Getting it done or getting it right?

What does being a good writer have to do with being a good plumber, architect, or dentist?  Not much.  What does having good writing have to do with being a profitable plumber, architect, or dentist?  Quite a bit, actually.

 

Your website, brochures, and other marketing materials are a reflection of your work even if you’re not doing it.  Like it or not, people judge you based on the impressions that they get of your company, and most of that impression will be created by your marketing materials.  Your web content, newsletters, brochures, ads, and other written materials may be the only opportunity that you ever have to make a sale to a particular customer.

 

The examples of professions used above were chosen intentionally because people in those professions tend to have very different skill sets than writers.  All must be experts in their trade to get the necessary certifications and licenses – and, just as importantly, to generate referrals and repeat business.  Often, though, their writing isn’t the best, and that can be a big problem.

 

Like everyone else, you tend to prefer doing the things that you’re good at while skimping on those marginal activities that may be necessary but are not ‘in your wheelhouses’.  Even so, you may be tempted to handle such activities on your “to save money”, especially when it comes to things like writing, which you probably can do even if you don’t enjoy it.  This is likely costing you money!

 

If you’re like most people, you just want to get certain things over with so that you can go back to the things that you enjoy or the things that you see making you money.  When people do this, though, they usually end up doing things poorly.  In fact, there are a lot of people who will go elsewhere just because of a typo in marketing materials!

 

Your business’s writing sends a message about your business.  When the quality if your written materials is poor, it tells your customers that you are sloppy and unprofessional.  It shows that you don’t pay attention to detail and that you are willing to accept less than excellent work.  If you don’t care enough to present your business professionally, customers will not trust you to put any more care into the rest of your work!

 

If you’re like a lot of business owners, the thought of spending even more time on your writing is daunting.  Don’t sweat it!  I’ll shoulder that burden for you!

 

I offer professional writing services, including SEO, other web content, newsletters, e-mail campaigns, e-books, and more!  If you have a writing project that you need done, whatever it may be, get in touch with me today.  Let me know what it is that you have in mind and what you hope to accomplish with it, and I’ll get back to you within 48 hours.

Who’s Your PR Audience? (Hint: It’s Not Who You Think!)

Whether you’re running for office, making a big announcement for your business, or trying to attract some attention to a pet cause or project, press releases can be one of your most effective tools for getting the word out.  Unfortunately, though, most people who write them don’t really understand whom their audience is.  They write press releases as though they’re writing for readers (or radio hosts and TV viewers).  This is a HUGE mistake!

The primary audience of a press release is reporters.  They are the gate keepers.  They are the ones who get to decide whether the public hears your message at all, much less whether they hear it exactly as you want them to hear it.

So, how do you write your press releases accordingly?  There are four basic rules for writing PRs that you should follow each time you write one.

  1.  Learn the proper format– You must get this right.  It presents you as a professional and makes it easy for reporters to see what you’re telling them about.  That’s the format they use.  If you don’t use it, you don’t get covered.  It’s that simple.  (Reporters are lazy.  They won’t go through the trouble of trying to figure out what’s in an improperly formatted PR.  They’ll toss it.)
  2. Establish yourself as an expert– If you’re the CEO of your business, even if you’re the sole employee, you’re the expert on anything related to it.  You’re not posting your resume, but you do want at least one or two sentences that say who you are and why they should care about what you have to say.  “President of (company name)” or “owner and operator of (company name)” followed by a brief description of what your business or organization does is sufficient.  If there’s a stat that you can brag about, great!  If not, that’s okay.
  3. Write something they can use– If you’re commenting on a timely issue, such as a piece of legislation that’s being debated, put yourself in the shoes of a reporter.  What can you say that they can put directly into a larger piece about the topic?  You effectively want soundbites, phrases and sentences that speak clearly and would, by themselves, fit their story like a glove.  For political candidates or organization, think about this:  (You), who’s running for the (party) nomination for (office), spoke out forcefully against the plan.  (One sentence with a direct quote that includes your position and a maximum 15 word description of why).  You’re writing part of a reporter’s story for him.  (Remember, they’re lazy.  They’ll love that.)

Writing a press release on something completely out of the blue, like a new service that your small business is offering, can be more difficult.  In this case, you’re looking for a reporter to write a new story that stems from your press release, typically with an interview involved.  If you’re doing this, you must emphasize the problem that you’re solving.  Make it crystal clear how whatever you’re announcing will make the lives of those in the area better.  Reporters’ audiences are their readers/listeners, so they need content that’s highly relevant to them.  Show them how your story meets that criterion.

  1. Get them to call you– If possible, try to include a sentence in each of your press releases that includes a line that piques the curiosity of reporters.  There’s an art to this, because you need to do it in such a way that your reasoning remains sound and the quote still makes perfect sense by itself.  You need to be careful that your quote doesn’t sound silly when taken out of context.  The type of question that you want to generate here is along the lines of, “What exactly did you mean when you said “x”?”  Assuming that you’ve already included the clear statement in #3 by giving them something they can use already, there’s a good chance that this will generate some follow up calls and interviews.  When you get those, your chances of getting quoted (or possibly even a story written about your project depending on the circumstances) rise considerably.

The Worst Time to Write Your Own Copy

Writing your own copy is typically a bad idea unless you are a professional writer.  Sure, it might be necessary when you are getting started and can’t afford to hire someone who writes copy for a living, but beyond that point, you’re leaving money on the table by trying to save a few dollars up front instead of getting copy that converts.  There’s one time in particular, though, when writing your own copy can be outright disastrous.

Never ever write your own sales copy when you spent a lot of time developing a product or service.

When you invest a lot of your time, energy, and even money in creating something, you are too close to it to avoid putting too much focus on the development at the expense of the benefits.  This is perfectly natural because you know what it took to offer something that could be very simple to use.  Your customers should never know whether it took you five minutes, a week, or several months of work to develop your product or service or any particular aspect thereof.

If you want a pat on the back, call your mom.  If you want to make money, call a copy writer.

Here’s the reason for that: any of the space that you use talking about the development of what you’re selling is a distraction from the reasons that your customers would want to buy.  All they want to know is that you can solve a problem for them.  In some cases, it’s important to tell them how you can solve it.  In no instance, though, does your customer care what it took for you to be able to solve it.

Your customers only give you money for solving their problems.  Can you make the healthier?  More attractive?  Richer?  More relaxed?  Can you entertain them?  Teach them something?  Simply put, you need your customers focused on one thing and one thing only: why your product is more valuable to them than the money it costs them.  Anything that detracts from that single focus is ancillary and will only hurt your chances of making the sale.

If you’d like to know more about hiring a professional copy writer and how much of a difference it can make to you and your business, contact me today and I’ll get back to you within 48 hours.

Is your free e-book hurting your business?

Why invest a serious amount of time and money for something that you’re giving away for free?

That’s an obvious question that most website owners and businessmen ask themselves at one point or another.  Sure, you know that you either have to invest a substantial amount of time, money, or both when you’re making a product to sell, but an e-book is free.  People shouldn’t expect much for free, right?

That mode of thinking is a great way to make your e-book not just ineffective, but actually counterproductive.

If you give away an e-book, it should serve two purposes.  The first is to get the e-mail addresses of those who visit your site.  The primary rule of internet marketing is that the money is in the list.  They give you their e-mail address and you give them information.  In truth, the e-book isn’t really free.

The second purpose of an e-book is to establish yourself as a resource for readers.  You must provide readers with valuable information if you want them to buy from you in the future.  If you don’t give your readers something they can use, there’s no reason for them to come back to you.  It’s like when you see a speaker for the first time.  If they give valuable information or tell a compelling story, you’ll want more information from them.  It might be books, CDs, or other products, but you want to know more.

Now, if you have an e-book that doesn’t provide value, two things will happen.  The first is that people will unsubscribe from your list.  They got their book, didn’t find anything useful, and now they feel bothered by additional e-mails you send.

Perhaps more importantly, those people will never buy from you.  Never.  They do not view you as a person who provides value, so they’ll find someone who does.  Even if you’re in such a unique niche that nobody else is providing the information, products, or services you are, they won’t buy from you because they see no value in you.  They’d rather figure it out for themselves than give you money.  Ouch!

Does this mean that you shouldn’t give away e-books?

No!  E-books are a fantastic way to build an e-mail list, establish credibility, and turn prospects into customers.  The thing is, though, that you need a well-written, informative e-book that establishes you as a valuable resource to your potential customers.  That takes time.

If you want a valuable e-book to help you get e-mail addresses, but you don’t have the time to write it, shoot me a message.  I’d be happy to write you an e-book that will establish your credibility, provide value to your readers, and put you in an excellent position to turn one-time visitors into lifetime customers.

Does Your Copy Sell?

This seems like an obvious question, but it’s one that’s often missed by businesses that get caught up with distractions.  With multi-million dollar Super Bowl ads and the common, “I love that commercial!” discussions, the most important thing, results, often gets lost.  The most creative ads are seldom the most effective.  In fact, many of them are nothing more than a waste of money.

Writing effective copy means communicating the value of your product or service to potential customers in their language.  Potential customers need to understand what you have to offer in a way that makes it almost silly not to buy from you.  Does it do that?

Here are a few things to consider when evaluating your copy:

  • How does my customer view this ad?– What you think of your ad doesn’t matter.  It’s not important.  You’re not trying to sell your product to yourself, your ad team, or anyone who wouldn’t want to use it.  Make sure you’re speaking your customers’ language, not your engineers;, service providers’, or product developers’.
  • Is it clear?– Are there any words in the copy that could detract from its meaning?  Short, simple words are almost always most effective.  It’s not that customers are stupid; it’s just that big words in sales usually breed mistrust.
  • Is it concise?– ‘Concise’ means that you convey all of the benefits that your customer needs to make a buying decision and nothing   Depending on the product or service, that can mean a few words or twelve pages.  It depends on the product and how much your customers need to know before they decide to buy.
  • Does it have a clear USP?– A USP is a unique selling proposition.  It’s not enough to convince potential customers to buy a product or service.  You want them to buy yourproduct or service.  Does your copy tell your customers why they should buy from you instead of your competitor?

If you’re not absolutely positive about the answers to these questions, it’s time to improve your copy.