Questions a Prospective Client Should Be Prepared to Answer

 

When I am talking to a prospective client regarding their online marketing strategy, the interview process is as important to me as it is to them.

 

While I can give them an overview of online marketing tactics, it takes a deeper understanding of their business, resources, and goals before we can mutually determine if working together would be a good fit and how we would approach their strategy.

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Compelling Product Copywriting – A Recipe For Success

I was visiting a client that produces designer jewelry and tableware and had the opportunity to get up close and personal with his stunning pieces.

 

As I held one of his forks in my hand, I could feel the heft of the metal and the curvature of the handle, feel an appreciation for his spiritual vision along with the superior artistry, craftsmanship and elegance of his ladder-style design that was inspired by angels ascending into heaven.

 

That experience helped me rationalize that it was a $40 dinner fork.

 

Then I went to his website…

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What to Look for and Avoid When Hiring a Content Writer

Content is really the driving force behind most forms of marketing tactics including SEO, social media, and email marketing. It also is what leads to high converting web pages and helps define your brand. Content that answers the questions your audience is asking in their minds (or out loud). Content that informs and educates, so the audience feels that their time reading it was well spent. Content that tells a story, exudes candor and authenticity, and is ultimately captivating. However, the thought of constantly creating high quality content can be daunting to many business owners and even marketing departments who are pressed for time, or even experiencing writer’s block. And hiring a full time staff-writer often isn’t practical. Luckily, there are some great freelance writers that can help fill or supplement your ongoing need for great content. But how do you find a great content writer who can match the tone of your brand and deliver thought-leadership level quality pieces?

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I was recently interviewed by marketing software comparison company Software Advice on the topic of “How to Hire the Right Freelance Writers for Content Marketing.” This piece goes into great detail about what to look for and what to avoid when it comes to hiring a content writer and is worth reading in full. However, I’ll summarize a few key takeaways:

What to Look For

Find writers who have some familiarity with the subject matter, or who have experience writing at a high level on a variety of subjects. My tip was that if you’re on a tight budget or pressed for time, it helps to find someone who has at least some familiarity with the industry or concept. If you need content on topics that appeals to teenage girls, even a highly capable writer might find it difficult to accurately fit the tone and write authoritatively on the subject if they only have experience writing government policy pieces. Ideally, the content writer should be adaptable and able to cover a variety of topics in a persuasive and compelling way, so that you don’t have to look for different writers when you have new topics to cover. A great content writer should also understand the fundamental marketing and business concepts behind content marketing. They should have a strong grasp of how content is distributed and consumed online, how to craft engaging titles and copy and how to align the content with your specific business goals.

Red Flags

There are some telltale signs that you don’t have the right fit as well. A red flag is when there are spelling or grammatical mistakes in direct correspondence, or if they can’t put together a coherent thought. Additionally, like when hiring any freelancer, they should be highly responsive. If you have an ongoing need for content, you don’t want to be constantly chasing after your content writer as your brand suffers. And lastly, I discussed how it’s important to ensure they are not plagiarizing any of the content using simple tools like Google or Copyscape. While it’s perfectly acceptable and recommended to conduct research and reference facts and sources, it’s not acceptable to copy entire thoughts or sections verbatim from another article without attribution. If discovered, this not only damages your brand and credibility, but Google doesn’t give you any love for doing it, either. 

Getting Started

Whether you’ve selected a content writer or are still deciding between a few candidates, provide a couple options that can serve as test articles to do a final evaluation of their performance before committing to a longer term engagement. It’s important to communicate with your content writer because you know your business and the tone of your brand better than anyone. So don’t just hand them a topic and ask them to start writing. Clearly articulate the style and purpose so that the writer can understand the context and your expectations.

With content playing such an important role in your overall marketing strategy, finding a capable freelance content writer to support your efforts will allow you to increase engagement with your customers and potential customers, help define and elevate the authority of your brand, and ultimately should help you grow your business.

 

 

Brand Storytelling

Online Brand Storytelling – Why Creating a Narrative is Critical

Nearly 15 years ago, when I started a company out of my college dorm room at 21 years old  (before upgrading to the basement of a townhouse), one of the first things I did was Photoshop our logo onto a stock photo of a big, fancy office building and stick that image on the “About Us” page of the website. The internet, and particularly ecommerce was still new and a bit scary, and most customers sure weren’t interested in handing their personal info over to a website run by some kid out of his apartment.

How things have changed. As the internet and its users (including myself) matured, I came to the realization that truth should be the cornerstone of your content. Customers are smart (not to mention resourceful) enough to sniff out a brand that doesn’t exude genuine authenticity, and relate more to ones that do. Furthermore, especially these days, the story of a lean start-up with humble beginnings run by young entrepreneurs can be on full display like a badge of honor. It was part of the history and identity of my brand. Every startup and small business has a story to tell; something that will connect potential customers to your brand. It helps create a relationship with your brand, expresses your core values, and makes you distinctive and  memorable…basically  the definition of branding.  Or as marketing guru Seth Godin puts it, “Brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

Many entrepreneurs are so enthusiastic about their company, or are so close to it that they assume their audience understands it like they do and is just as interested as they are. Focusing on specifications or a “corporate” descriptions of what you do will be lost on most of your audience, not to mention can come off as self-indulgent and flat-out boring. On the other hand, a compelling and inspiring narrative about what you do, why you do it, and how it will make something better will help attract, captivate and motivate people.

What’s Your Story?

How is your product being created? What defines your corporate culture? Why do you do what you do? You’re looking for the things that your organization truly cares about and makes you unique and valuable to the world around you. If you’re having trouble figuring this out, get some insight from your employees and customers. These people interact with your brand; learning what makes your employees value your company and culture and what makes your customers value your products and brand can help you understand how your brand is positioned.

If Your Brand Was a Person, Who Would it Be?

Once you know why you matter and how to describe your value, you can create a persona that exemplifies this.  If your business was a human being, who would it be, how would it speak, and what would it care about? Are you quirky? Rugged? Analytical? That clarity leads to a real and relatable persona and humanized brand that helps you build a loyal customer base. This authenticity also helps convey openness, integrity and honesty; attributes that can pay big dividends for your business.

The tone your brand uses should reflect this persona and be consistent across all customer touch points. Some of these touch points include:

  • Your website
  • All social media channels
  • Your blog
  • Your newsletter
  • Videos
  • All transaction and service related inquiries

So it’s critical that all of your staff, particularly those that touch the customer, understand this persona and can accurately match the tone. If you have a strong company culture that is consistent with your brand, this persona should already resonate with the inherent personalities of your staff.

Take a hard look at your current content. Then think about how you can pull stories out of your organization and weave them into your content in a way that relates to your customer and ultimately builds your brand.

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How to Get Inside Your Customer’s Head

Companies looking to improve their website conversion rates often ask me something that I find rather farcical. “Can you tell me why aren’t my customers converting?” Sure, we can dive into the analytics. We can record user sessions. We can look at heat maps. Eye tracking. Run split tests. There are lots and lots of articles written about best practices for web/landing page design with a focus on conversion, and many of these are quite good. But my first question is, “Have you actually asked them?” They typically give me a look resembling something between perplexed and contrite and say “Um, no.”

On-Site Customer Surveys

We can analyze the website data and draw conclusions from it, but often the fastest and easiest option is to simply ask customers. On site survey software such as Qualaroo or Webengage allow you to create unique (even rules-based) on-site surveys so you can ask a simple, open-ended question like “Is there anything still preventing you from purchasing?” You might be amazed by what they are willing to tell you.

Abandoned Cart Email Follow Up

There are 3rd party abandoned cart follow up email tools that can automate this process. Additionally, a number of common email platforms that you might already be using for your email newsletters even allow rules-based triggers that you can create based on customers visiting certain pages of your site and not converting.  For example, something as simple as “Hi [Name], Thanks for visiting [Website Name.] We noticed that you did not complete your order for [product name] Is there anything currently preventing you from completing your purchase that we can assist you with? [Your Contact Info, Call to Action, Assurances, etc.]”

Mine Your Customer Data

On a related note, I also find it irrational when I hear from a company that “We get the same questions from customers over and over again.” I would simply ask, “Have you reviewed your website to make sure the answers to these questions are obvious?” It may be a fix as simple as adding another FAQ, adding additional product specs, or making a button bigger and more noticeable. Look at your customer inquiries. Talk to your customer service staff. They are a great resource to help you get inside the heads of your customers, because they are the ones actually interacting with them. Even reach out to your existing customers and ask them what made them become customers in the first place.

Build a Real Customer Profile

Now that you’ve asked the questions, can you use the answers to build a customer profile to get inside their head and understand their concerns? Their uncertainties? Their needs? Imagine if you proactively addressed all of these in your website copy and what that might do for your conversion rates! Rather than marketing “at” your potential customers on your site by rattling off features, you could instead actually be speaking their language and showing that you truly understand them. Your product or service is the solution to whatever problem they are facing or addresses their needs and you can provide it in such a way that they feel comfortable doing business with you. Wouldn’t you be more likely to buy from a company that you thought really understood you and presented a clear value proposition?

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