You wound't write a letter to a complete stranger, right? So why would you do that when marketing your business? You can have the most in-depth marketing strategy in the world, but it doesn't mean a thing if you don't know who your target audience is. It's not enough to know just their occupation, location and other basic information. You need to know more so you can get through to them on a personal and professional level. Not sure where to begin? Here's a list of some questions you need to ask and research to make sure your marketing strategies align with your audience and yield the best results.
1. Where do they live?
2. What's their education level?
3. Are they married?
4. What's their sexual orientation?
5. Do they have children? If so, what are their age ranges?
6. What are they passionate about? Dogs, volunteering, civil rights, education, etc.?
7. What is their means of transportation? Car, bus, truck, subway, train, boat, etc.?
8. What is their income level?
9. What is their lifestyle? Are they homebodies or social butterflies? Are they trendsetters or trend followers?
10. What motivates them?
11. What keeps them up at night?
12. What are their hobbies?
13. What is their ethnic background?
14. What is their race?
15. What are their daily tasks?
16. How much do they spend on services and products similar to yours?
17. Where do they hang out?
18. Do they watch television?
19. What are their priorities?
20. Can they adapt with technology?
21. What annoys them?
22. What inspires them?
23. How do they spend their free time?
24. What are their goals?
25. What problems do they have?
26. Are they religious?
27. When do they get new information and when do they prefer to get it?
28. Are they business owners? What industry is it? How big or small is the company?
29.Are they worldly or well-traveled?
30. What is their political affiliation?
31. Do they own pets?
32. What is their preferred method of communication?
33. How old are they? What age group do they fall in?
34. How do they speak? Do they use big words? Are they into slang?
35. What are their worries?
From the time to you entered school, you've been taught a myriad of grammar and/or writing rules. They range from "i before e except after c", to never start a sentence with "and". What they didn't tell you was that sometimes it's ok to break those rules. That's right, writing rules were meant to be broken. After all, it was obvious that you wouldn't be writing for your sixth grade teacher forever. And if you followed all of those rules she told you, chances are you're business would be going under. No potential client of yours wants to feel like they are reading their biology textbook when looking at your site.
Potential clients want to feel like they are your friend slowly building a relationship with you. Remember, when your teacher told you to write formally in almost all instances? Well, when it comes to marketing material, you need to stop that. Potential clients like to feel comfortable with their service providers. That means leaving out big words and using contractions when you can. After all, you weren't impressing people with your proper use of "cantankerous" anyway.
You are also not impressing anyone with very long paragraphs even though your teacher told you a paragraph must have at least three to five sentences. I'm convinced teachers only said that to stop students from being lazy and actually do their work. They couldn't possibly believe it's necessary. There's evidence of shorter paragraphs in the business world everyday. I've scene paragraphs as short as one sentence or even one word to draw attention. Besides, these days people have short attention spans and are very busy. So the shorter the better!
If you want to be really daring, take a walk on the wild and start a sentence with a conjunction. *Gasp* I know what you're thinking, but sometimes it's perfectly ok to start sentences with "or", "and", or "but". When speaking, we naturally use conjunctions at the beginning of sentences to transition. It works for marketing materials to - sometimes. Just make sure you don't over do it.
Sure, it's been spring for several weeks now but I'm willing to bet to most of you have yet to spruce up that blog of yours. Luckily, it's never too late for you to make a change. Follow these suggestions to make sure your blog is in tip-top shape and satisfying for mother nature.
1. Edit and re-read posts.
I'm sure you made sure you crossed all your T's and dotted the I's but that doesn't mean you didn't still miss one. Go through your posts and double check that all your facts are correct, there are no grammatical errors and everything is spelled right. It's also a good opportunity to update what's become outdated information with "breaking news" or "developments" to make them timely again.
2. Re-evaluate your sidebars.
When you first start a blog, you often get excited by all the widgets and plug-ins you can add to your site to make it pop. But after time, you might realize that you may not like them as much or just never had a need to use them. Go through them to see which are worth deleting. Not only can it help the speed of your blog, it will be a lot less cluttered and easier to navigate.
3. Test links.
It's always been beneficial to add links to blog posts for various reasons. Unfortunately, after some time, links can change or be deleted. That means your visitors may end up seeing error messages instead of, "How Beyonce snapped her body back after baby". Save your professional image and reliability of your blog by testing old links and replacing the ones that don't work.
4. Cross-link posts.
After blogging for a while, you're bound to touch on similar topics more than once in your posts. Boost SEO, garner more comments, and help resurrect some old blog posts by cross linking them with newer posts on your site. Just make sure you don't go overboard. A link-heavy post can be even worse than a blog with none.
5. Get rid of unused categories.
Having a bunch of unused categories and tags can bog down your database and lead to error message. Not too mention, it ends up looking cluttered and lack direction. Delete tags and categories with less than three posts assigned to them to make navigation easier for your visitors.
I know many like to think this, but an effective executive bio is not a long form resume. It is also not a place for you to simply gloat about your amazing life. An executive bio is the place where consumers can get to know the man or woman behind the booming business. And if it's done well, your executive bio will make your readers want to do business with you or at least want to sit down for a cup of tea with you. They may even see a reflection of themselves in you through your bio.
Of course, none of that will happen if they don't know YOU and not just your every accomplishment - although you do want them to know why you are so hot! Show your readers what makes you sparkle both professionally and personally. If you are comfortable with it, mention your family and hobbies.
Mentioning your passion for the business is almost as important as discussing your personal interests. Exposing your passion allows readers to see that you are about more than dollars and cents. Your passion displays the things that make you tick and how your business hits close to home, which is especially important for entrepreneurs. What many don't realize is that it provides the opportunity to dispel any myths and stereotypes. When thinking of big time business owners, most see images of money hungry, greedy corporate monsters dancing their way to the bank. When mentioning your passion, you erase those myths by proving you have a soul that hasn't been replaced with dollar signs or a black hole.
Lastly, you need to include firsts and accomplishments. I know I said the executive bio isn't just a long form resume, but you do need to toot your horn a bit. So if you happen to be the first black women to write a best selling book in your industry or you're the first teenager to have your song translated into 15 languages, now is the time to say it. Of course you don't want to come off as bragging too much so be sure to sprinkle in some words about community involvement if you have any. Consumers tend to think favorably of those who give back to their community in addition to breaking business records.
After all, prospects don't hire the business. They hire the person.
It has come to my attention that I throw the term copywriter around pretty frequently. However, a lot of people don't even seem to understand what a copywriter does. Obviously that's a problem. To my surprise, many confused the term "copywriter" with "copyright" despite the context clues.
Simply put, a copywriter writes copy. Depending on the writer, the type of copy they write might vary as some have specialities and others don't. Copy refers to the content or words used for your marketing material. Copywriters are responsible for writing the copy on business websites, flyers, slogans, newsletters, brochures, direct mail paraphernalia, advertisements, sales letters, product descriptions and more. However, what makes a professional copywriter different from the high school kid down the street, is the ability to make that copy sound as professional and concise as possible while sticking to the personality of the business.
Most importantly a good copywriter knows how to translate your copy into to more views or prospects, which of course leads to more sales. Copywriters do this by highlighting the traits that make you stand out from your competitors. They also address the wants and needs of your target audience. Lastly they analyze, core business values and insure they translate into copy that shows the company in the best light which yield desired results. In other words, they make you sound pretty damn good!
I've said it time and time again. When the writing project comes the questions will follow. And it's not because us writers don't know what we're doing. It's because we want to understand you. Most importantly, we want to be able to take YOUR message and make it sound more polished and relatable. But in order to for us to do that, you need to play a fun game of 20 Questions! Luckily, you'll get to know the questions in advance. So pay attention and answer wisely! Ready, set, go!
1. What is your budget? Although freelancers generally have a going rate for some things, they still like to keep budgets in mind. Try to have an idea of your budget so we can work around it when creating a quote.
2. What is the desired word count (i.e. length)? You may be tempted to say one or two pages of content. However, the amount of pages doesn't say much because font, spacing, etc. can easily change the amount of content that fits on a page. Having a word count range is much more accurate.
3. Can you please define your project scope? This question is probably the most telling of them all. It allows writers to see what exactly your expectations are and what you're hoping this project will do for you.
4. Who is your target audience? Your target audience directly relates to how the content is written. If your target audience is a group of middle class college students, it will be written completely different than if it were for a group of middle aged businessmen. Know who your target audience is and tell the writer everything you know about that particular audience.
5. How will the content be distributed or published? Depending on the chosen method of distribution or publication there may be certain formats or guidelines the writer will need to adhere to.
6. Who are your biggest competitors? Writers like to know who exactly they are trying to get ahead of and adjust the game plan as necessary.
7. What separates you from your competitors? These are things that make you unique and should be highlighted if possible in the text.
8. What don't you like about your current marketing material? This allows the writer to identify the problem early on and devise a plan that will directly solve it.
9. What are you hoping to accomplish? Without a goal, you won't know where you're going. Establish this as soon as possible so writers can take your writing project in the right direction.
10. Can you show me examples of other things written about you? It's easy to know what you like and what others are saying about you when writers see examples.
11. Can you provide a brief outline of your project? One topic can go in many different directions. Providing a brief outline or bullets of things that should be included helps writers stay on track.
12. How much involvement do you anticipate? Are you the type that likes to be hands-on with every aspect of the project? Or do you prefer, to hire people and allow them to run with it? Let writers know so they can adequately adjust the working style to your comfort.
13. What is your desired tone? Are you trying to appear very friendly and approachable or elite and superior to others? This will determine how content is written.
14. How do you plan to market the material? You can have the best written content in the history of the world, but that doesn't mean people will read it. They need to know your content exists. Let your writer know what your plans are for marketing so it can be written accordingly.
15. What is your timeframe for completion? If there is a date set for publication ahead of time, make writers aware. Together you can draft a schedule when all drafts and edits will be completed.
16. Will illustration be part of the final presentation? Of course, photos can enhance the content. However, you need to let writers know so they can work with that in mind.
17. What company traits would you like me to convey in content? This allows writer to truly understand what values and traits are important to you and easily communicate that message.
18. Will I need to interview anybody outside the company to complete the project? Depending on how in depth the project is, there may be need to interview outside sources. It might enhance the the quality of the content.
19. What is your preferred method of communication? Some people prefer email and phone calls, while others prefer fax and snail mail. Let writers know so you they accommodate your needs.
20. What other projects do you anticipate for the future? Whether or not you plan to work with the same person again, writers like to consider what your future plans are so they can position you accordingly for a smooth transition.
As you may have noticed, freelance writers are a dime a dozen. But a really good one who truly knows how to understand and translate your message is priceless. So why exactly should you hire a freelance writer with a journalism background to do your copywriting work? Let me count the ways...
1. We are good with deadlines
Sometimes certain stories are only "newsworthy" up until a certain date. We're always in a rush to meet deadlines or turn things in earlier than expected. Because sticking to a schedule is our livelihood, you can sleep easy knowing your copywriter will most likely be turned in on time, if not earlier.
2. Getting it right means a lot to us
Getting the facts wrong can sometimes mean the end of a career for a journalist. We can be very anal about making sure everything down to the punctuation is accurate. Nothing goes to press until every fact is fact checked, double checked and cross checked. The same applies to your content. It won't be published until we are sure it is right.
3. Research won't be a problem
Write what you know. That's always been a rule when it comes to journalism. Of course, you don't always know. And that's where thorough research comes in. Journalists know what it really means to research (i.e. doing more than a Google Search). Chances are if we don't know, your project will get the same treatment. We'll be willing to research industry trends, history, demographics, and your target audience all to make sure we churn out the best work.
4. Adjusting voice and tone is our forte
Most journalists work for several publications that all have many different readerships. That means adjusting tone to reflect that of their audience. So if your target audience is the highly educated, middle-class woman aged 21 to 40, we'll be able to write in a voice and tone that can attract her.
5. We're used to being critiqued
Because most of us usually have to answer to an editor who goes through drafts with a fine tooth comb, we wouldn't have a problem with you pointing out your likes and dislikes of your work. Journalists have a way about leaving the ego behind. After all, edits and rewrites are a normal part of the writing process. We get it!
These days it seems it's impossible to have a conversation about marketing and web presence without mentioning Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Actually, It's something I get asked about every time I write web content. Everybody is concerned about how search engine sites such as Yahoo, Google, and Bing are reading and ranking their site. The problem is no one seems concerned that their audience is reading and ranking their site. Now, shouldn't that be the main focus?
While it may seem like a good idea to fit the words "email marketing" as many times as you can on the site, your readers are going to notice if you mention it 10 times in a small paragraph. (Google, frowns on that anyway)
Stop ignoring your target audience and remember they're a little smarter than you thought. Instead of forcing SEO, make it natural by tweaking headlines and site headers.
There's no denying that having a blog is the "in thing" for businesses today. However, that doesn't mean that your business should start one. I'm sure many of you are gasping in disbelief considering I'm a writer; especially since blogging and writing for publication is what puts food on my table. But it's true. Your business may not even need a blog and it doesn't make sense to have one if you're not going to do it right. Here are five reasons why you probably shouldn't start a blog.
1. You have no time
Coming up with topics, editing, and promoting a blog takes time. If you don't have time to do any of the above, chances are you are not ready to break into the blogging limelight. This is one of the main reasons why businesses outsource writers to handle a blog for them. (Even if you outsource you need to have time to answer questions)Plus, blog followers get used to seeing posts on a consistent basis. It would suck to loose your fans by not adhering to a timeline or blogging schedule.
2. You have trust issues
If you don't trust the people writing your blog, you will always be dissappointed. In addition, the whole process will prove to be a grueling one filled with lots of edits, misunderstandings and communication breakdowns. I know, your blog is your baby but if you want it to have a fighting chance, you need to let go a little bit. Otherwise, do it yourself rather than assigning it to an employee.
3. No purpose
What's a blog without purpose or a goal? Some might call it a waste of space. I call it a blog destined for failure. Without a goal or purpose, your blog will take on no direction and fade into the background. Not to mention, you'll probably have a lot of difficulty coming up with topics or measuring the success of the blog. Do yourself a favor, and refrain from starting a blog if you're not even sure what you hope to get out of it.
4. You won't promote it
Contrary to popular belief your blog won't bring in 1,000 followers by simply publishing a new post. You need to market the blog to get a following. That means sending email updates, attending events, and utilizing social media to get the word out. If you don't promote it, chances are you may be the only one reading the blog.
5. Not willing to interact
For the most part, blogs are about interaction and getting to know your audience. You must be willing to get into the minds of your target audience by communicating with them, reaching out, and asking for feedback. Otherwise, you might not be giving them what they want. Plus, readers like to know the blogger is in reach.
After many inquiries, I decided it was time I give the people what they want. After all, that's what running a business is about. I was hesitant at first, but I am now open to booking speaking engagements for charities, businesses, events, libraries, schools, etc. I've always been a fan of public speaking and from what I hear, I'm pretty good at it! But for the last few months, I wanted to focus on building up the client relations and organization aspect of my business. Now that I'm where I'd like to be, I'm happy to oblige all the speaking requests.
Here's a list of topics I'm open to speak about:
- How to get started as a freelance writer
- Blogging Basics
- Email marketing tips & tricks
- And much more!
Stay tuned! I will be updating the website with more information in the next few weeks.