A word about finding your tagline

A word about finding your tagline.

“Ok” Cleaners. Name or tagline? Maybe they’re based in Oklahoma? Either way, I’d try again! Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

 

 

Fast – reliable – honest – cheeky

That, my friends, is not a tagline. Except it is. There’s a company out there that has actually paid for that exercise in banality to be emblazoned across their delivery vehicles.

Fast, reliable, honest. That’s not a tagline, that’s the bare minimum any business should offer their clients! And as for the cheeky part…I’m not really sure what to do with that. I guess it does make them stand out from all of the other fast/reliable/honest businesses out there but I just don’t get it. Do I want my delivery men to be cheeky? Um, that’s a definitive no. But then maybe “Fast – reliable – honest – shuts the f up and gets on with the job” just isn’t catchy enough…

So cheeky it is.

I almost fell into the fast-reliable-honest trap myself. I was talking branding with my graphic designer/sister/favourite collaborator, Fi, when she was designing my logo and she was getting all up in my grill about what actually makes me so awesome. And I was doing that butt-clenchingly cringey British thing where we all pretend that actually we’re a bit crap and owe all of our success to blind luck and cute accents.

“I’m great with a deadline,” says I, “I’m really reliable”. Blush, blush, cringe, cringe.

“No, you eejit”, says she. “Any entrepreneur worth their salt and vinegar crisps is punctual and reliable.”

“What makes you different? If you’re not different, we can’t sell you.” God, I hate it when she’s right.

Can you relate? How do you sell yourself? When you’re networking, when you’re writing blog posts, when you’re talking to potential clients? When writing your tagline?

Let me tell you if you haven’t come up with anything better than fast-reliable-honest or some other version based on a 16-year-old’s first attempt at a CV, then you’re snookered.

So how do you find your tagline?

It’s blindingly simple. Ask your people.

“What do your clients say about you?” Fi asked. Bingo, light bulb, eureka, etc, etc.

Looking back at my testimonials, my clients consistently express their surprise that I manage to sound exactly like them when I’m writing their stuff. That’s what makes me great at my job, and there’s my tagline: “My Words, Your Voice”. Four words and I’m not only tapping into what I do well, but I’m also assuaging a common fear clients have before they come to me, namely that their copy won’t sound like them.

So what do your clients say about you?

Have a good look through every bit of feedback you’ve ever received and I guarantee you’ll begin to see a pattern. Your “what makes you different”, and your tagline, are hiding somewhere in there.

And if you’re a newbie? With no clients, and no testimonials? Think about what you’d like future clients to say about you? How are you planning to blow their minds? Hint: it ain’t with your fast, reliable, honest service.

If you want to be cheeky, that’s up to you!

A word about finding your tagline.

Cheeky!
Photo by Aidas Ciziunas on Unsplash

 

More on that British reluctance to blow your own trumpet. Not as dirty as it sounds, sorry!

Does your business need a style guide? Here’s what you need to know.

Why your website isn't converting

Does your business need a style guide? Here’s what you need to know.  Photo by Bram Naus on Unsplash

Have you heard of a style guide before? Chances are, unless you’ve done a whole bunch of research on branding or you work in the editorial field, you haven’t.

And that’s the exciting news, my business-building friends, because this is your chance to get ahead of the game and really make a splash with your branding.

What is a style guide?

Editors use style guides to help them deal with things like the Oxford comma, capitalisation of headings and other details that might seem insignificant to non-writer types. It’s a comprehensive document that outlines exactly how things should be done for each project.

So what does that have to do with you and your business?

Well, the purpose of an editorial style guide is to ensure consistency in your eBook, your novel or your thesis. And consistency is what a style guide will bring to your business too.

What are the benefits of creating a business style guide?

The number one benefit, as I’ve already mentioned, is consistency. Consistency in branding screams professionalism; it helps you stick in people’s minds and makes you instantly recognisable. Mixed messages in your content and branding can make you seem unreliable and could seriously undermine your marketing efforts.

A style guide is even more vital if you have multiple people handling your marketing content, if, for example, you outsource blogging to a content writer or you employ a PR company to write your press releases.

Any graphic designers, copywriters or social media managers you use, all need to be on the same page when handling your brand and a business style guide will make sure everyone stays on message.

I’m a sole trader — do I still need a style guide?

Absolutely. Even if you aren’t yet at the stage where you can afford to outsource to other professionals, a style guide can save you loads of time when you’re creating your own content.

Once you’ve created the document, print it out and have it to hand every time you write any type of marketing content for your biz. Instead of having to go back over previous blog posts to look at your heading sizes or to double-check the specifics of your brand colours, you’ll have it right there beside you.

What should my business style guide include? (And what can I miss out?)

I know you’re probably pretty tight for time (boy can I relate to that!) so I’m going to outline the absolute essential things you need to add to your style guide to get you started — you can always add to it as you go.

Let’s start with the biggies. These are the things that you should have a quick look over before you write ANYTHING for your business.

Your brand message.

Anyone with shiny object syndrome will know that it’s easy to get distracted in your business — most entrepreneurs are teeming with ideas and it can be a struggle to stay on target sometimes. The first thing I want you to add to your new style guide is your brand message.

What are you all about? What is the key purpose of your business? This will save you from becoming side-tracked and help keep you on message.

Your brand values.

Are you uber-professional? Elegant and classy? Fun and dynamic?

Now, personally, I like to think of myself as all of these things (don’t laugh!); some days I find that my writing is more inclined to the super-serious, other times I want to let loose and really have fun with it. Both versions are authentically me but to have such a mix of styles on my blog or social media platforms wouldn’t work (consistency, remember?) so I’ve tried to find a balance between all of these elements.

When it comes to your style guide you should pick three or four words that sum up you and your business and use these to help you keep the tone and pitch of your content consistent across your marketing.

Your avatar.

Your avatar, also known as your target customer, is who you’re writing for. I’m going to delve further into this in a future post, but it’s so important to nail this early on in your branding journey. This is the person you’ll be writing for when you blog, when you update your FB page, when you write your web copy.

You need to have this person really clear in your mind and pitch your content to suit them — think about what kind of terminology they’ll relate to and what kind of language will put them off.

So those are the biggies. Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty, the finer details that will make your content look consistently professional.

Typography.

The fonts you use matter. If you don’t believe me, ask Fiona Robertson, my go-to graphic designer. She’d happily chew your ears off for hours on this! When she designed my logo for me, she sent me a whole package of stuff to help me keep my branding consistent, including fonts.

Now I use the same font whenever I send out a client proposal, a quote, an invoice or any other documentation. It just makes everything look a little more polished.

Brand colour.

Ditto brand colours. Colour is such a powerful way to help your brand creep into a person’s psyche. Just think of Coca Cola red or McDonalds golden arches. You want to use your brand colours across your marketing channels. Whenever anyone sees your signature rose gold, electric pink or cool grey, you want them to instantly think of you.

I actually went to a networking event in my signature blue the other day although I confess that I only realised after I got home that my frock matched my logo! Wearing nothing but your brand colours might be taking things a step too far…

Your language.

It’s worth having a think about the kind of you want to use — as well as the kind of language you might want to avoid — and your client avatar will play a huge part in that.

We’re well past the era when swearing in your marketing would be completely unacceptable and you’ll find plenty of credible, professional business owners throwing around all sorts of f-bombs. Whether or not profanity is acceptable in your business content comes down to your target audience. Would occasional swearing help them relate to you or would it make them block your twitter feed? Make sure you’ve figured this out and stick to whatever decision your research leads you to.

Think too about jargon and industry buzz words. Will using them confuse your audience or will they lend you credibility? Again, make a decision about the kind of words that’ll be appropriate for your audience, and stick to it. If you find yourself drawn to jargon when you’re writing, it’s worth having a list of the words you’ve decided to avoid and a few alternative ways of saying the same thing that your readers will prefer.

Tone of voice.

This links back to your brand values. The words you’ve chosen as your essential brand values will direct you to the right tone of voice to use. Add a couple of lines to your style guide as a reminder of the overall tone you want to hit when writing your content.

Content layout.

Keep your content layout consistent by noting which heading sizes you use in blog posts, how you lay out your call-to-action and the different ways you break up the text in your posts.

Linguistic elements.

Okay, this is the part where you might start thinking I’m getting a little picky. You probably have a point but paying attention to these details can have a bigger impact than you’d think and they’re pretty easy to get right so trust me on this one!

Spelling and capitalisation.

Your customers may be global, but you want to keep your spelling local. It’s best to write in either UK English or US English — try not to mix the two. Favourite and favorite in the same piece of content is just confusing. Likewise using an ‘ise’ ending or an ‘ize’ ending: choose whichever one you prefer and stick to it!

It’s also worth noting whether you capitalise heading and post titles. Whether you capitalise full headings, significant words only, or the first letter matters less than whether you stick to one method. Again with the consistency; there’s definitely a theme here!

A couple of final tips.

Your style guide is something you’re going to want to refer to weekly, if not daily, so make sure it’s easy to use.

Remember that, even if you’re the only one using it for now, in the future you may want to outsource your content so make sure your guide is easy to read, easy to skim, and super-easy to follow.

Over to you now: are you using a style guide for your business? Will you be creating one after reading this? Is there anything I’ve missed that you’d add to my list of style guide essentials?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What the latest Facebook changes mean for your small business.

what do the latest facebook changes mean for your small business

Photo by Sticker Mule on Unsplash

I know from talking to clients and other business owners that there’s a real temptation to build your business on Facebook, especially while you’re still in the start-up phase. Facebook is where many of you grow your communities, promote your events, and sell your products. It’s where you do most of your marketing. I’ve been saying for a while now that this is a dangerous strategy.

It’s YOUR business — why would you want to build it on someone else’s land?

So if you’ve nodded along with me, saying ‘sure, Clare, I get your point, I’ll totally get on that soon’, listen up. ‘Soon’ needs to be now!

Mark Zuckerberg has just announced big changes that have everyone in a flap. Facebook is going back to its roots — Zuckerberg wants us to remember the social aspect of social media. So you’re going to start seeing more posts from your pals and fewer posts from businesses and publications.

Great news if you’re fed up of the current ad bombardment, bad news if you’re a business relying solely on Facebook to grow your business. Your reach IS going to take a hit, there’s no doubt about it.

So what can you do about it?

Get yourself a website — pronto.

If you’ve been using your Facebook business page as a substitute for a website, I get it. A website can be a huge investment. But it doesn’t have to be. To get you started you just need a presence; it doesn’t have to be all bells, whistles, and sparkles.

There are loads of DIY options that you can look into but my preferred site builder is WordPress. Building the site takes a little bit of time but it’s not too tricky to get it set up and once you’ve got it in place it’s really easy to navigate and update. (If you’re a bit of a technophobe, check out this free course to help you get started with WordPress)

If you’re not sure what you’re doing in terms of content, check out a few of my previous posts that will give you some useful pointers.

Why your web copy isn’t converting…and what to do about it.

Do you have the confidence to blow your own trumpet?

Three things to include in your ‘about me’ page, and one you should definitely avoid.

Build your list.

We’ve got to talk about your email list. If your community only exists on Facebook, you’re taking a huge risk. What will happen if you inadvertently break FB rules and find yourself locked out of your page? Do you know who your followers are? Would you be able to contact each one if you didn’t have access to FB?

Conversely, if you focus on building your email list, you will always be able to contact your supporters, whenever you need to. Your list belongs to you. Your Facebook fans belong to Zuckerberg.

I’m going to dedicate a future post to the topic of building an email list (it’s something I’m going to focus on this year myself – keep an eye out for a free email course coming soon!) but the gist of it is that you need to make sure you have something of value to offer visitors to your site. It might be great blog content, it might be a free course or checklist but you need to offer readers something that will encourage them to hand over their email addresses.

Explore other platforms.

If you’ve been ignoring all other social media platforms, now is the time to explore the options. It’s generally advisable not to try to be everywhere on social media — you’ll run out of time to do your actual work — but it’s a good idea to choose two or three different platforms to help you build your business community and reputation. I’ve been guilty of over-relying on Facebook myself and these changes have given me the push I needed to get back to Twitter and to try to make more of LinkedIn too.

Focus on quality over quantity.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for a minute saying that Facebook for business is over. We just have to adapt to the changes. And, focusing on the quality of your posts is going to be key. We’re all going to have to consider engagement whenever we post content to Facebook (more than we do already, that is). What kind of content is going to get people talking and sharing? (Hint: those of us who have so far resisted the lure of video content are going to have to bite the bullet this year!)

Social media platforms do like to mix things up now and again, sometimes SMEs will welcome the changes snd sometimes the changes will send us into a blind panic. It’s vital that we don’t give these platforms so much power over our businesses: it’s time you start building your business on your own land.

 

 

 

 

 

Business book round-up 2017.

business book round-up 2017

Photo by Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash

Never stop learning. I think I’m going to turn that into my motto for 2018.

I remember thinking, back in my student days, that there was an end point. I’d graduate and suddenly I’d be able to say, ‘job done, I’m now fluent in Italian’. Let’s just chalk that one up to the foolishness of youth!

The truth is, we’re never done. If you want to be the best (and we all want to be the best, right?), we have to keep studying, learning, and improving. And you’ll know you’re in the right business if you don’t want to stop learning.

Investing in education is one of the best things you can do for your growing business but there’s no such thing as a quick browse through Amazon’s stock of business-related books. You could get lost in there for days, reading reviews and trying to figure out the best way to spend your cash.

So, I’m going to save you some time and give you the top 4 business books I enjoyed in 2017. I thoroughly recommend getting your hands on a copy of each one of these.

Read my post on other top ways to invest in your growing business here.

Business Book Round-up 2017

Given that I’m a copywriter and content creator, it’s no surprise that most of my recommendations are marketing and content related but, unless you outsource every aspect of your business marketing, you’ll find loads of little wisdom nuggets in each one of them, whatever business you’re in.

‘They Ask, You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing, and Today’s Digital Consumer’ by Marcus Sheridan.

They Ask, You Answer

‘They Ask, You Answer’ by Marcus Sheridan

Marcus Sheridan was running a pool installation company when the housing crisis hit and brought him to the brink of bankruptcy. In his book he outlines the principles he used to completely transform his company. He discusses how to deal with customer objections and turn them to your advantage, whether you should put pricing on your website, and he offers loads of ideas on how to come up with the type of content that your customers actually want to read. It’s always nice to see how theories work in practice and Sheridan has included several case studies that show how different businesses have employed these tactics, with great results.

I’m the first to admit that my own blog is sometimes the last thing on my mind (I’m too busy writing posts for other people; a lame excuse but true nonetheless) but, while reading ‘They Ask, You Answer’, I had to keep reaching for my notebook to write down blog post ideas, inspired by Sheridan’s theories. This one is definitely my top pick for anyone struggling with content creation.

‘KNOWN: The Handbook for Building and Unleashing Your Personal Brand in the Digital Age’ by Mark Schaefer.

Known by Mark Schaefer

‘Known’ by Mark Schaefer

Hands up if you’re sick of scrabbling around trying to find potential clients and convince them of your brilliance? You’re not alone! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people came looking for you? That’s the premise of ‘KNOWN’. If you are known in your field, people will seek you out. Before they even meet you, customers will have faith in your ability to get the job done.

Schaefer knows that finding your passion isn’t enough — you also need a plan. The book looks at how to identify your niche, find your audience and connect with them, and identifies the strategies you need to help you stand out from the crowd. I’m as happy as the next entrepreneur to visualise my success and define my passion, but I like a good, solid plan, so this book was right up my street.

I’m also terminally impatient: I want success and I want it now. Schaefer is a realist. He knows that establishing expertise, developing authority, and becoming ‘known’ all take time. If you’re like me and struggle with the notion that patience and perseverance are the keys to long-term business success, ‘KNOWN’ is the dose of common sense that you’ve been looking for.

‘The Hippo Campus: A step by step guide to get your business noticed, remembered and talked about with Stand Out Marketing’ by Andrew and Pete.

The Hippo Campus by Andrew and Pete

‘The Hippo Campus’ by Andrew and Pete

If you spend any time on Twitter, in the marketing sphere, you’ll have come across these guys. They pride themselves on being different, being memorable, and they like a good laugh. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take them seriously though.

Their book offers a fresh take on traditional marketing and along the way there are several easy assignments that will help you define your brand values and unleash your inner creativity. The book is backed up by a website, which includes video content and templates for the assignments in the book.

If you think that we’re all taking ourselves far too seriously, and we need to liven things up, you’ll like the boys’ writing style and you’ll love their advice.

‘She Means Business: Turn Your Ideas into Reality and Become a Wildly Successful Entrepreneur’  by Carrie Green.

She Means Business by Carrie Green

‘She Means Business’ by Carrie Green

I’m always heartened to learn how many women are starting their own businesses and a little sad when I realise that so many of us are battling the same issues: impostor syndrome, comparisonitis, and overwhelm.

These are the kinds of issues that Carrie tackles in ‘She Means Business’. I confess that I’m not one for manifesting, vision boards, and talking to the universe but my level-headed, business-minded sister recommended this book so I thought I’d give it a go. I laid my scepticism to one side, put my feet up and spent an entire evening with this book.

And, damn, I was a wee dynamo by the end of it!

I think I must have slept a total of two hours a night for a week afterwards, I was so full of ambition, enthusiasm, and a burning need to get things started. Within a month, I’d written myself a business plan, built a new website and reached out to all of my old contacts. There was no stopping me. Obviously, that’s not a sustainable way to run a business and I’ve gone back to the slow and steady approach now, but I guarantee that any time I feel my motivation waning, rereading ‘She Means Business’ will be number one on my to-do list.

So that’s 2017 out of the way, now it’s time to get 2018’s reading list sorted. If you have any recommendations for me, leave a comment. I’d love to know what your favourite business books are!

 

 

How to survive a freelance dry spell in 7 easy steps.

surviving a freelance dry spell

How to survive a freelance dry spell. (Photo by Brad Helmink on Unsplash)

 

The perks of working freelance are well-documented: working in your jammies, setting your own hours (to an extent), no more standing for hours on the train as you make your way in to the office for 9.00am.

Of course, this comes at a price. The obvious trade off is the complete lack of stability. One month you’re rolling around on a bed covered in £50 notes (okay, not quite!), the next you’re watching tumbleweed blow through your inbox and you’re asking your husband to call your mobile to check it’s still working.

I know we’re not really supposed to admit when we’re struggling but I’m not one for playing coy. I’ll happily admit that just a couple of months ago I fell victim to the dreaded ‘freelance freak-out’. I had had my busiest quarter ever and instead of enjoying the unexpected quiet spell and taking a few days to catch my breath, I started to panic. In my wee head, the busy spell was the anomaly and the quiet patch was the new ‘normal’. I started perusing job ads…

Can you relate?

If you’re currently in the midst of a quiet spell and feeling the onset of your own ‘freelance freak-out’, I want you to stop and take a breath. Assuming you still love your freelance work, this is the time to have faith and just power on through the rough patch.

Some folk turn to praying, others like manifesting and trusting in the universe. Whatever floats your boat. Me, I like action. I’ve put together 7 things you can do today to get that inbox pinging again.

1.Hit up your old clients.

Don’t forget to keep in touch with old clients. If you’ve updated your services, let them know; maybe they’ve been meaning to get in touch for another project and they just need a nudge in the right direction. Perhaps they’ve been meaning to pass your name along to someone who needs your skills but they assumed you’d be too busy to take on additional work. Maybe they’d be happy to provide you with a new testimonial that will help you close a new client you’ve been courting.

If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

2.Send out a newsletter.

People are busy and it’s so easy to fall off their radar. Sending out a newsletter packed with useful content is a great way to remind people that you’re there! Let your list know that you’re currently available and see if anyone bites.

surviving a freelance dry spell

I’m available!

3.Advertise your availability on your social media platforms.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting your audience know that you have immediate availability. If you’re usually booked up months in advance, there may be the odd client or two who jumps at the chance to get a project started without having to wait around for you to have a spare week in your diary.

4.Consider launching a new service or event.

Have you had the seed of an idea germinating at the back of your mind for a while? Now is the time to do something about it.

During my last quiet spell, that’s exactly what I did. Based on the conversations I’d been having at networking events, I could see that there are loads of entrepreneurs who have hit stumbling blocks with their content marketing and blogging. I realised that there was a very real need for a consultation service that helps beginner bloggers overcome these blocks. Sure enough, when I offered the service up to beta testers, I had several clients (some old, some new) jump at the chance. Quiet spell over.

Could you apply this to your own business? Could you introduce a new service or hold an event that would help out your target market? Not only will it get some pennies rolling in now, but it could be a great marketing opportunity that will pay dividends in the future too.

5.Get your butt out there.

There’s no point sitting at your desk, crying into your coffee. The best way out of a quiet spell is to get yourself out there — if clients aren’t coming to you, you’ll need to go out and find them.

Book yourself onto a networking event, sign up for a craft fair, go out and meet potential clients.

6.Cold emailing.

If you’re determined to sit at your desk, crying into your coffee, at least be productive about it. Make a list of clients you’d love to work with and send out some emails. Find out more about cold emailing here.

7.Use your contacts.

Do you know anyone in your industry who is swamped with work right now? Let them know that you’re having a tumbleweed moment (they’ll get it, they’ve been there too!) and that you’re willing and able to help them out with any overspill. It’s so important to foster these relationships; after all, there will be months when you’re the one who’s overrun with work and you’ll be able to return the favour.

surviving a freelance dry spell

Get your address book out. Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

8.Hire a sandwich board and parade the streets.

But only if you’ve tried the first 7 tips and haven’t had any luck.

Need some more tips for getting your business out there? Check out this post: http://www.clarecrossan.co.uk/low-cost-marketing-tips/

 

 

How to run a cold emailing campaign without annoying your prospects!

how to run a cold emailing campaign

 

Cold emailing

— why you should do it

and

— how to do it without pissing anyone off

I’m starting this post with a disclaimer; cold emailing is not my favourite way to generate business. Not yet, anyway.

When it comes to landing clients I’m a huge advocate of responding to hot leads (or warm ones at the very least!) and good, old-fashioned networking, whether in person or online. However, I’m the first to admit that these strategies will only take you so far.

At some point you’ll have to look into other forms of marketing.

Traditionally, cold calling has been a fantastic sales tool for businesses but, frankly, I refuse to go there. When the time comes that I can’t afford to keep my kids in Haribo and I’ve sold my last kidney, I may do a U-turn on that but, for now, I’ll stick to cold emailing.

Cold emailing feels far less intrusive than cold calling and definitely far less scary.

I know that many of you will be reading this and shaking your head thinking that you’d rather pluck your eyelashes than send out a cold email. What if you’re rejected? What if you piss people off? What if you’re hit with an angry reply from one of your prospects?

The truth is, all three of these things will happen. They’ve certainly happened to me. And I don’t mind admitting, I let it get to me. So why, I hear you cry, am I entertaining the idea of going down that route again?

Because I know that it works.

One of my oldest clients came to me as a result of a cold email and our relationship is still going strong. Goodness knows the revenue that one little email has generated for me! And, the great thing about failure is that it gives us a chance to do things differently next time. Sure, I’ve annoyed a few people in the past but I now know why and I won’t make the same mistake again.

So, if you’re thinking of starting a cold emailing campaign to generate sales for your business, read on for my tips on how to do it without pissing anyone off.

Be personal.

This was my first mistake, many moons ago, when I was looking for designers to collaborate with. I thought I was terribly clever; I crafted a beautifully worded email, following all of the principles of great copywriting, and sent it out to just about every designer whose email address I could find.

What a disaster.

My emails were largely ignored but I did receive one reply from a designer who was most pissed off at my intrusion into his busy work day. With the gift of hindsight, I don’t blame him.

My email was generic and ‘salesy’. It was bloody awful.

I won’t make that mistake again and hopefully neither will you.

The key to getting this right is to personalise every email. You can use a template but make sure you customise it for every prospect. Use their name when you address them and explain why you’ve chosen to contact them specifically.

Perhaps you’re getting in touch because you’ve read about a new project they’re handling and you know that they might benefit from outsourcing work to you. Maybe you’ve looked at their website and something you’ve read there makes you think that you’d be a great fit for working together.

Don’t bang on about how passionate you are.

As ever, when you’re writing sales copy, it’s not about you. It’s about how you can help your prospect. If you start by listing your qualifications and your passion for your industry, they won’t even finish reading the email.

You have to find a way to make your content relevant to them and whatever problem you think you can help them with. Show them how working with you, or buying your product, is going to make their life easier or more fabulous.

Keep it short.

An email is definitely less annoying than a cold call but you’re still asking for someone to take time out of their busy schedule to listen to you. Keep it short and to the point.

Make it easy for them to contact you.

Remember to include a call to action at the end of your email where you make it clear how the reader can contact you.

Even better, you could offer a follow up. Suggest a specific day or time you’ll call to discuss things further or, if you’re dealing with a smaller, local business, you could propose a time that you could pop in for an informal chat.

Check your spelling!

I kid you not, I’ve received cold emails from aspiring copywriters whose writing is so full of errors it’s practically unintelligible. Needless to say, these people are not working for me. Nor will I ever consider recommending them to anyone if I have surplus work.

Sending out a error-riddled email when you’re pitching for writing work is about as lazy as you can get but don’t think that just because you aren’t pitching writing work, you can get away with mistakes.

You are asking someone, a stranger, to invest in you, whether with their time or their money. Why should they if you couldn’t even be bothered to do a spell-check? Errors in your email make you look sloppy and unprofessional and may even distort the clarity of your message.

If you aren’t great with words, ask someone else to proofread your email for you or hire a professional to do it. At the very least, make sure you’ve run your content through a spelling and grammar check.

If you’ve followed this advice, written personal, concise and relevant emails and you still haven’t made any progress, don’t despair! It may be that you need to tweak your content a little or that you simply haven’t contacted enough of the right people. Cold emailing is a numbers game and if you keep at it, you will eventually strike gold.

Good luck!

For more advice on running your small business or all things copy related, subscribe here.

 

 

 

How to use social proof to boost your small business.

social proof in marketing

 

A few years ago, I read “50 Shades of Grey”

“50 Shades of Grey”!

I am a writer. I like LITERATURE. Do you know how hard it is for me to admit this?

So why did I pick up this abomination of a novel?

Everyone was talking about it. Everyone. And I wanted in on the conversation.

I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

Despite being a grown-ass woman, I didn’t want to be left out. I know, I know, I’m rolling my eyes at myself!

That’s social proof for you.

It’s powerful and if you want to grow your business, it’s time to harness that power!

What is social proof?

Social proof is marketing gold. It is a potent sales tool and if you’re not using it in the promotion of your small business, you’re missing out.

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon that influences and changes people’s behaviour.

When we see a product flying off the shelves, we assume that it must be amazing and we join the queue.

If we walk past a restaurant and see that there are only a couple of tables left, we hurry on in. If it’s that busy, the food must be outstanding, right?

When all of our friends are raving about an amazing novel, you don’t want to be the loser who doesn’t know what everyone is banging on about.

Social proof is bloody powerful. It is the sole reason I wasted an afternoon of my life reading ‘THAT book’.

We are fundamentally herd animals. We want nothing more than to seek social acceptance. We bow to peer pressure and we worry that if we miss out on “The Next Big Thing”, we will be social pariahs.

However, many small business owners just don’t appreciate its importance, or know how to use it effectively.

How can you use social proof to boost your business?

Social proof, when used correctly, can improve your credibility, create hype, reassure hesitant buyers and generally make you lots more money.

Here are a few easy ways that you can start incorporating social proof into your business marketing, today.

Testimonials.

I was chatting to a fellow solopreneur this afternoon and we somehow ended up talking about testimonials. She admitted that she hadn’t really thought about asking clients for testimonials or reviews before. She had no idea that she was missing a valuable source of free marketing for her business.

Client testimonials prove that your marketing isn’t just a load of unfounded hype. They show potential customers that your services ARE as brilliant as you say they are, maybe even better. They let everyone know that your products DO work. Your coaching sessions can change lives; your cupcakes really do taste amazing…

Of course, we all hesitate when it comes to asking for a testimonial. We appreciate that our customers are busy people and we don’t want to bother them. However, if you’ve done a great job for them, my guess is that they will be only too happy to write a few sentences for you, as long as you ask nicely!

And, when you do receive these testimonials, don’t forget to shout about it. Add them to your website and share them on social media.

You don’t have to be too ‘braggy’ about it. I like to share any new testimonials alongside a wee thank you to the client for taking the time to provide the feedback.

Social media endorsements.

If you’re a LinkedIn user, it is worth asking clients to add a brief testimonial to your profile or endorse you for skills. Whenever anyone is looking for someone with your particular skill set, they will be reassured that you can provide a kick-ass service and they will feel more confident in reaching out to you.

If Facebook is your social media platform of choice, offer customers an incentive to leave a review or to check-in to your location. You could add everyone who reviews or endorses you into a prize draw or offer a freebie to one lucky person who has checked in to your business in the last month.

There is something very powerful about seeing your Facebook friends reviewing a business or checking-in.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am quite particular about pizza (living in Italy has ruined me!). So, if anyone in my network sees me leave a 5* review for a pizzeria, they know it is probably worth checking out.

When I see my fitness fanatic friend check in to a local gym, I know that when I finally get off my lazy butt, that’s probably the best place to check out.

Case Studies.

Case studies work in the same way as testimonials but they allow for more detail. You can really go to town on a case study, drawing in your audience with a compelling story and making the most of any before and after pictures you may have.

My advice for using case studies is to look particularly to customers who fit your ideal customer avatar. Tell their story; highlight the problem they had when they came to you and how you helped solve the issue. Others, with similar problems, will be able to relate to the story and will be able to picture you solving their issues too.

Brand logos/celebrity endorsements.

Have you worked with any well-known brands? Are your products stocked in a high-end store? Have you sold any products to celebrities or ‘influencers’?

One aspect of social proof is that people tend to look to authority figures for guidance. If you can show that your product or service has been ‘approved’ by a well-known brand or personality, you will instantly boost your credibility and public interest in your brand.

There are loads of ways you can harness the power of social proof when marketing your business and the best thing is that most of them won’t cost you a penny.

Which one will you try first?

Now, let’s all try to forget that I told you about reading “50 Shades”…

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7 Benefits of Having a Business Blog

 

Have you started a business blog yet?

Or have you started, uploaded a couple of posts and then let it fade?

I mean, you have other stuff to do, right? You know, designing, coaching or whatever it is that your clients pay you to do…

I get it. Blogging takes time and it takes effort.

You have to set aside time to research, write and (for the love of the wee man don’t forget this bit), promote your blog posts.

Given the whole ‘time and effort’ objection to blogging, you might wonder why I made such a big deal of it in my previous post ‘How to market your business when you’re broke’. Sure, it’s free but is it really worth the hassle?

In a word, yes!

Now, if you’re happy to take my word for it, then you can go and get started right now.

If you still need a bit of convincing, I’ve listed below the most basic benefits you’ll get from starting your own business blog.

1. Improved SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

Now, many copywriters are SEO experts—I am not. I’m not super- techy and they keep moving the damn goalposts on this one. Google changes its algorithms more often than I change my mind about my favourite Game of Thrones character.

 One thing that remains constant though, is that search engines love fresh content.

There is absolutely no point getting yourself an all-singing, all-dancing website and then letting it stagnate.

And that’s what’ll happen if you don’t keep updating your content. All of the well cared for websites, with new and exciting content will float to the top of the search pile, leaving yours to sink lower and lower into the depths.

It’s heartbreaking. Especially if you paid a fortune setting up your site in the first place!

The easiest way to introduce fresh content to your website: a blog.

2.Long-tail keywords

While we’re talking search engines, it’s worth knowing about long-tail keywords. This is something that probably deserves a post of its very own but I’m going to stick with just a simple explanation for now.

What are long-tail keywords and how are they going to help your business?

Let’s take my own business as an example. A relevant long-tail keyword might be ‘how to write a great landing page’. In search engine terms, this is going to have far less competition than the more generic ‘copywriter’ or ‘marketing copy’.

The more long-tail keywords your website contains, the more people will be able to find it —providing you are not jamming keywords in just for the sake of it. (Don’t do this! Google will recognise that you’re trying to cheat the system and will penalise you for it. Always remember you’re writing for people, not search engines).

Blog posts are a brilliant way of naturally incorporating long-tail keywords into your website.

3. Building relationships

Blogging is NOT about making sales. Increased sales will happen further down the line, but when you’re writing it’s worth remembering that the main purpose of your blog is to help your customers.

Before you even start blogging, it’s a good idea to spend some time putting together a strategy.

Consider who your customers are, what they want to know and how you can help them. What kind of topics could you cover that will improve their lives or their businesses?

Assuming you’re providing useful content and showing a bit of personality, your customers will come to know, like and trust you. When they get to the point that they’re ready to buy, they’re far more likely to come to you, the person they know, like and trust.

4. Establishing credibility

In a similar vein, by posting useful information about your industry you’re proving to your audience that you know your stuff.

Diplomas and qualifications are great but producing relevant content highlights that you are constantly honing your skills and keeping your knowledge fresh.

This shows your professionalism and your expertise —and instils confidence in your customers.

5. Getting to know your customers

When you’re blogging, invite your readers to comment on your posts. The conversations that can ensue here are a goldmine.

Are customers frequently asking the same questions? Great, there’s a topic for a new blog post or even a new page on your website.

Is there a recurring problem with one of your products? Great, now you know about it, you can fix it and tell everyone about the improvements you’ve made.

Maybe some of the comments are highlighting a particular problem that your clients are experiencing — here’s an opportunity for you develop or repackage one of your products or services.

6.Improve your industry knowledge

Not every blog post you write will require research. You are writing about your own industry after all. Some will though and when you’re researching these topics, I guarantee that you’ll improve your professional knowledge along the way. This will ultimately improve the service you’re offering your clients and help you grow your business.

7.Increased visibility

I’ve mentioned it before but it’s worth saying again:

Promote your posts!

There is no point in writing a post that no one will ever read. As soon as you’ve hit publish, promote your post on every social media account you have, including your personal ones.

It is also worth adding any new posts to your newsletter or automatically emailing any new content to your email subscribers.

This is a great way to increase your visibility and stay at the forefront of your customer’s minds.

 

I’d love to know…

If you were on the fence about starting a blog, has any of the info here changed your mind one way or the other?

Have I missed anything out?

If you’ve been blogging for a while and spotted an obvious benefit that I haven’t mentioned here, let me know!

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How to market your business when you’re broke.

Marketing tips for when your piggy bank is empty.

 

You don’t need me to tell you that marketing your fledgling business isn’t optional. No visibility, no customers, no business. No good!

However, business start up costs can be pretty intimidating and the likelihood is that, for the first few years, if not longer, you simply won’t have much of a marketing budget to play with.

Luckily there are hundreds (if not thousands) of low-cost or free marketing strategies you can play around with to get things up and running.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a to-do list the length of my arm to get through today. Rather than bombard you with ideas, I’m going to highlight the key strategies I’m focusing on at the moment:

1.Networking — in person and online

2.Using your existing contacts (you have more of them than you realise)

3.Cold emailing (how to do it without annoying people)

4.Creating valuable content

 

1.Networking

If you do nothing else to market your business, make sure you spend as much time as you can networking. Whether in person or online, this is, without a doubt, THE most effective low-cost marketing tool around.

In person

There are some amazingly effective networking groups out there that charge an arm and a leg just for joining — and that’s before you’ve shelled out for your train ticket, the event ticket and the cost of the coffee/wine/valium you’ll need to purchase to get yourself through the event.

If we look at this from the point of view of your ROI (and this IS how we need to view these things), say you pay £500 for membership, depending on what type of business you’re running, you may only need to score one or two clients, at most, to make your money back. Add to that the fact that you’re likely (hopefully) to get repeat business, word-of-mouth advertising and referrals from said clients, it probably is a worthwhile investment.

However, I’m writing this post specifically for those of you who simply don’t have £500 to spare right now.

I have to tell you — don’t panic!

Assuming you don’t live out in the sticks, there are loads of networking events out there that don’t cost a penny. And some of them are downright awesome.

As soon as you’ve finished reading this, start googling. In fact, go and have a look right now and don’t come back until you’ve registered for at least one event. It’s cool, I’ll wait…

Right, is that you sorted?

While you were doing that, I searched for “networking groups Glasgow” and this was the first result Google hit me with: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/d/scotland–glasgow/networking/

Once I’ve sorted by date, I can scroll through and see which free events I can fit into my schedule. There are a good few to choose from and I know it’s just a matter of trial and error until I find the events that suit me.

Some will be great for meeting potential clients. Some will be more useful for meeting potential collaborators. Some will provide useful tips for how to improve how I run my business. None will be a waste of time and literally all I need to pay for is my bus fare into the city.

Online

social media marketing

I’m a massive fan of networking in person, however, as an introvert and a busy mum, networking that can be done from my own living room (or from the café of a soft play centre) is worth its weight in gold.

It goes without saying that you should constantly be working on your own social media accounts, building relationships and posting useful content, but don’t neglect  the possibilities of online forums and groups.

To use Facebook as an example, there are a million and one different groups for entrepreneurs. Some are specifically for mumpreneurs (sorry, I know, I’m not a fan of the term either!), some directed at women business owners, some are aimed at specific industries or specific countries or regions.

Before you get lost down the rabbit hole, it’s best to come up with a strategy.

Realistically, it’s better to join one or two relevant groups and take the time to use them properly rather than joining every group you come across and then not having the time to actually contribute to them all. Begin by building up relationships, offering advice and providing value. Keep an eye out for people looking for the skills or products you offer and don’t be afraid to pitch your business if there is a job posting.

2.Use your contacts

Don’t be so busy trying to find new contacts that you forget about the useful contacts you already have. I can almost guarantee that you know someone who needs your skills right now.

It may be your neighbour’s sister’s dental hygienist but until you put yourself out there you’ll never know.

So make sure that when you’re updating your business Facebook status, you update your personal status too. Tell your friends and family that you’re available for work. Assuming they like you and want to throw you a bone, they’ll share your status and help you spread the word.

And don’t forget to take your business cards everywhere you go. You never know who you’ll end up speaking to at your pal’s birthday party.

3.Cold emailing

I’m the first to admit that this one fills me with dread. I can feel the sweat forming on my brow at the very thought of it but do you know what? I have heard so many small business owners swear by this that I’ve decided to give it a whirl.

Now, it’s early days for me but as far as I can make out, the key to this is not to be annoying; don’t be “salesy” and don’t try to be too clever.

Rather than plodding my way through an A-Z of business listings to find potential clients, I’m having a good think about the types of businesses I really want to work with. For example, there’s a kick-ass pizzeria not too far away that I absolutely adore. I reckon I’d be a great fit for their business, I’m a huge advocate of their product and I KNOW I could help them kill it with their marketing copy. So naturally, they’re on my list.

When it comes to actually drafting your cold emails it’s best to stick with honesty every time. Tell them why you’re contacting them — what do you think you’d be able  to help them with, why are you attracted to that business, how can you help them thrive?

Be brief, be polite and, as with all marketing copy, highlight the benefits you’re providing, rather than focusing on your business.

More on cold emailing here

Obviously emailing is free but if you wanted to push the boat out you could try sending real, actual, I can hold it in my hand, letters. Stamps aren’t as cheap as they used to be but if you really want to keep the cost down you could target local businesses and hand-deliver your letters.

Assuming you find the right businesses to contact and your sales copy is shit hot, you might find that there is more chance of your business card (don’t forget to pop one in the envelope) being filed away for future reference than an email being kept and actually found when needed.

 

4.Creating content

creating content for small businesses

Do you have a blog yet? No? Why the hell not?

Given that many of my clients hire me as a blog writer, you’d be right in saying that I’m an itty bit biased when it comes to this free marketing strategy. However, if business blogging didn’t offer a decent ROI then I wouldn’t still be in business.

Want to know more about the benefits of having a blog?

It’s vital that you come up with a strategy before you start throwing content around and hoping that some of it sticks.

The most important thing to remember is that you’re not writing for yourself, you’re writing for your audience.

Sit down and think about your audience. Who do you want to read your content? Potential customers presumably? Now, rather than think about how you can sell to them, think about how you can help them. What do they want to know? What will help them improve their businesses or their lives?

Delivering quality content in this way shows your potential customers that you know your stuff. You’ll be building up trust and relationships. So when the time is right for them to put in an order, they’ll have confidence in you and will know your product is the right option for them. It’s a win win.

Just don’t go to the trouble of writing a blog and then forgetting to promote it! As soon as you hit publish, get your content out there. Stick it on Facebook, tweet about it, print it out and stick it to every lamppost in your neighbourhood. Okay, maybe not that last one…

(Writing a blog is free but it does take time, so if you feel like it’s something you want to try but you worry you don’t have the time to do it justice or you’re not too fond of writing — I gather not everyone relishes the challenge of a blank screen the way I do — then give me a shout with what you need and I’ll check my availability.)

Which will you try first?

As I mentioned earlier there are thousands of cheap or even free marketing tactics you can try to help grow your business. I’ve focused on these today because these are the ones that have either worked well for me or that I feel compelled to try after many hours of research on the subject.

If you’ve found any others that are working particularly well for you, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!