Archives for October 2013

They Want You to Be the One (so stop being afraid to market yourself)

Let me ask you a question – and be honest with yourself about the answer – are you afraid to market your creative products or services?

Do you feel kind of icky about promoting yourself, wishing you could just create your amazing thing, then simply based on the awesomeness of that thing, word spreads like wildfire, the hordes find you, and you make sales hand-over-fist?

Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t happen that way.

You actually have to – gasp – market yourself.

But what I’ve noticed with many creatives is that they have this fear of marketing and selling that prevents them from getting the results they want in their business.

For example, do you recognize yourself in any of these (real life) comments from creatives?

  • “What I’m afraid of when marketing is seeming intrusive and pushy.”
  • “Marketing kind of feels like preying on people’s fears and weaknesses and insecurities.”
  • “I feel very inauthentic when trying to win over clients – it feels painful!”
  • “I wish there was another word for marketing. I associate it with being scammy.”
  • “I feel intimidated by marketing. I’m scared of harassing people.”
  • “I thought if I created good enough products, they’d sell without me having to do much but put them out there. I’m afraid what others will think of me if I market – that I’ll come off as a ‘cheesy car salesman’.”

 As a creative myself, I know how terrifying it can be to put yourself out there and try to sell your thing.   

But if you want to make a living from your creative talents, you can’t be afraid to sell, especially on your website, where your potential clients and customers are likely first coming across your offerings.  And copywriting that authentically conveys your skills in a way that aligns with your personality and style can help you market and sell without feeling intrusive or pushy.

Let me share a little story that might shift your mindset on this.

Once many years ago, I signed up for an acting class. (I actually thought I was signing up for a film studies class, but it turned out to be a class about acting for films.)

Oh well.  Since I had just moved to a new town and didn’t really know anyone yet, I decided to stick it out and stay in the class on the chance I’d make some new friends.  (Good choice, by the way.  Friends found, loneliness averted.)

Part of the class revolved around how to prepare for auditions. My goodness, but these actors were terrified of auditions! 

And although I would never be in their position, I understood what that fear must feel like – it’s the same feeling I had anytime I interviewed for a job I really wanted (back in the day when I was still a worker bee), or sometimes even now when I’m trying to land a big new dream client.

But the acting coach said something to us one day that changed my attitude about “putting yourself out there” forever:

“They want you to be the one,” he told us.

The message he wanted the acting students to get was, hey, those you’re auditioning for want you to be the right choice, they want you to be perfect for the role, they’re hoping against hope that you really, truly “bring it” in your audition so they can hire you now and stop looking.  They’d much rather find “the one” right now than audition actor after actor after actor. 

Once the acting students let this idea sink in, they realized they didn’t need to be so fearful of auditions.

It’s the same in your business.

When that person looking for interior design services or wedding photography or the perfect graphic designer comes to your website and you just happen to sell interior design services or wedding photography or graphic design services, believe me, they want you to be the one.

They don’t want to keep looking.  When they land on your website, they’re thinking, “I’m so tired of looking for someone to hire for this project, I just want to find a talented fill-in-the-blank-with-your-creative-service-here who gets what I need and can deliver the results I want.” 

And they’re hoping that you are going to be that person.

So instead of feeling shy about writing copy for your website that whips up desire for your offerings, you can feel good knowing that, rather than pushing something on people they don’t want, you’re actually connecting them with what they do want, in the form of your products and services and the results they provide.

After all, all authentic marketing isn’t pushy or sleazy, it’s simply deeply connecting with your ideal audience and communicating that you can provide a product or service that is beneficial to them, that they already want (or they wouldn’t be searching for it online and have landed on your website in the first place).

So if you’ve been fearful of marketing and selling your creative products or services, I encourage you to try the “they want you to be the one” mindset on for size.  You might be surprised by how much this simple shift in thinking can help you in your business.

So think about this now, and share in the comments section below how you’re going to implement this mindset shift into your marketing this week. 

 

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Creatives: How to Uncover Your Unique Selling Proposition (and why you need to)

Defining Your Unique Selling Proposition

[This is the final installment of a three-part series. Part one is here; part two is here.]

Back in part one of this series, I talked about the three massive client-repelling mistakes I made when I was first starting out online with my copywriting business, and what I did to fix them.

To recap, those mistakes were:

#1: I didn’t know who my ideal client/target audience was and what they struggled with, #2: I wasn’t expressing how I was different from others who offered a similar product or service, and #3: I wasn’t making an emotional connection with my ideal clients. (And you have to do the first two to be able to pull off the third).

Last week in part two of the series, we talked about how to define your ideal client or customer, and why it’s so darned important to get this figured out if you want to have a successful business that attracts the “right” kind of clients and makes you money.

Today we’ll cover finding your unique selling proposition (USP), which may sound slick and jargony, but which simply means the collection of factors unique to you and your business that compels your ideal clients to choose you over someone else who offers the same product or service.  (Your downloadable Defining Your USP checklist is at the end of this blog post.)

If you want an “official” definition of what a USP is, here’s one from businessdictionary.com:

Real or perceived benefit of a good or service that differentiates it from the competing brands and gives its buyer a logical reason to prefer it over other brands. USP is often a critical component of a promotional theme around which an advertising campaign is built.

Finding your USP can be challenging, because chances are your products or services aren’t truly unique. Hardly anyone’s are, yet there are plenty of people online doing what you do, and what I do, who are wildly successful despite not offering truly unique products or services.  That’s because they’ve positioned themselves well by determining their USP. And the good news is, once you figure out who your ideal client or customer is (see part two of this series on how to do that), figuring out your USP becomes much easier.

What happens when you have a poorly defined USP?

When someone searches online for that thing you do, if you sound just like everybody else, you’ll end up getting more than your fair share of price shoppers and other pains-in-the-you-know-where who will make you want to drive right off a bridge, instead of happy-making ideal clients who are willing to pay a premium for your specific creative expertise.

This happens because you’re indistinguishable from the hundreds of other creative service providers online who do what you do, so you’ll be judged based on price alone, or passed over altogether, which means you may just end up on the feast-or-famine roller coaster forever.  And no one wants that.

The cure for this is differentiation. 

Differentiating yourself in the online marketplace is absolutely essential to your success as a small creative business, because without it, you’ll be just another cog in the wheel of online commerce, a run-of-the-mill commodity whose services clients won’t place a premium on.  If you’ve been providing creative services to clients for any length of time you’ve no doubt experienced this.  I know I have.

The benefits of a well-defined USP

If you differentiate yourself effectively, you’ll begin to connect with and convert your ideal clients, instead of ending up with the ones who make you want to plunge daggers into your eyes.  Because when a potential ideal client looking for a photographer, interior designer, graphic designer, personal stylist, or whatever kind of creative product or service you offer, lands on your website and sees it’s not like the hundreds of other sites out there they found when they were Googling that thing you do, they will stop and take notice, instead of trucking right on past your website never to return.

Here’s a great quote that sums up the importance of differentiation:

 “In the absence of a meaningful difference, the cheapest brand may be regarded as the best choice. Lack of differentiation turns brands into commodities and marketing messages into white noise. But a meaningful difference can spark consumer interest and fuel demand for a brand, even when that brand carries a significant price premium.”  ~Nigel Hollis

Some obvious examples of effective differentiation and the hand-in-hand premium pricing that goes along with it are Apple, Harley Davidson, and designer Tory Burch, to name just three.  You could buy a computer or a motorcycle or clothes much more cheaply from lots of other companies, but the cache attached to these three brands because of their position and differentiation in the marketplace makes their ideal customers insanely eager to pay premium prices for them.  Hell, they even line up around city blocks for hours, just for the privilege of paying premium prices, in the case of Apple.  

Just something to keep in mind.

What that means for you is, if you dig deep and figure out what makes you and the service you provide different and better and you convey that in everything you do across all the touchpoints of your business, you will attract clients who are happy to pay what you ask for your services, without the bargain-hunting drama. 

And, just as the defining your ideal client process is an iterative one, so too is determining your USP and applying it.  You’ll refine as you get feedback and results, so don’t worry that you need to have every detail figured out before you begin implementing your points of differentiation into your business.

Here’s the process I used to determine my points of differentiation:

  • The first thing I did was buy myself a little notebook and start brainstorming ideas.
  • I made a list of all the possible categories I thought I could differentiate myself in, including the kind of clients I serve, my personality and unique skill set, the specific kinds of copywriting packages I offer, and so on, then looked at other copywriters online and saw how they presented themselves in each of these categories.
  • I then methodically made notes from each category about what made me unique compared to my competitors.  If it was too much of a stretch to find something unique about me or my business in a category, I scrapped it and moved on to the next category on the list.
  • After that exercise, I read Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham, and took the Strengths Finder Test to determine my 5 top strengths.  This was amazingly helpful for getting a bead on the intersection of what I love to do and what I’m naturally gifted at doing.
  • I then made a list of the relevant experiences and “stories” from my life that have some bearing on my business, such as my background in PR and Advertising, and getting accepted to art school (& not going), etc. The key here is to choose stories you’ll share with your audience that are relevant to your business.
  • And something that was all kinds of uncomfortable, but totally worth it: I emailed 15-20 people – a mix of clients and friends – and asked them what they felt my 3 best qualities were.  Almost everyone said some version of the same thing:  sense of humor, easy to work with, and enthusiastic.  

There were a few other things I did, books I read, and questions I asked myself, but that’s the top-level overview of the process I used.

Ok, so, what does effective differentiation look like, you may be wondering?  If you’re anything like me, it always helps to see real world examples.

Creative service providers doing differentiation right

It took a lot of Googling, but I finally found these two examples of creative pros who have successfully implemented differentiation into their online presence:

I loved her on HGTV’s Design Star and I love her website.  Emily Henderson does a great job of just being herself and injecting her personality throughout the site, from what she writes about, to how she writes it, to her design philosophy.  Case in point: “perfection is boring, let’s get weird.”  Love it! 

Google “wedding photographers” and let me know what you find.  I’ll wait.  See that?  They all look pretty much identical – a whole lot of beautiful images, but no language or copy that makes an emotional connection with the potential client.

Notice the difference on this site though – as soon as you land on the Home page, you’ll see that Natalie of Reminisce Photography is the wedding photographer for “the creatively courageous, effortlessly elegant, DIY, cupcake nibbling, detail-obsessed, romantically whimsical bride with a fun-loving edge.”  She doesn’t do that ineffective thing many photographers online do – lead with beautiful images but no copy, which makes it hard for audiences to connect with the business. Very effective use of copy on this site to set Natalie and her services apart.

Two other resources for understanding, and finding, your unique selling proposition/points of differentiation:

Take 15 Minutes to Find Your Winning Difference, from the fine folks at Copyblogger.

And 10 Examples of Killer Unique Selling Propositions on the Web, from the ever-so-awesome guys at Think Traffic.

There you go.  After reading this post and checking out the two creative differentiation examples above and the 2 extra articles I’ve linked up here, you should have some ideas about how to make your own business stand out in a crowded marketplace. 

 But if you’re still thinking, “How the heck do I actually do it – how do I figure out what makes me ‘different’ and ‘better’ when there are 567,898 other creatives online (rough estimate) who do what I do?”

 (I get it, because I had the same challenge.  I mean, do you know how many other copywriters are out there?  But I digress.)

Well, there’s a checklist for that, and you can download it here:

Defining Your USP Checklist.

 So take action, and good luck!

 

The Dreadful Client-Repelling Mistake That Will Keep You Broke (and how to fix it)

Defining Your Ideal Client Avatar

[This is part two of a three-part series. Part one is here; part three is here.]

Last week in part one of this series, I talked about the three massive client-repelling mistakes I made when I was first starting out online with my copywriting business, and what I did to fix them.

To recap, those mistakes were:

#1: I didn’t know who my ideal client/target audience was and what they struggled with, #2: I wasn’t expressing how I was different from others who offered a similar product or service, and #3: I wasn’t making an emotional connection with my ideal clients. (And you have to do the first two to be able to pull off the third).

Today we’re diving a little deeper into the idea of the ideal client or customer, and why it’s so darned important to get this figured out if you want to have a successful business that attracts the “right” kind of clients and makes you money. (Your Defining Your Audience Checklist is at the end of this blog post.  BUT, keep reading for now, would ya?)

A caveat: This is an iterative process, so you’ll want to be tweaking and perfecting it as you go.  What this means is you do not have to have every single detail of your ideal client/customer avatar and every single one of their challenges figured out before you start implementing this into your business.  Just start somewhere and tweak as you go – that’s what I did.

What happens when you have a poorly defined target audience?

  • You spend countless hours working yourself to a frazzle creating blog posts, videos, email newsletters, social media status updates, and all other conceivable kinds of content to show off your expertise – yet your online marketing isn’t converting people into email subscribers, client inquiries or new clients.
  • The clients you do seem to get aren’t ideal – they’re price shoppers, pains-in-the-arse, or for some other reason just plain dreadful.  The kind of clients who make you want to plunge 10-inch knitting needles into your eyes.  Very painful.
  • Because of the time and effort you’re putting in, and the kind of clients you’re working with, you also may be weary, worn out, drained, despondent, and just about ready to give up on this here online marketing thing.

The bottom line is, if you haven’t defined your ideal client/perfect customer/target audience, then you’re trying to talk to “everybody” with your content – which means it’s most likely bland and boring and homogenous.  And that means that as lovingly crafted and well-written as it may be, it won’t convert enough readers into clients and potential clients.

As Sonia Simone of Copyblogger says,  

“ . . . flat, flavorless content absolutely doesn’t work in content marketing.  It won’t get read, it won’t get shared, it won’t get links. Nobody will respond to your calls to action and it will not have any SEO value because it’s not getting any signals of quality.”

You’ll be like a hamster on a wheel, forever doomed to create more and more and more content, yet never reach your business goals (said the former hamster-on-a-wheel who kept on creating more and more content, yet didn’t reach her business goals).

The good news is, you can get this figured out and turn the ship around, and when you do, it will change your business forever. You’ll no longer feel like you’re pushing a boulder uphill with a feather (to mix a whole bunch of unrelated metaphors).  Everything will become easier.

What happens when you define your target audience?

Once you’ve figured out your ideal client/perfect customer you can expect all kinds of good things:

  • Because you know exactly who you’re talking to and what they struggle with, every piece of content you create will be much easier to produce.  You won’t struggle over what topics to cover in your blog posts, email newsletters, and social media status updates.  You’ll know exactly which blogs to pitch for guest posting opportunities.
  • You’ll know what kind of free opt-in offer to create to get subscribers onto your email list, and what kind of paid offerings to create.
  • As a result of your targeted content, you’ll attract the “right” kind of clients, those who are perfect for what you have to offer and who are a dream to work with.  The stress and overwhelm will lessen, and that feeling of working yourself to a frazzle for next to zero results? Gone.
  • Your business will be F-U-N.  Which means you’ll be more motivated, feel happier, and make more money.  (Because let’s be honest, when you’re working yourself to a bloody nub and not getting results, everything is a drag, you stop doing your best work, and as a result, you don’t bring in the folding money like you want to.)
  • You’ll convert more sales because your targeted content demonstrates that you have a deep understanding of your ideal clients and what they struggle with, and that you offer an ideal solution specifically geared to them.

In short, you will have marketing clarity.  And as we said in part one of this series . . .

Marketing clarity is like gold, because once you have it, you’ll be able to captivate your ideal clients, get them interested enough to stick around and read your content/view your portfolio/sign up for your newsletter, and eventually, reach out to buy your thing or find out more about working with you.

So how do you determine who your ideal client is and figure out the challenges and problems you can help them solve?

This is a process that takes time, one you’ll be tweaking on an ongoing basis.  That said, if you’re just starting out, you probably have at least some idea of who it is you want to serve, and if you’ve been at your business for a while, you already know the kind of clients you love serving and those you don’t.

So let’s say you have some basic facts, such as:  “I’m a wedding photographer who serves brides in Wilmington, NC, most of whom are between 25-32 years old and getting married for the first time.”

That’s a start, but we need to go way deeper than this. If you want your web and other marketing to grab people by the lapels and make them so excited they’ve found you that they can’t wait to find out more about your services and what they have to do to hire you, then you need to demonstrate that you understand them intimately, that you know their struggles and challenges, and that you offer the ideal solution, for them.  This kind of core understanding of your clients builds trust, and trust results in more sales.

So you start with the basic information you have and begin digging really deep to figure out everything else you can about them – their deepest desires and fears, what keeps them up at night, their core beliefs, what frightens and excites them, what encourages and inspires them, and so on, as it relates to the product or service you provide.  It’s about human behavior and psychology – you’ve got to understand your customers on this core level to really deliver the kind of marketing juice that converts.

Once you have this information, you’ll be able to create web content, blog posts, email newsletters, free opt-in offers, and PAID OFFERINGS (sorry about the shouting) that speak directly to your ideal clients’ most pressing concerns and deepest desires, and connect with them in a real and compelling way.

The kind of marketing that’s a natural by-product of this work makes your ideal clients feel deeply understood.  This is very powerful – for you and for them.  Everybody wins.

But where do I find this information, you wonder?

The very best way to get to the core of what your ideal clients struggle with – not what you think they struggle with, but what they actually struggle with, in their own words – is to simply ask them.  Really.  It can be that simple.  But don’t just ask one or two people, ask several; heck, ask as many as you possibly can, because this will only help you create authentic, compelling marketing that nets you ideal clients instead of duds.

If you don’t yet have clients in the target audience you want to serve, then find friends, family members and acquaintances who are representative of your ideal clients, and talk to them about their frustrations and fears related to the product or service you offer.

This is what I did.  I knew I wanted to serve creative entrepreneurs – solopreneurs and small businesses who sell a creative product or service – but my copywriting clients were in the healthcare and real estate niches.  So I talked to friends with small creative businesses; I also asked business owners in my target audience who I know from a networking group I belong to if I could buy them coffee and ask them a few questions.  

(There are many books and courses out there that can help you with this process; one book I highly recommend is Book Yourself Solid, by Michael Port. You can download 3 free chapters of the book here. Especially useful is his “Red Velvet Rope Policy,” where you figure out the kind of clients who will – and more importantly, won’t— get past your red velvet rope.  Extremely helpful.)

OK, I get it, ask people.  But what else?

Here’s what I did – I pored over comments on my own blog, comments on other blogs that serve a similar audience, forums that serve my target audience, Amazon research, keyword research, and lots of social media “listening” – on Facebook pages who serve a similar audience and through Twitter searches.   What I always look for is how people describe their pain or challenges around copywriting, branding and web marketing.  

What you’re looking for is the exact language your ideal clients or customers use to describe their challenges and frustrations, which you then mirror back to them in your content. For example, when I was doing research on photographers, one phrase I heard some variation of over and over again was, “my sad, lifeless portfolio site” – meaning these photographers may have a gorgeous website, but it’s not converting web visitors into client inquiries or paying clients – that’s the pain or frustration. So I use that exact phrase in my web copy when I’m describing the kind of challenges photographers have that I can help them with. You want to go really deep here and put yourself in your customers’ shoes and see their frustrations through their eyes.

I then dumped all the data from the research, social media listening, and real life conversations into a massive document which I update every time I glean some new and useful piece of information about my ideal clients and their pain points. 

Ok, I know my ideal client or customer and what their challenges are, now what?

Once you’ve done the work to figure exactly who your ideal clients are and precisely what their pains and frustrations, fears and desires, and hopes and dreams are, you want to apply the insights you gained into your web content, offerings, sales pages, and product descriptions, etc., weaving it through all the content creation and marketing you do. 

So you’re going to use the information you’ve gathered to create free content and paid offerings that solve your ideal clients’ problems, right?  At this point, you’ll know all kinds of things about what they struggle with, so you could begin creating blog posts to address each one of those challenges one by one, using all the pain points you found, questions you saw on other blogs, in comments, through your social media listening, and in real life conversations.

I’ll tell you, once I had a clear idea of what my ideal clients struggle with, I banged out an editorial calendar for blog post and weekly newsletter content for over 6 months, and it was easy. We’re talking 52 ideas for blog posts and weekly newsletters, in one sitting.  Say it with me – sweet relief! No more struggling each week to come up with ideas for what kind of content to create.  

And of course you’ll also implement your newfound customer insights into your free opt-in offer, your key web pages, and your paid offerings.  My best suggestion would be to begin with the About page and Home page of your website, then build out from there into all your other content and marketing messages.

You can see an example of how I’ve implemented my ideal client research into my web content by taking a look at my About page, Home page, Free Resources page and Work with Me page

What’s next?

Your Defining Your Audience checklist, that’s what.

In the checklist, I’ve sketched out my ideal client avatar so you can see the level of detail you want to shoot for with these exercises. 

So here’s what I suggest you do:  Download the checklist, read through the audience research tactics and audience insight questions. Then read the sketch of my ideal client avatar.  After you’ve done that, go back and knockout your own audience research using the checklist.   

Once you get your audience research done, begin implementing a few of your new found ideal customer insights into a blog post, headline, web page, or some other piece of your online presence, pronto.  I started with the headline on my Home page.  Just start somewhere, even if it’s small, then add more of your customer insights throughout your other content as you go.   

Now go and download your checklist!

It’s here –>> Defining Your Audience Checklist.