shy -- what do you want for Christmas?

Monday, November 18, 2019

Add Some Thanksgiving to Your Marketing Content

Here comes Thanksgiving again! You probably have a great many things to feel thankful for -- including, of course, a chance to fill up on turkey and enjoy some much-needed rest and relaxation. But if you're thankful to have a business, you'll want to keep that business healthy through the upcoming holiday season. So maybe this is the perfect time to inject a little of that Thanksgiving spirit into the season's marketing content.

Are You Thankful for Your Customers?

A business can't survive and thrive without its loyal customer base, not to mention the new customers who discover it and then pass the word on to their friends. You need your customers or clients to understand that you care about them and appreciate their business -- and what better occasion than Thanksgiving to launch a "thank-you" campaign? Consider such options as:

  • Direct mail or email offers such as storewide discounts and coupons to save on specific products/services
  • A letter thanking your customers for their service and pledging to serve their needs for years to come
  • A TV or radio commercial that expresses thanks to your customers, local community or national audience
  • A public event, sponsored by your organization (and promoted through press releases), that benefits your target audience in some way

Are Your Customers Thankful for You?

If you've done a wonderful job of meeting your customers' needs and providing stellar customer service, those customers are probably just as thankful for you as you are for them. Why not launch some marketing initiatives to draw them out of their shells and get them singing your praises? Examples might include:

  • A fun social media contest that rewards customers who submit the most creative, moving, or entertaining video testimonials
  • An opportunity for customers to contribute guest-blog articles to your site, sharing anecdotes, recollections, and other positive statements about their experiences with your brand
  • A contest in which purchasers enter a drawing to name a new product or appear in your commercial

November and December are powerhouse months for many businesses. Stay visible during all of this activity by expressing your thanks and letting your customers express theirs -- with the aid of some seasonal marketing savvy!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Nobody's Perfect: Putting Your Limitations to Good Use in Your Marketing

I'm in a networking group that requires its members to schedule one-to-one meetings with each other. These meetings allow us to learn more about each other's business so that we can refer decent-quality clients to each other. One of my favorite questions to ask during these meetings is, "Who is a bad referral for you?" Newer members usually react as if I'd smacked them upside the face with a dead trout. Surely there are no bad referrals! We want to promote ourselves as all things to all people, right? 

Wrong. All of us, individuals and companies alike, have our limitations. And believe it or not, acknowledging what you can't or don't do can actually help drive more (and better) business in your direction. How is this possible? Let me count the ways.

1. Targeted Marketing

Face it, you can't help everybody, so you might as well focus your marketing efforts on those you can help the most. It would crazy of me to promote myself as a writer of every kind of content, because I'm just not that guy. I don't feel comfortable or even competent writing technical manuals, for instance, so I might as well focus on my niche as a writer of marketing content. This allows me to put my whole effort into attracting the clients who can best benefit from my services -- and who are most likely to want them. You can emphasize this in your marketing as a big plus for your customers who want focused skills and expertise on a particular type of product or service, not a jack-of-all-trades who can sorta-sorta do everything.

2. Honesty (the Best Policy)

How many times have you heard some company trumpeting its products or services as the greatest thing since the proverbial sliced bread? Did they mention any provisions or limiting factors at all, apart from an unreadable mass of asterisked fine print way down at the bottom of the page? How do you feel when you see that mass of fine print? Why don't they want you to read and know their limitations? What kind of shenanigans are going on here? Anyway, after sifting through lots of "We're the solutions to all your problems, yours is not to question why, just call us" messaging, it can come as breath of fresh air to read a message that says, "Hey, we may or may not be right for your needs. Why not contact us so we can discuss it?" That approach sounds more honest to me, so I'm more likely to believe whatever else that business has to say.

3. Imperfection as Uniqueness

Japanese art and philosophy embrace a concept called wabi-sabi, which holds that transient, limited, imperfect things have a unique attractiveness -- the patina of age on a statue, perhaps, or the slight unevenness in a handcrafted bowl. This kind of "flawed beauty" has also made many a "primitive" artist rich and famous. We appreciate the unique, the fingerprints of the maker on the object. Depending on your line of work, it might even enhance your attractiveness to prospects. Remember cabbage Patch Dolls? their phenomenal success was entirely based on the fact that they weren't perfect. Each doll had its own unique "personality" which holds a special appeal for someone. So does every brand that offers a well-defined, well-communicated UVP (unique value proposition). Build that into your marketing content, and you've got a lock on a truly tight niche -- Yourself, Inc.

If you really are perfect, of course, disregard all of the above. Otherwise, contact me for assist

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

When Do You Need a Copywriting Coach?

When you think about hiring a freelance copywriter, it's probably with a sense of relief. After all, you get to hand over that pesky writing project to a skilled professional who can get it done quickly efficiently, and with the high standard of quality your marketing requires. But did you know that some businesses hire copywriters not for their writing skills, but purely for their expertise? It's true, and in some cases, it can make a lot of sense.

Many professional copywriters, including this one, offer coaching and consultation among their list of services. This service can take a variety of forms. In my case, it involves purchasing my time in 30-minute or 60-minute blocks for open-ended discussions, critiques and advice. For example, I might go over a writing job in progress with you, pointing out issues and recommending corrective measures. Or we might discuss general copywriting practices, complete with exercises to improve their writing skills. Clients can purchase individual sessions, or they spring for money-saving packages of time. (Thanks to modern technology, I can provide these sessions remotely to anyone in the country.) But why would you want to purchase copywriting coaching/consultation instead of simply ordering me to do the work? Let's look at some compelling reasons:

You've Already Created Most of the Content

That writing project has already sapped a lot of your time and creative energy -- and it's almost there. You can feel it in your bones. The major pieces appear to be in place, and they may even be in the right order. But is your writing ready for Prime Time? Can you really know that you've created the right content to blow past your competition and grab your target audience by the lapels? You can easily find out by sending the draft to me. We'll look it over together (on our respective computers), and I'll suggest any changes that might be needed, from minor tweaks to major revisions.

You Want to Boost Your Copywriting Skills

Do you wish that you could generate that high-quality marketing content all by yourself, without having to punt the whole thing to an outsourced copywriter? Maybe you like having that degree of independence, or maybe you genuinely enjoy writing and want to get better at it. A professional copywriter who provides coaching services can train you in the finer points of the craft, turning you into your own content-creation resource. It's like adding an in-house copywriter to your organization -- without shelling out for the extra salary and benefits package!

You Don't Trust Your Ability to Judge Marketing Content

Even if you don't want to write your own marketing content, you still need to know the difference between bad content and good content -- or between good content and great content -- before you start adding text to your website, blog, or brochure. Unless marketing was already your thing, you probably haven't received any special training in this area. Many business owners who possess a jaw-dropping knowledge of their own industry don't feel confident judging a piece of marketing content according to the standards of our industry. A copywriting consultant can change that. The more skilled you become at recognizing good (or not-so-good) writing when you see it, the more confidently you can engage specific writers, review their drafts, and request any necessary changes.

Now that you see the benefits of engaging an experienced freelance copywriter for coaching and consultation, why not give it a try?  I've been writing professionally for 22 years, and I have a lot of training, knowledge and experience to offer. Let's talk!