Want More Email Subscribers? Implement These Two Ridiculously Simple Tips

Photo by Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash

I’ve been doing loads of web copy & messaging strategy sessions this week, and here’s something I’ve noticed:

Pretty much everyone I talked to KNOWS that building a healthy, robust email list is non-negotiable if you want to build your business and get clients and customers online (without having to do the constant client-getting hustle).

Yet, most of the fine folks I had calls with had their email opt-in forms buried in a hard to find spot on their website, and/or the copy asking people to sign up for the list was the standard, “Sign up for updates here,” or “Join My Newsletter,” or similar.

And in most cases, there was also no dedicated landing page for the email opt-in opportunity.

That situation will not convert very many web visitors to email subscribers, if it converts any at all.

This wasn’t news to most of those I spoke to – they get it.

But keep in mind, every day your website isn’t optimized for email opt-ins is a day you’re not building your audience; therefore, you’re “leaving money on the table,” to use a terribly cliché phrase. (Cliché, yes, but TRUE? Also, yes.)

During every consult where the above was the case, I shared the following advice.

Two tips anyone can implement simply and quickly to increase email opt-ins

Tip #1: Create persuasive opt-in copy

What you want to do is create opt-in copy that gives people a compelling reason to sign up for your list. Make it about the benefits of signing up, and tell them how often they can expect to hear from you, if you can fit that info in.

So, not this:

Or this:

 

No, no, no no no. That will not do. No one wants to enter their email address into a mystery form like the ones above with no information about … anything.

Instead, give your opt-in copy some personality, and share those benefits! For example, the copy on my Home page opt-in says:

“Enter your email below to get instant access to the FREE Creative Rebel Guide to Writing an Ideal Client-Attracting About Page (so you never have to accept work from someone simply because they have a checkbook and a pulse, ever again.)”

The pop-up opt-in on my website says:

“Get Actionable Copywriting Tips to Grow Your Creative Business: Weekly copywriting & web marketing advice for creatives, solopreneurs & other non-marketing types. Sense of humor and Southern twang included at no extra charge.”

And check out the copy on Ashley Ambirge’s opt-in form for her “25 Days to $100K Freelancer Challenge”

Notice how much more enticing the idea of handing over your email address in exchange for valuable, interesting content becomes when the copy conveys benefits AND personality.

Tip #2: Create a dedicated landing page for email opt-ins

Create a dedicated landing page for your email list, and have access to that page it in the main navigation menu at the top of your website.

This link is what you’ll use in your social media bios. Because, again, you want to build the email list, and this will help you do it.

Here’s the power of a dedicated landing page for your opt-in:

The small opt-in form on my website Home page converts about 1.9% of website visitors. My email opt-in landing page converts around 48% of website traffic.

HUGE difference.

If all you have on your site is a tiny email opt-in form, especially if it’s hard to find AND the copy on it is not that compelling, you’re missing out on potential subscribers every single day.

And if you’re doing things to drive traffic to your site so you can GET more subscribers, that effort will be wasted.

So, what should you write on your email opt-in landing page?

You can go into a little more detail about the kind of information people can expect to receive once they sign up, and how often they’ll hear from you. You can share more about the benefits of signing up.

For example, on my email opt-in landing page, I say:

Enter your email below to get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE …

You’ll also receive free weekly updates: tips and advice on how to use personality-driven web copy and bespoke web marketing strategy in your creative business to:

  • Instantly captivate clients who are perfect for what you have to offer . . . and subtly shoo away those who aren’t
  • Get client inquiries rolling in consistently so you can get off the feast-or-famine roller coaster for good
  • Book more projects & make more folding money

All while keeping your creative integrity intact.

Enter your email below and click “Give Me the Guide!”

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To recap, if you want to get more email subscribers:

#1: Create opt-in copy that gives people a compelling & benefit-driven reason to sign up for your list

#2: Create a dedicated landing page for your email list

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LIKE A LOT OF PEOPLE I SPOKE TO THIS WEEK, I TOO WAS AFRAID TO MARKET TO MY LIST IN THE BEGINNING

I’ll admit, I wasn’t always about sending offers to my list when I first got online. 

Sure, I started an email list from Day Freakin’ One, but even as an experienced marketer and copywriter, I was hesitant to send anything other than high value free content.

“What if people get upset?” I wondered. “What if people unsubscribe?” I whined, to no one in particular.

Now I realize none of that matters. If someone unsubs because you sent out an offer, they aren’t your people, and were never going to buy from you anyway.

Or maybe they unsub because you’re just not their jam. That’s cool. You don’t want those people on your list. Let them go.

OH, BUT THEN …

Let me tell you, there is nothing quite like sending an offer to your subscribers, and getting people raising their hand, eagerly saying, “Yes, I want that!,” in return.

A few years ago, when I sent my very first true sales email to my list, I was pretty nervous, because up to that point, I’d ever only sent “value bomb” / educational emails.

But I got over my fear and hit “send.” The email announced a small $500 offer, and 5 people replied yes within 24 hours.

And no one died!! AND I generated $2500 in revenue!

I’d always believed in the power of email marketing, even if I was too afraid to make an ask at first, but after that first experience, I was well and truly sold.

Sold, I tell you!

$2500 in 24 hours from sending one email?

I’ll take it.

And I’m small potatoes. My list is TINY. Embarrassingly tiny.

There are folks out there sending one or two emails and making 5 or 10 times that. They’re more well-known, have pricier offerings and bigger email lists, but I’m living proof there’s still much you can do with a small, dedicated list of email subscribers.

Of course, it goes without saying that you have something valuable people actually want and are willing to pay for.

But you can start building your email list now, before you have all your products and services worked out; that’s what I did.

 

I hope by now you’re sold on optimizing your website for email opt-ins.

It’s one of the very best things you can do for your business, especially if, like me, you’re an introvert, and love the idea of doing most of your marketing online.

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Want me to write your persuasive opt-in form + email sign-up landing page copy so you can start getting more subscribers sooner rather than later, and build your audience of raving fans?

Email me at: Kimberly [at] kimberlydhouston [dot] com with “Email opt-in copy” in the subject line, and I’ll get back to you ASAP with details of how we can work together.

If building your email list is important to you, then let’s connect!

Why Relevant Messaging for Your Target Audience is Non-negotiable [& how to create it]

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Recently I was on a strategy call with a client I’ve worked with on a handful of copywriting and marketing projects over the years.

Since we’ve known each other for a while, once the strategy session was over, we got to chatting informally about business, and life in general.

She asked me an interesting question.

“I’m curious,” she said. “I know what I need your help with, but what’s the main thing your other clients come to you for, if you don’t mind my asking?”

Even though I serve a varied group of creative service providers, freelancers, and solopreneurs, there’s not a long list of marketing-type things I help people with, or problems I help them solve.

My work with clients mostly boils down to a small handful of things. It’s largely writing email or website copy and/or working out their web & email marketing strategy.

And it always, always starts with getting clear on relevant messaging for their target audience, so their websites and email campaigns attract and convert more ideal clients.

Because without targeted, persuasive messaging, it won’t matter how much traffic you get to your website, how beautifully designed your site is, or how fantastic your work is.

Your ideal clients will not linger on your site, they will not sign up for your email list, and they will not inquire about working with you.

Full stop.

I’ve seen this over and over again, and I’ve been at this since the stone age, AKA 2001. (Which, by the way, I can’t even BUH-LIEVE I’ve been doing marketing communications that long. But I digress.)

This happens because not understanding your ideal clients’ hopes, fears, and dreams, together with your meaningful difference in the marketplace, results in messaging that’s generic, boring, bland and homogenous. 

And that means that as lovingly crafted and well-written as your marketing copy may be, it won’t convert enough web visitors into solid prospects and ideal clients to make all that hard work you’re putting in to “get the word out” worthwhile.

When clients come to me, they’re often experiencing the following challenge:

They’re getting some level of traffic to their website, but their site isn’t converting traffic into leads, and leads into clients.

In other cases, it’s doing a little bit of this, but not nearly enough.

This, despite having a beautifully & professionally designed website that showcases the work they do in a compelling way, or a perfectly serviceable DIY website that does the same.

Yet, people aren’t people reaching out to work with them often enough. Or at all, in some cases.

I have so much empathy for clients in this situation.

Because I was in this very same predicament when I was selling myself as a generic freelance writer way back in the day, a story I’ve told many times on this blog and in my newsletter.

What saved my butt and my business was getting clear on who I wanted to work with, what problems they had that I was uniquely qualified to solve, and how I could express this persuasively on my website and elsewhere through a clear and compelling marketing message.

That’s what changed everything for me.

I went from having a poorly performing website that wasn’t generating nearly enough qualified leads, and where email sign-ups were moving at a glacial pace, to getting high-quality clients from a tiny amount of website traffic and doubling my email sign-ups.

This was a result of clear, compelling messaging that appealed to my target audience.

Messaging that was not generic. It was also not based on what I thought people wanted, but instead on copious research + interviews I did with real, live, flesh-and-blood humans about their challenges and desires related to their creative businesses.

So, here’s my hot tip for you.

If you create a marketing message that appeals to your ideal clients and share that on your website and through your other marketing channels, it’s entirely possible to gain A LOT of traction – as in, leads, clients, and email sign-ups – without having to do loads of other things first.

Now, to be clear, those “other things” – a professional website, relevant services & packages that your ideal clients want to buy, qualified traffic coming to your site, consistent marketing, etc. – are all important, necessary, and need to be put into place.

BUT, the right messaging always comes first.

That way, when your marketing starts working and traffic starts coming to your site, your audience is met with messaging targeted directly to them and their needs/wants/desires, which in turn, makes them want to subscribe to your email list, inquire about working together, sign up for a free consult, or take some other step in your sales process.

To help you with that, the following is a brief excerpt from my recently released copy messaging guide, which you can purchase if you so desire, or you can get started by implementing the golden nugget below, without spending a dime! 😊

Your marketing message is the combination of things about you and your business — that you already possess! — that put together the right way, will help you attract and connect with your ideal clients & customers (your “ICA,” or ideal client avatar), stand out from the online crowd (instead of being a copycat version of every other person for hire out there doing what you do), and, once you’re getting consistent quality traffic to your website, help you get more business, bookings and sales.

It’s created from your ideal client profile, your unique selling proposition (USP), or what I prefer to call your “meaningful difference,” your expertise, and your unique backstory, among other things.

So, if it were a formula, it would look something like this:

ICA + USP + your expertise + your life experience & unique backstory + your worldview = your overarching marketing message

You’ll weave this in on your website, blog posts, newsletters, social media updates, and all your marketing communications, wherever you’re in conversation with your audience.

Your marketing message is what compels your ideal clients and customers to choose you over all the other choices they have, it tells them why you’re exactly the right person or business to solve their problems and challenges, and it begins to tell them how you’ll do so.

The right messaging should strike an emotional cord with your ideal/desired audience, and make them feel like, “Yes, this is exactly who I want to work with. Where do I sign up?”

Here’s another way to think of it:

The hook/big idea/marketing message of your business answers the question, “Of all the other [thing you do] out there who are equally talented, skilled, and experienced, why should your ideal clients choose you?”

And there you have it.

My hot tip for you is to spend some time creating your compelling marketing message and begin sharing it on your website and every other place you communicate with your audience.

Because again, even without all the other elements in place yet, this can work wonders for your business. I can’t promise that, of course, but it certainly worked wonders for mine.

Creating and sharing persuasive, targeted messaging that spoke to my ideal clients and conveyed my meaningful difference is what made all the difference between me giving up and crying into my Lucky Charms, and still being here, 7+ years into my freelance business journey, loving what I do and supporting myself with it.

If you want to go deeper on how to create a signature marketing message, you can grab my guide, Marketing Messages That Convert: A Step-by-Step Copy Messaging Guide for Solopreneurs, Freelancers, Creative Business Builders & Other Non-Marketing Types, for less than the cost of a Starbucks date.

And if not, use what I’ve shared in the excerpt above to get started on your own.

Either way, I wish you the best of luck!

How to Ship When It’s Not Perfect: On Beating Procrastination, Overcoming Limiting Beliefs, and Finally Shipping my Copy Messaging Guide

marketing messages that convert

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

I recently sent an email to my list about the long and winding road to finally, finally, at long last, publishing the beta version of a copy messaging ebook I’d been working on in fits and starts for nearly a year.

Actually, when I started working on what would eventually become the ebook in June 2018, it was still going to be an 11-lesson e-course that would drip out over the space of a couple of weeks. At that time, I was planning to sell it for $97, and add downloadable worksheets & checklists to go with the main course content.

To go back even further than that, though, this content was originally meant to be a course specifically for photographers.

That’s when I was calling it 30 Days to a Magnetic Marketing Message That Sells: A Course for Wedding, Portrait, and Lifestyle Photographers: Create Messaging for Your Photography Business That Helps You Stand Out in an Overcrowded Market, Attract & Connect with Your Ideal Clients, & Get More Bookings.

But even long before that, much of this content already existed in some form or fashion – email newsletters, blog posts, guest posts on other sites, podcast interviews, and so on.

All of which is to say, I could have gotten this dang ebook done and dusted much sooner than I did.

So, why didn’t I?

Why I couldn’t get this project shipped

Part of the hold-up was everyday life stuff, like moving, dealing with some family issues, and other ordinary run-of-the-mill challenges.

And then there was the out of the ordinary stuff.

To be 100% transparent, A LOT was going down in my personal life at the time I was trying to create this content, that was, shall we say, very, very challenging.

(Maybe I’ll share that story someday, if only to say, “Can ya believe I survived that?” Ha ha. Because I can hardly believe I did.)

Another thing that kept me from completing and shipping the project was the nagging feeling that I shouldn’t focus the content solely on helping photographers, as much as I love and adore them. Instead, I should make this content applicable to solopreneurs, freelancers, and creative business builders of all kinds.

And if I was going to do that, I was going to have to rewrite at least part of the content I’d already created to appeal to a wider audience.

But if I’m honest, much (ok, most) of the delay had to do with resistance and procrastination, caused by limiting beliefs like . . .

“An ebook? Ebooks are sooooo 2006, Kimberly. Or 2009. But certainly in 2019 they aren’t a thing people sell anymore!” [I’m not talking about what you can buy on Amazon; I’m talking about selling ebooks directly from your website or a third-party solution like Podia, which is what I used. Podia is awesome, by the way.]

AND …

“Why would you put so much time and effort into writing and selling an ebook, fer cryin’ out loud, when that same amount of time and effort put into selling your premium services would net you exponentially more revenue?” [I can just hear certain business coaches and well-meaning copywriters I know saying this exact thing in my ear right now.]

AND …

“When you look at your copywriting heroes, those whose careers you’ve long admired, those you’d like to emulate in at least some small way, have ANY of them ever sold an inexpensive ebook as part of their suite of offerings?” [The only copywriting hero of mine I know of who has, is Joanna Wiebe of Copyhackers.]

AND the classic imposter syndrome belief …

“Who am I to write this copy messaging guide? Sure, I’ve been working in the marketing, communications & copywriting space for 15+ years now, but I’m no [insert any one of my copywriting heroes here]. Why would anyone listen to me?!”

What finally got me off the dime

Despite the BS limiting beliefs above, I couldn’t deny the magnetic pull I felt toward sharing the framework I’d been using for years to create memorable & effective messaging for my private copywriting clients.

When I began developing this framework, the core thing that was driving me was the problem I was trying to solve – how to extract and distill my clients’ point of difference or USP, and create persuasive messaging that conveyed that meaningful difference, so they could stand out in an overcrowded market and attract and convert more of their ideal clients.

Doing this requires diving deep and determining the Ideal Client Avatar (ICA) and Unique Selling Proposition (USP), then combining those two key ingredients, along with a few other uber-important factors, to create compelling & sticky signature marketing messages that convert website visitors into promising leads and ideal clients.

It was in early 2019 that it occurred to me that I should, in the name of all that’s holy, stop messing around and share this copy messaging framework NOW, no matter what form the content took – ebook, dripped out ecourse, full-blown course with all the bells and whistles, or me showing up personally at your front door with a whiteboard and some dry erase markers to teach you this stuff one-on-one. 😊

Because this messaging extraction process is something everyone building a business online or offline needs to be able to do – for their business overall, and for each service offering and marketing campaign as well.

And it should be for all freelancers, solopreneurs, and small business owners selling their products and services, because that’s who I see struggling the most with developing persuasive messaging that helps them stand out online.

And it should also be fairly inexpensive, so it’s accessible for those just starting out, because that’s when you need this information the most. (Though you can – and you certainly should – use this framework to clarify and improve your existing messaging, even if you’re farther along in your business journey.)

So, yeah. It was time to get this content put together and shipped, once and for all.

Of course, swimming around in my fevered brain at the same time were thoughts like, “But I want this to be perfect!,” and “It should be beautifully designed first!”

But naw, the perfectionist in me would have held off for at least another 6 months before moving forward if I had let those things stop me.

Which is why I decided to put this information together in the easiest format I could tackle on my own – an ebook – and release the imperfect beta version, so I could get it launched before I chickened out or came up with 40 other bullshit excuses to avoid taking action.

How I MADE myself finally finish the ebook and put it up for sale

It was simple, really.

I did something I’ve never done and always said I would never do, because I don’t enjoy that kind of pressure: on a Thursday afternoon, I sent an email to my list to let them know the beta version of the ebook would be ready for sale by the end of the following day.

I let them know it would be in beta form, so not to expect beautiful design or fancy bells and whistles, but if they were interested in the simple PDF version, the info inside would be well worth way, way more than the $10 cost of the ebook if they implemented the 11 lessons within.

That meant there was no turning back.

It also meant I had to work like a fiend that Thursday night, and all the next day without even taking a break for a shower or a meal, to get the ebook finished and out the door by 5:00 pm that Friday.

And get it out I did.

I sold several copies within the first 15 minutes of sending the email announcing it was ready. More sales trickled in over the next week.

Final Thoughts

I can’t express how phenomenal it felt to finally share my framework for creating compelling marketing messages for freelancers, solopreneurs and small business owners in overcrowded markets, something I’d wanted to do since at least 2012/2013, when doing this very thing saved my own business from dying a sad, ignoble death. [That is no joke, y’all.]

And the fact that I can help others do the same, for less than a Starbucks date? It fills me with joy.

The lesson here is, you can and should get your “thing” out there if it can help others, even if it’s not perfect, and even if it’s very tiny to start. You can always go back later and improve, upgrade, and add more “stuff” to your product if you want – that’s what I plan to do.

The added bonus is, shipping a project, no matter how tiny, does something kind of profound – it starts to change your identity to that of a person who gets things done. As a lifelong perfectionist/procrastinator, that is a big, big, BIG deal for me.

Now I want to give credit where credit is due for a big piece of inspiration that got me over the finish line . . .

If you’re a perfectionist / procrastinator who keeps coming up with excuses not to finish and ship a thing [for me, the two are inseparable], I urge you to check out Amy Hoy’s site, Stacking the Bricks. She writes very compellingly about what procrastination looked like for her, and how she overcame it to create a 7-figure business.

Specifically, I returned to her blog post, How I went from a hopeless procrastinator to starting a 7-figure business, over and over again while I was working on my ebook for a shot of much needed arse-kicking inspiration. It helped me so damn much.

So many golden nuggets o’ wisdom in Amy’s article. Read it if you can.

As she says,

It turns out that just fucking shipping things is magic… but the real fun is in growing and shaping them and reaping the rewards.

But you’ll never get there if you don’t ship.

Amen, sister!

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Interested in learning more about the beta version of Marketing Messages That Convert: A Step-by-Step Copy Messaging Guide for Solopreneurs, Freelancers, Creative Business Builders & Other Non-Marketing Types? You can check it out right here.

If you’re ready to create messaging that helps you stand out online so you can convert website visitors into promising leads and ideal clients, this guide will help.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: The Baby Carrot Story and Using Personality in Marketing

Baby Carrots_blog image

 

Consider the carrot. The baby carrot, to be precise.  

A nutritious, wholesome, feel-good snack you can feel smug about eating, what with its minimal calories and healthy dose of good-for-you beta-carotene.

And sure, they’re good for you, but the truth is, they’re just not that interesting, are they? I mean, carrots, right? They’ve been around for 2000 years, they’re not trendy or hip like ramps or kale, or whatever other produce happens to be taking its star turn this year; they’re not really unique or special in any way. 

So, what if it was your task to “brand” them? What if you had to come up with a way to position baby carrots so they could compete with, say, cheetohs, potato chips or other junk food as a snack alternative?

Maybe you’d think, well, let’s promote their health benefits, that’ll do it!

Unfortunately, that line of thinking happens not to work all that well.

(Horrifying factoid: In 2012, $116 million dollars was spent on advertising fruit and veggies. And $2 billion was spent on advertising junk food to kids.  Yes, you read that right – $2 billion dollars.  Damn, that’s a lot of money spent to convince kids to eat crap!)

Even though print and online publications have been touting the joys and benefits of eating fruits and vegetables for years, not to mention many dozens of stories appearing on TV about the dangers of unhealthy eating, produce still has trouble competing for our shopping dollars, and per capita consumption isn’t up.

What’s a carrot seller to do?  And what’s the point of all this talk about carrots, anyway?  

My point, and I do have one, is that with enough creativity and resourcefulness, you can uncover the benefits and bring out the personality of any boring old thing to make it interesting and appealing to your audience, as I talked about previously here

Bolthouse Farms did this with carrots a few years ago. And if you can do it for carrots, you can do it for your creative products and services.

How Bolthouse Farms Transformed Carrots from Boring Agricultural Commodity to Cool, Crave-able Snack

A few years ago, Jeffrey Dunn, President and CEO of Bolthouse Farms, which grows and processes more than a billion pounds of carrots a year, was shopping for an ad agency to help create a campaign around baby carrots. Bolthouse had never marketed its carrots before, but sales were down, so Dunn decided to shake things up and get creative.

But he didn’t want to appeal to smarts and responsibility as in, “eat carrots because they’re good for you,” he wanted to market his company’s baby carrots in a different way. He knew that pitting the health benefits of the cute veggie against the perils of eating junk food wasn’t going to cut it. Instead he wanted something funny and emotional that appealed to impulse snacking.

Enter ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky.  Instead of pitching a campaign centered around the health benefits of carrots, Crispin proposed aligning the baby carrot with junk food.

In an article in Fast Company, Omid Farhang, vice president and creative director at Crispin, said “The truth about baby carrots is they possess many of the defining characteristics of our favorite junk food. They’re neon orange, they’re crunchy, they’re dippable, they’re kind of addictive.”

The idea was to do the same kind of marketing for carrots as for things like Coke and cheetohs, because as Dunn was quoted as saying in the Fast Company article, “If all we do is tell people fruits and vegetables need to be part of their diet or they’re not going to be healthy – the rational approach – we have zero chance.”  

Think about it – we already know we need to eat our veggies, so telling us that in an ad campaign has no impact. As Farhang said, “What a silly use of advertising dollars to tell people that vegetables are healthy.”

Instead, the campaign they rolled out featured new packaging in which baby carrots were packaged like Doritos, in a crinkly potato chip bag with junk-food-style graphics, and an ad campaign with taglines such as “Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food” and “Baby Carrots: The Original Orange Doodles.”

You can read more about the whole she-bang in the fabulous article in Fast Company, “How Carrots Became the New Junk Food.” And check out the Bolthouse Farms website here for a great example of how to position with personality in order to stand out in your niche.

Marketing Lessons and Questions to Ponder

I don’t know if it’s because I once worked for an ad agency and I appreciate a killer creative marketing campaign when I see one, but I haven’t been able to get the Baby Carrots story out of my head since I first heard about it late last year.

It’s proof that positioning with personality works.  (Sales in Bolthouse’s test markets went up 10% to 12% over the year before in the year following the test campaign.)

Think about how Bolthouse Farms went against the standard approach in this campaign by deciding not to use a health benefits approach, instead aligning themselves with junk food.  How can you apply this kind of creative thinking to your own marketing?

Consider how Bolthouse uses personality to transform baby carrots from a healthy, but boring vegetable into a hip, crave-able snack.  Are there ways you can do this with your creative products and services?

Share your thoughts in the comments! 

[Sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other goodies for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]  

 

What is a Signature Marketing Message and Why Do You Need One ASAP? So You Can Stand Out Online, Attract Your Ideal Clients, and Get More Business, Bookings, and Sales

create a signature marketing message

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

I talk frequently on this blog, in my weekly emails, and with my private clients about the importance of creating a signature marketing message for your business.

A signature marketing message gives your ideal clients and customers a compelling reason to choose you, rather than one of the other 567,878 creatives online who offer the same products and services you do.

And it’s ab-so-lute-ly essential to have yours dialed in if you want to differentiate your business and get traction with the clients and customers you truly want to serve.

What is a signature marketing message?

Here’s how I define it: A signature marketing message is the combination of things about you and your business — that you already possess! — that put together the right way, will help you attract and connect with your ideal clients & customers, stand out from the online crowd (instead of being a copycat version of every other person for hire out there doing what you do), and help you get more business, bookings and sales.

It’s created from your ideal client profile, your unique selling proposition (USP), or what I prefer to call your “meaningful difference,” your expertise, and your unique backstory, among other things.

Your signature marketing message conveys why you’re exactly the right person or business to solve your target audiences’ problems and challenges, and it begins to tell them how you’ll do so. Your messaging should strike an emotional cord with your ideal/desired audience, and make them feel like, “Yes, this is exactly who I want to work with. Where do I sign up?”

Here’s another way to think of it:

The hook/big idea/marketing message of your business answers the question, “Of all the other [thing you do] out there who are equally talented, skilled, and experienced, why should your ideal clients choose you?” [This, by the way, is the exact question I answer for each client I work with before I begin writing copy for them.]

 For example, let’s say you’re a wedding photographer. Ask yourself:

Of all the wedding photographers in my area who are equally talented, skilled, and experienced, why should my ideal clients choose me?

Signature Marketing Message Examples

Keep in mind as you review these examples that they’re the distillation of A LOT of information – the ideal client profile, including the challenges the ideal client wants resolved, the unique selling proposition or meaningful difference of the business, and more.

What that means is that these brief statements are part of a much larger whole that will be communicated across your website, your social media channels, and in all your marketing communications, and will include some of the other elements as well, such as your expertise, your unique backstory, and so on.

And what THAT means is that this one brief statement alone isn’t going to get people beating down your door to work with them – you have to communicate with your right people in language that resonates with them and provides the solution they seek, in every place they come across you and your brand, online and otherwise – but nailing down this distilled message is absolutely essential to getting traction online and making those dollah dollah bills, y’all. 

Let’s look at some examples:

[By the way, USP = Unique Selling Proposition and MD = Meaningful Difference]

My Messaging/USP/MD: I help established creative service providers and small businesses discover their meaningful difference and communicate it online with personality-driven web copy, email copy, and other marketing communications that ensure they stand out in an overcrowded market, attract & connect with their ideal clients, & get more bookings, business & sales.

Messaging/USP/MD I created for a luxury wedding photographer:  “I’m a North Carolina wedding photographer specializing in fashion-inspired bridal portraits and luxury wedding photography for stylish, fun couples who value photography as an art, and want a high-end, signature experience on their wedding day.”

For the copy on this photographer’s website Home page, I also wrote: “My style isn’t for everybody, but for the select couples I choose to work with each year who resonate with my approach, I aim to create extraordinary art that will be cherished for generations.”

Messaging/USP/MD I created for another wedding photographer, one who provides one-of-kind fine art wedding photography to mostly first-time brides:  “I’m an Arizona fine art wedding photographer who specializes in working with modern young first-time brides who want fine art quality photography, a friendly partner in the planning process, and someone who can make them feel relaxed, at ease, and naturally beautiful in every single shot.”

Messaging/USP/MD I created for a business strategist, coach and consultant: “I’m a business strategist, coach and consultant. Using a mixture of inspiration, encouragement, and tough love, I apply my 13+ years of real-world business experience – including lessons learned bootstrapping two businesses to 7 figures, having $100K launch days, and getting my products into Target and Anthropologie – to help solopreneurs and small business owners get unstuck and achieve their business goals & dreams. If you’re serious about creating a meaningful, purpose-driven business that supports you, and you’re ready to apply proven business strategies delivered by someone who understands where you are, and can help get you where you want to be, I would love to support you.”

These distilled messages were put together AFTER working with each of these clients intensively to determine who their ideal clients and customers were, and what their meaningful difference in the marketplace was.

In the example of my own marketing message, I’ve done loads and loads of work to identify what my ideal clients most struggle with, and it’s this: standing out online in an overcrowded market among hundreds, if not thousands, of other creative service providers who also do what they do, in a way that draws in their desired audience and converts the right prospects into dream clients. I do this by helping them create a personality-filled marketing message, website copy, and other online and offline communication pieces that resonate with their ideal clients, using informal, casual, yet persuasive language, as opposed to formal and boring old business speak. And you can see that above in the distilled marketing message for my business.

In the case of the luxury wedding photographer, his clients are stylish, fun, and want a luxury signature experience on their wedding day. They also “value photography as art,” and want a keepsake from the day that will stand the test of time, which is why he also offers print products—it’s not all digital. He creates lasting artwork – albums, portraits, etc. – that can last for years and years. This is one of his points of differentiation.

In the case of the fine art wedding photographer, her clients are typically young, first-time brides, so her messaging focuses on this. She also shoots mostly outside in iconic Arizona locations. AND, her style is fine art photography. All these things combined together are what helps set her apart in the marketplace and attract her ideal clients. You can see those things in play above in the distilled marketing message for her photography business.

In the case of the business strategist, coach and consultant, her desired clients are those who are serious about their business, and don’t want a rah-rah-rah cheerleader type to tell them everything is OK, but instead, want to work with someone who has been in the trenches, knows exactly how to build a successful business, and provides the non-sugar-coated kind of tough love approach that will get them there. That comes across in the distilled marketing message for her business.

Other Signature Marketing Message Examples to Check Out

For a couple of other examples of effective marketing messaging, check out Hiut Denim and Saddleback Leather. I always point my clients to these amazing companies to show them how effective the right messaging can be, even when you’re making or selling something that many other companies also sell or make.

Hiut Denim 

Creators of premium denim. Plenty of other companies make premium denim, but Hiut Denim stands out. As they say, “We make jeans. That’s it.” Their philosophy/motto/approach is “Do One Thing Well.” And their backstory, which you can read on the website, helps them stand out in a big way, because it’s about so much more than jeans. Take a look, you’ll be glad you did.

Saddleback Leather 

Creators of leather bags and other leather goods. Check out their website; they have a really fun, engaging, and interesting backstory/founder’s story. And their tagline is one of my favorites of all time – “They’ll Fight Over It When You’re Dead.” 

And for something equally effective but with a different feel, check out Amy Porterfield.

Amy’s messaging is straightforward, easy to digest, and instantly conveys what she’s about:

“Hi, I’m Amy. I teach business owners, educators and entrepreneurs the profitable action steps for building a highly engaged email list, creating online training courses, and using online marketing strategies to sell with ease.”

And there you have it – examples of what an effective and persuasive marketing message that sets you apart online can look like.

If you want to learn how to create your own signature marketing message, check out Marketing Messages That Convert: A Step-by-Step Copy Messaging Guide for Solopreneurs, Freelancers, Creative Business Builders & Other Non-Marketing Types. For less than date at Starbucks, you can create messaging for your business that appeals to your ideal clients,  while turning away the ones who want to make you weep into your Lucky Charms. 🙂

 

 

 

The Essential Piece of Copy You Must Master to Convert Web Visitors Into Leads and Clients

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Let’s just admit it: this here online marketing thang can be a lot of hard work.

The blog posts, the website copy, the weekly newsletters, the email sales campaigns, the pitches to potential clients, the sales pages, the landing pages, the fresh social media content that must be posted each day so you can stay “top of mind” for those who may want to buy from you . . . phew, I’m tired just writing all that.

Some days the amount of content we have to crank out to generate traffic, interest from potential clients, and signed-on-the-dotted-line business feels exhausting and overwhelming.

And if you’re doing all this work, you want to see results – in the way of people signing up for your email list, setting up a free consultation, requesting more information, visiting your bricks-and-mortar store, signing up for a free trial offer, buying your products, or taking whatever the logical next step is in your customer relationship or audience engagement process.

If you’re getting consistent traffic to your blog or website but your visitors aren’t taking these actions, take heart – the problem could be as simple as adding the appropriate call to action (CTA) in your blog posts, landing pages, emails, website copy and other online (and offline, if you do print advertising) content.

What is a call to action? 

A call to action is a clear instruction in your written communications – your newsletter and blog posts, your Shop or Work with Me page, your social media status updates, your ads and other sales materials – essentially anywhere you communicate with your audience – that directs said audience to take a specific action.

In a nutshell, the call to action is the very clear and uber-specific instruction telling your readers what to do next.

Because just like in “real life,” if there’s something you want someone to do, asking them to do it directly and succinctly is usually the most effective way to get what you want.

Examples of calls to action include:

“Sign up here for free weekly tips and inspiration I only share with my subscribers”

“Come in today for 30% off”

“Buy now”

“Re-tweet this!”

“Leave your comments below”

“Click here to subscribe”

“Order now to take advantage of this limited-time offer”

See? Not so hard, right?

Where to Add CTAs on Your Website

The appropriate place for a call to action depends on the purpose of your website, and what you want readers and potential customers and clients to do after reading a piece of content. The key is to not leave people hanging – give them clear direction on what to do next within or at the end of each page or post.

First, you’ll need to determine the optimal action you want your readers to take, depending on whether they’re reading a blog post, visiting your website’s home page, or checking out your Work with Me or Sales page, etc.

Here are a few key places to put CTAs:

  • At the end of blog posts, asking for shares or comments or directing people to sign up for your email list
  • On your email opt-in form asking readers to subscribe to your newsletter
  • In a newsletter asking readers to click over to a blog post
  • Within your blog posts directing people to something else you’ve written on your blog or elsewhere
  • On the home page of your website directing readers to contact you for more information or to book a complimentary session
  • On a sales page asking for a sale (you’ll want a CTA in several locations on a sales page – but this is a topic for another blog post)

How to Write Your Killer Call to Action

Now that you have some ideas of where to place calls to action to generate the desired actions from your readers, it’s time to develop your CTA copy.

The length of your CTA copy will be determined by where it is and what you’re asking people to do. For example, button copy will be short and sweet and say things like “buy now,” “sign up today,” or “get instant access.” Where you have room to write to your heart’s content, such as at the end of blog posts, your call to action copy may be longer.

4 Tips for Writing a Strong Call to Action

Know your audience. If you’re writing for an audience of lawyers for example, your calls to action will be worded differently than if you write for, say, circus clowns. Call to action copy for accountants would be different than for artists. You get the idea. You want to write in a way that resonates with your target audience and uses the kind of language they would respond to, based on their needs and desires.

Examples:

  • Oyster, the Netflix of books, according to the interwebs, uses this call to action on their home page: “Read unlimited books, anytime, anywhere. Start for Free.”
  • The dating site OK Cupid uses this call to action on their home page: “Join the best free dating site on Earth. Start meeting people now!”
  • The wonderful novelty store Archie McPhee uses this call to action copy to get people to sign up for their newsletter: “Join the Cult of McPhee: Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter (A $700 Value!)”
  • From the home page of an accounting firm in my hometown: “Our dedication to quality, professional standards, and service is unmatched. Get in touch today.”
  • From a contact form on the website of a personal injury attorney: “No Obligation Free Consultation. Get Help Now!”

Define your outcome. For example, my primary goal is to get email subscribers. This is more important to me than getting social media followers, having people leave comments on my blog posts, or requesting more information. For you it may be different.

With that outcome in mind, the call to action I use at the end of most of my blog posts directs people to sign up for my email list. I don’t ask people to “follow me on social media!,” or “sign up for a free strategy session,” or “Click here to find out more.” It’s almost exclusively about the email list.

Examples:

Here’s what I use at the end of most blog posts:

  • “For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, sign up here for weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.”

If your primary goal is to get people to sign up for a free strategy session, you could use something like this at the end of the body copy on your home page:

  • “Ready to get started? Book your complimentary Discovery Session now by entering your email in the form below. I’ll be in touch within 24 hours to set up our call to see if we’re a good fit to work together.”

Use action-oriented words. Begin your calls to action with verbs like “download,” “join,” “sign up,” “share with your friends,” “discover,” and “register now,” etc.

Examples:

  • “Create an Event. It’s free.”
  • “Read the case study”
  • “Sign up and publish for free”

Convey the benefit. You want to demonstrate value and relevance to your target audience and offer a benefit that is meaningful to them based on their needs and desires.

Where I see the most need for this is in call to action copy on newsletter opt-in forms. Telling someone to “join my newsletter” or “sign up for email updates” just doesn’t cut it. There’s no benefit, value or personality whatsoever in those flaccid calls to action.

Instead, you want to get specific and focus the form copy on the main benefit your subscribers will receive, based on a problem they want to solve or a pleasure they want to gain.

Examples:

  • Tracy Matthews Jewelry opt-in copy: Is your jewelry box a mess? Sign up to receive your FREE guide: Clean It Like a Professional and Keep It Tangle & Tarnish-Free!  Added Bonus:  By becoming a member you are instantly privy to FREE jewelry giveaways, special jewelry offers, and video tutorials.

The opt-in copy here leads with benefits: how to keep your jewelry tangle and tarnish free, plus access to giveaways, special offers and video tutorials. 

  • Interior designer opt-in copy: Enter your email below to grab your free guide, “From Chaos to Calm: 7 Simple Steps for Transforming Your Busy Young Family’s Home into an Oasis of Practical Luxury.” (Plus weekly design tips and inspiration I only share with email subscribers.)

I wrote this opt-in copy for an interior designer. You can see it focuses on the result the interior designer’s target audience wants to achieve:  transforming a chaotic home into an oasis of practical luxury.

  • My opt-in form copy: Enter your email to get instant access to the FREE Creative Rebel Guide to Writing an Ideal Client-Attracting About Page (so you never have to accept work from someone simply because they have a checkbook and a pulse, ever again.)

My audience of creative business builders often struggles with getting the right kind of clients, so that’s the benefit I focus on in the opt-in copy: writing an About page in a way that attracts ideal clients. 

Bonus tip: Where appropriate, promise instant gratification. It’s human nature – we all love instant gratification. This will depend on your desired outcomes and goals for your site, but where you can use words like “Instant Access,” “Get It Now,” “Instant Download” and similar copy, you’ll often see an increase in people taking action.

Final Thoughts

As the wildly successful copywriter and marketing strategist Dan Kennedy says, “After the headline, the call to action is the most important element of successful copywriting.” Your call to action is the key to getting website visitors to take those oh-so-important actions like signing up for your email list, reaching out to you directly, or buying your products and services.

 [A version of this post originally appeared on the site, Successful Blogging.]

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For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, sign up here for weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.

How to Do Your Own D-I-Y Website Audit to Increase Conversions

website audit to increase conversions

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Question: Do you dream of having a website that does the job it’s meant to do – namely, to serve as your 24-7 salesperson – so you can go about doing your important creative work without having to constantly worry about marketing yourself? 

Having a “web presence” just to make your business seem legit is not the sole, or even the most important, reason your website exists.

Your website needs to make a powerful connection with the buyers and customers you want. It should position you as the obvious choice for your ideal clients. And it needs to get those people excited to take the next step on the path to working with you or buying from you (and that next step needs to be clearly and compellingly laid out).

Your website is ultimately meant to get you clients and customers and sell your products and services. Full stop.

That process might involve three steps or twelve, and it’ll usually start with subscribing to your email list, but at the end of the business day, if you’re in business, the reason your website exists is to generate revenue.

Maybe your website is actually doing a little bit of that right now. If so, great.

Or . . . maybe it’s behaving more like a lazy employee with a bad attitude, who sometimes does a half-assed job of getting you the results you want, and other times does nothing at all.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Here’s a simple checklist of questions you can ask yourself to gauge your website’s performance:

:: Is your website connecting with your ideal clients and customers?

:: Is it moving them to take the action you want them to take?

:: Is it conveying your signature marketing message, one that speaks directly to those you wish to work with and serve?

:: Is it crystal clear and uber-easy for potential clients to get all the information they need in just one or two clicks, whether that’s signing up for your email list, requesting a consultation, buying your stuff, or something else?

:: Are you employing tried and true, proven copywriting principles in your web copy? (For example, speaking to one person; using conversational language; addressing your clients’ needs, wants, desires, goals, and interests; using client & customer-focused language rather “I do this” and “I do that” language, and so on. The list, it do go on.)

:: Does your web copy instantly convey what’s unique and different about you and why your ideal clients should do business with you?

:: Does your web copy adequately coach the most important conversion you want on each web page? (Each of your web pages needs to have its own goal, and everything on that page should work towards achieving that goal. An obvious example is your newsletter sign-up or email subscriber landing page; it’s one and only goal is to get subscribers.)

:: Is the “path to buy” on your site clear and straightforward?

What I Look for When I Do Website Reviews

For each web page, I consider the questions above. That starts with an in-depth questionnaire in which my client answers a couple dozen questions about their ideal clients, their marketing message, what’s working with their web marketing and communications, what’s not, their website goals, and so on.

I start by looking at the three most important web pages: the Home page, the About page, and the Services or Work with Me, or whichever page the client sells from.

Here’s a brief checklist of the elements I review:

#1) Tagline: does it clearly convey something unique/special/different that makes the web visitor want to stay on the site and explore, or instantly identify what they’ll find on the website?

For example:

Abstract Art for the Unconventional Collector

Wedding Photography for Punk Rock Brides

Life Coach for Gutsy Entrepreneurs

Minimalist Silver Jewelry for the Style Savvy

#2) A clear call to action on each web page: a clear, specific instruction for what web visitors should do next.

For example:

Visit my gallery here.

Schedule your free consultation today.

Contact me here if you have any questions.

Buy now.

Your call to action will obviously depend on the page it’s on and the #1 thing you’d like your web visitors to do after reading that page. First determine the goal for each web page, then make sure CTA on each page reflects that goal.

#3) Understand your ideal buyer/customer and write web copy that speaks to them – you’re not trying to attract and sell to everybody, only those who fit your ideal buyer or client profile.

#4) Strong headlines on each page that convey a clear and compelling benefit so that the right people (those who love what you have to offer and who can afford it) will want to read the rest of your copy or check out the rest of your website. You want your headlines to be clear, compelling and benefit-driven.

#5) Customer/client-focused web copy/language, i.e. reader-oriented content and conversational one-to-one language throughout website. Talk to one person.

#6) Address objections somewhere – an FAQ page is a great place to do this. Create a page that answers questions your potential buyers or clients typically have about working with you; include anything that could be lingering in their mind as a reason not to buy.

#7) Guarantees/remove risk

#8) Proof elements – like testimonials and reviews, etc.

#9) A clear path to buy. It should be crystal clear what someone who is ready to purchase or move forward to working with you should do next, and it should be very easy for them to select that option and take the next step.

#10) Focus on the three most important pages first – Home page; About page; Products/Services/Work with Me page, or whatever you call the page you sell from.

Hat tip to AWAI (American Writers & Artists Inc.) for the “5 C’s” of effective content:

:: Customer-focused – the content makes it clear you understand your audience

:: Competitive – your content conveys your USP or what I call your “meaningful difference”

:: Clear and easily understood, no confusing industry jargon

:: Conversion optimized – each page indicates what web visitors should do next and helps convert browsers into buyers

:: Consistent – products and web copy & language, etc.,  are consistent across the website

What You Can Expect When You Make These Website Changes

The great thing is, you don’t have to do everything on the list above to start getting better results from your website. Just start somewhere. Take baby steps if you have to, or heck, do a D-I-Y website improvement binge over the weekend. But just get going on this. If you’re getting consistent, quality traffic, your conversions will improve (and even if you’re not getting much traffic right now, more of what you are getting will begin to convert).

I’ve worked hard to get here (and I know I have some advantages as a professional copywriter and web marketing strategist) but I get consistent email inquiries from potential clients on a weekly basis, simply because they landed on my website, liked what they read, and knew what to do next to get in touch with me.

Very often, these are people I’ve never met or had a conversation with. I’ve never had any contact with them at all until they found my website, then reached out to me. Sometimes they got on my email list first, then a few weeks later reached out.

OR (and this always shocks me), landed on my website, read two blog posts and my Work with Me page, then reached out to hire me right then.

These inquiries consistently turn into clients I adore, and many come back to me for additional copywriting projects, marketing strategy, or consulting. Some of those projects are quite large and ongoing for many months, at the kind of investment level that makes it possible for me to do work I love, without doing the client-getting hustle, hustle, hustle all the time.

If that isn’t a simple & low-key way to find great clients and work on projects you love, I don’t know what is. 

And that is the power of using the right language, in the right places, on your website. [By the way, as you can see from my website, it’s FAR from perfect. In fact, it needs a massive upgrade, but I still do just fine.]

So, don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t get clients from your website.

Why do I bring up that last bit?

I’ll tell you.

About a year ago, someone who read something I’d written about the power of effective website copy reached out to me to say that some marketing “guru” they follow said no one gets business from their website.

LOL.

I had to laugh (and laugh and laugh), because that’s typically the ONLY way I get new (and repeat) business. I don’t do cold calling, or send email pitches, or go to networking events. (Call me lazy, call me introverted to a fault, but that’s just how I roll.)

Now, to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with any of those methods. I’ve used them all at some point, and they work. And I’ll be happy to use them again if/when I feel inspired to.

But these days, I focus on doing an awesome for my current clients, and replying to email inquiries from potential new clients who find me through my website.

Yes, you absolutely need to get quality traffic to your site as well, but my traffic stats are shamefully low, and I still get great clients. I don’t need hordes of people to find me online, I need the right clients to resonate with my marketing message, then inquire about working together, and they do.

Let me repeat: That is the power of persuasive, compelling copy and a clear, easy-to-follow path to finding the right information, in the right place, on your website.

Want the same results for yourself?

If you KNOW your website could be getting you more clients, customers and sales, and you want it to happen NOW, so you can start getting those PayPal and Stripe notifications sooner rather than later, I invite you to reach out to me about working together.

I’ve got a full, comprehensive website copywriting package that may be just right for you. Or if you’re working with a more limited budget, I also offer a VIP Website Audit & Review, which includes a comprehensive website action plan with customized-for-you copy & conversion recommendations you can implement on your own to start improving your website results ASAP.

Simply reach out to me at Kimberly [at] kimberlydhouston [dot] com, and put “website copywriting package” or “VIP website review” in the subject line, depending on which service you’re interested in. I’ll get back to you within 48 hours during normal business hours. We’ll begin by discussing your project over email, then if moving forward makes sense, we’ll schedule a call to talk about your next best steps.

Four Powerful Ideas That Could Radically Change Your Business

Recently I was unpacking some boxes in my new place, and came across a 3-ring binder with materials from a course I took a few years ago called “Creating Fame.” Created by Meet Edgar founder Laura Roeder back when she had an education/training company, Creating Fame was a program that taught how to position yourself as the go-to person in your field using social media, blogging, and other forms of content creation and outreach.

The idea being that you can “step up, claim your own fame, build your audience, and build your own community that’s going to feed into your business,” as one of the course transcripts puts it. It’s about claiming opportunities for your business, rather than depending on others to bestow them upon you arbitrarily.

What she’s talking about here is not paparazzi-showing-up-at-your-house/strangers-asking-for-your-autograph fame; it’s about being “business famous,” or well-known in your niche in a way that attracts your dream clients.

Looking through the binder reminded me how much I loved this course – implementing the suggestions within helped me get real traction in my business in the early days.

My description here kind of minimizes what was in the course, though. It was full of what I think of as “big ideas,” larger concepts and beliefs that can supercharge your business if you take action on them.

Four Concepts from Laura Roeder’s “Creating Fame” That Could Radically Change Your Business

Your Big Idea

Each of us have a “big idea” (usually more than one), a story or stories, and a set of factors that make us distinct from our competitors. You can use your big idea(s) to set yourself apart and become the go-to person in your niche.

Roeder says, “To be famous, you need a big idea or ideas that your customers can buy into and become a part of. It doesn’t have to be revolutionary, and in fact, it’s often very simple, but it does have to be something that people can get behind.”

For example, one of Roeder’s big ideas is that technology doesn’t have to be intimidating. In her previous business incarnation, she taught small business owners how to use Twitter, Facebook, blogging and other tech-related outreach channels without fear.

Other examples Roeder shares include a life coach whose big idea is that you don’t have to meditate, become a monk, or read “super woo-woo” stuff to get rid of your stress, and a lawyer who believes that you shouldn’t have to be afraid to call your attorney because you don’t know how much it’s going to cost to ask a simple, straightforward question.

One of my big ideas is, “they want you to be the one (so stop being afraid to market yourself).”

Another one of my big ideas is that creating a signature marketing message is one of the best ways to attract the kind of clients you really want to work with in today’s saturated, overcrowded online space.

What about you? What are one or two “big ideas” you can share through your content and outreach that your audience can really get behind and resonate with?

You Can’t Predict the Future

Gosh, I love this idea. It’ll keep you from “what iffing?” all over the place, which is just another way to stay stuck where you are and not take action on your goals.

As in, “What if I put all this time, effort and energy into creating this new course/lead magnet/service offering/product/program, and hear nothing but crickets in return?”

But, as Laura reminds us, you can’t predict the future – “psychic abilities do not emerge from long periods of deliberate thought. You’ll never know how anything will work out.”

So, “Give it a shot and see what happens,” she advises.

This is advice I particularly need to heed more often. It’s similar to the whole “just ship it” idea. If you’re anything like me, you likely have multiple half-finished e-books, courses, lead magnets, digital products, service offering ideas and more littering your hard drive. Things you could have put out into the world, but didn’t.

Why not complete and launch at least some of these things? Why not “give it a shot” and see what happens? What if it goes over like gangbusters, and you sell 5 of your new thing? Or 10? Or more? Because it could happen. It really could.

Overthinking can absolutely kill our chances of moving our businesses forward. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. We use this kind of thinking as a crutch to hold us back from taking action outside our comfort zone. We want to be certain of outcomes, but we can never be certain of any outcome.

This passage from the transcript is one of the best in the course. I need to print this out in 36 point font and put it above my desk:

So drop this idea of trying to out think yourself, of trying to think your way into the future. That’s what’s holding you back from taking the kind of action that you want to take. Just give things a shot and see what happens. That’s all any of us can do. The more things you try, the more opportunities you have for something that works. The more things you try that are absolutely outside of your comfort zone, the higher the chances that you’re going to get a result that’s absolutely outside of your current reality.”

Discipline Isn’t Sexy, But It’s How Things Get Done

We all know this, right?

In “Creating Fame,” Roeder says, “ . . . I don’t mean discipline as in forcing yourself to do things you hate, but I do mean discipline like forcing yourself to do things that you’re scared of. . . . another thing is having discipline to do things that are boring. To do things that you don’t feel like doing, to do things you’re scared of doing. That’s discipline.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but one of the things I often struggle with is knowing the difference between things I hate doing and therefore shouldn’t be doing at all, and things I don’t enjoy – or that scare me – but need to do anyway because they’re necessary to move my business forward.

For example, just like pretty much everybody else on planet Earth (or at least the people I hang with), I get that frightened, queasy feeling when it comes time to promote something. Yes, I’m a marketer, and I consult with clients on how to market, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get butterflies in my stomach when I have to do it for myself.

But I do DO it, because otherwise I’d have no business. I’d have to go back to work for “the man,” and I want to love my life, so that ain’t gonna happen.

There’s a whole long list of other “out of my comfort zone” tasks, in addition to marketing myself,  that I don’t love doing but do anyway, so I can have a business I love, working with clients I love. That includes pitching myself for guest posts or podcast interviews, reaching out to clients I’d love to work with, and launching new services, among (many) other things.

Inevitability Thinking

Roeder defines “inevitability thinking” as doing things to make the outcome you want inevitable, a concept she learned from Eben Pagan.

We often hear about this in relation to our health and workout goals, i.e., set your alarm for early in the morning, put out your workout gear the night before, and make a gym date with a friend so you’re certain to get your morning workout in.

Inevitability thinking has been a real game changer for me. After I took Marie Forleo’s B-School in early 2013, I was ready to start building my online audience in earnest, so I pitched myself for a few guest post opportunities on sites I knew my ideal clients read.

Lo and behold, a few of the people I approached accepted, which meant I had to follow through and write the guest post. That’s what’s great about sending a really well-thought out pitch – you don’t have to write the whole post, just a stellar pitch; when/if it gets accepted, then you’re on the hook to write a kick-butt guest post.

Which means you’ll do, right?

Just one of my guest posts added a few hundred people to my email list, and some of those people bought my services over the years. I can directly attribute at least $20K in revenue to one guest post (again, over the years, not all at once. Though I did generate about $12K in one year from one client as a result of one of that particular guest post.)

This stuff WORKS – inevitability thinking, give it a shot.

The Takeaway

Can you see how implementing these four simple, elegant ideas, could help you make serious headway in your business? Even one or two of them, consistently practiced, could make an enormous positive difference in your results. 

Wherever you are right now, whether it’s struggling to make things happen, or taking a bath in the benjamins, by this time next year, or heck, even next month, your business could look totally different.

I believe it with all my heart.

Now I’m off to practice some discipline for the rest of this fine Friday. 🙂

Guard Your Time, Prioritize Your Creative Work

This morning I re-read a semi-famous essay written by Paul Graham, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, computer scientist, author, and founder, with his wife, Jessica Livingston, of Y Combinator.

In the essay, Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule,” Graham talks about the difference between the two kinds of schedules, and how disruptive it can be if you’re a “maker” being forced to conform to a “manager’s” schedule.

Here’s how Graham describes the two schedules:

“The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one-hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.

When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.

Most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command. But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That’s no problem for someone on the manager’s schedule. There’s always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker’s schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.”

The first time I read Graham’s essay, it struck me that this was why I wasn’t as successful as I would have liked in my first advertising agency job many years ago.

“You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.”

As a writer/copywriter in an ad agency, you’re expected to switch tasks constantly. Maybe, not usually, but maybe, you get 3 or more solid hours to work on a single project, uninterrupted.

Even so, you’re not really uninterrupted. Your phone is ringing, and you’re expected to answer it. Your emails are coming in, and if it’s a client, you’re expected to reply. In a typical agency setting, most everyone leaves their email on in the background, most of the time. If you work in an open concept office, which describes most offices these days, other people’s phones are ringing, people are chit-chatting within your earshot, people are coming and going in and out of the office, and there’s not much you can do to avoid being privy to it all. There is no truly quiet space in which to do “deep work” for an extended period of time.

Deep work is a concept defined by author and computer science professor Cal Newport. Newport describes deep work as “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time.”

Better results, in less time. That’s valuable.

In an agency setting, the in-demand skill is not the ability to do deep work. Actually, that’s not entirely true. The ability to do deep work may be prized, but only if you can do it with multiple interruptions and distractions constantly swirling about you at all times.

Instead, the skill that gets privileged is the ability to switch tasks and juggle loads of projects at once, while giving equal time, effort, energy and attention to all of them. AND create amazing work – FAST.

Wanting 4-5 uninterrupted hours to create something excellent, in a quiet space, with no distractions, will most likely be seen as an unnecessary indulgence, if not a straight-up weakness in your ability to “produce.”

If you can’t do great work, calmly and unflappably, in this kind of distraction-rich setting, then you may not be cut out for the agency work environment.

When I binge watch Mad Men, the thing that strikes me most, beyond the massive day-drinking and the gross womanizing, is offices with doors that close. Managers have them, copywriters have them, even some of the art guys have them. It’s the one thing about that show that makes me salivate with envy.

But most workplaces aren’t like this, so there’s an inherent conflict – the writer, designer or other creative likely needs large chunks of time, without distraction, to do truly outstanding work. But this isn’t always possible. Which leads to a stress, anxiety, and the constant worry that you many not be doing your best work.

(To be clear, I’m not raking ad agencies over the coals. Many other kinds of workplace environments are also just like this, and I’ve worked in a few of them. And I’m not talking about all ad agencies, either. Some are much more humane and nurturing when it comes to providing a space for the creative person to do their best work.)

I’m an introvert, and a maker. Kind of a double whammy. Because of this, I still haven’t figured out how to handle interruptions to my work flow as well as I’d like.

Take client calls, for example.

Client calls are entirely necessary for the kind of work I do. I have onboarding calls with new clients, copy review calls, monthly check-in calls with retainer clients, and so on. Because I’m an introvert, even one, one-hour call means at least an hour afterwards to decompress and get my head back in the game for the next task. This would be impossible in a typical office setting.

One of the reasons I prize working for myself is that I can mostly dictate my schedule and the atmosphere in which I create. This ensures I can do quality work. My working environment is quiet. No ringing phones, no people coming in and out. No coworkers chatting all around me, no UPS/restaurant/FedEx delivery people asking where is this or that person, or can I sign for a package. No emails in the background, ever, when I’m working, and no freaking meetings.

Alas, I still haven’t figured out client calls.

I used to do this thing where if I had three calls in one week, I’d schedule them over 3-5 days, so I’d never have more than one call per day. This makes sense, because I’m trying to guard my time and prioritize the deep work necessary to produce excellent creative work.

And yet.

Just one call in a day often threw me off my game.

Take a recent Friday, when I had three client calls scheduled. For an introvert, this is a lot. But grouping them together in the same day made sense, I thought. Get them all out of the way in one day, rather than spread over several, which I find exhausting.

After each call, I need to decompress for a bit. So I can’t get much done, other than call, decompress, call, decompress, call, decompress, all day. Even though I scheduled my calls hours apart – at 11:00 am, at 2:30 pm, and at 6:00 pm – I’m still woefully unable to commit to anything requiring deep work for the day. The day is shot for that.

Now once a week is not that big a deal, in the scheme of things. But I think back to jobs I’ve had where pockets of time to do deep work was always in short supply, and that there, my friends – a day of constant calls, meetings, and other interruptions – is simply standard operating procedure in most workplaces.

And it is precisely why you may not be able to do the quality of work you’re capable of, if you’re a creative, a maker, and an introvert.

So, what to do?

For me, I no longer kid myself that I can do my best creative work in a typical office setting. I usually work best in solitude. I produce good work when I have time for deep work. I can’t schedule calls on days when I need space and quiet to complete an important project.

I also (mostly) no longer feel guilty when I turn off my email for hours at a time and put my phone in the next room while working on something that requires intense focus.  

It’s taken me many years to get here, but I’ve begun to value the way I do my best work enough to guard my time and prioritize my creative work, whether it’s a client project or my own writing.

Some days are better than others, of course. On the “bad” days, I’m pulled into the undertow of distraction, even when I’m working at home alone. One dip into mail, “just for 10 minutes,” often becomes two hours of wasted time.

So, you know, it’s a process.

But the important thing I’ve found, and the thing that’s really helped me, is letting go of the guilt I often felt for not being able to work well in a distraction-rich environment.  

It’s so important to know the circumstances under which you do your best creative work, and to prioritize that kind of work environment, without feeling a shred of guilt or remorse about it.

Starting Over: New Home, New Life, New-ish Business, All New Outlook

I recently moved into a new place – finally – after close to two years of living with various roommates and friends.

After two years of upheaval and drama and trauma and stress.

Two years of sands forever shifting beneath my feet.

Two years of just barely hanging on at times.

Two years of weepy conversations with my best girlfriends about how to get myself out of a bad situation. One I never, ever, dreamed I’d find myself in.

Two years of enormous changes, some good, some bad, some very bad.

But I’ve found stability again.

At last, hal-le-lu-yer, at long last!!

As of June 15, 2018, I’m in my own place again.

Last week, my best friend came over with a beautiful bunch of roses and a bottle of Vueve Clicquot champagne to celebrate my new digs.

Two nights ago, she came over again and set up my desk, while I was pouring us some wine.

The desk at which I can laser focus on my copywriting business again, and my vision for what I want it to become.

And where I can also focus on my vision for my writing projects outside copywriting, of which there are many.

While I can’t share all the details publicly about what went down in the last two years, I can share a few, in the form of a timeline, to give you an idea of why this peaceful, calm environment I now find myself in is so darn meaningful, and what it means for the next phase of my business.

:: Early June 2016 – Living on the coast of North Carolina in my favorite beach town. Running my copywriting business from my home office in my tiny, 600 sq. ft. apartment.

:: Mid-June 2016 – Begin feeling lonely, sad, disconnected.

:: Early-ish July 2016 – Hmm, this is beginning to feel like full-blown depression. Nah, maybe it’ll pass. I’m probably just stressed about work stuff.

:: Later July 2016: OMG, what is wrong with me? This isn’t just feeling sad and stressed. This feels bigger, scarier, and more distressing than that. I need to make some massive changes, or this will not end well. Not to be melodramatic or anything. Plus, this incessant weeping is making my face look puffy.

:: July & August 2016: Not feeling better yet, I start journaling obsessively as way to metabolize what’s happening and make a decision about what to do next. First up, I decide to do a few small things daily to make myself feel better, such as: taking a walk to the mailbox (a 15-minute round-trip), watching something funny on YouTube, calling or texting a friend, listening to Joel Osteen podcasts on repeat, writing in my journal, reading interviews with my favorite authors, brainstorming ideas for essays, books and blog posts I’ll write, and so on. These things seem to help.

:: Late August 2016: I give my 60 day move out notice to my landlord. My daily journaling has unearthed a desire to move back to the Triad area of North Carolina, where I’m from, where my brother and sister live, and where I have friends I’ve known for 30+ years. I decide to do this in late October / early November 2016. This area is four hours and 200+ miles from where I currently live on the coast, so it’s going to be more than your standard move. But I know in my bones this is exactly what I need to do.

:: September 2016: I start looking on craigs list for a roommate situation in Greensboro, NC. I want to do the roommate thing for the first 6-12 months in my new / old hometown while I get my ducks in a row. Yeehaw, I find somebody great! I visit her for a weekend and stay in what will be my bedroom. It’s a gorgeous house in a gorgeous neighborhood. We get along well. This feels right.

:: October 30, 2016: I move into my place. It turns out to be a terrible, awful, extremely ill-advised idea, which I couldn’t have known at the time. The roommate is a wonderful person, really lovely, but there are some addiction issues. Which to be fair, she told me about before I moved in. But she also said she was in recovery, and fully committed to her sobriety. Unfortunately, I was the fool who believed it.

:: November 1, 2016 – January 18, 2018: I don’t even know where to begin. Multiple hospitalizations, rehab stays, and visits to our home from EMS and the local police department, (including the time there were close to a dozen officers on our doorstep and in the front hallway, some of them armed to the fucking nines, with rifles), interspersed with periods of calm, peaceful sobriety.

From day to day, I never know what to expect. I wake up each morning, knowing that today is a total crapshoot, a spin of the roulette wheel. Maybe it will be “normal,” reliably calm, with no crazy-ass drama. And some days it is that way. Other days, just the opposite.

I can never fully relax and focus on my work, building my business, or anything else. My business suffers. Terribly. My mental health suffers. Dreadfully. I’m turning into a jumpy wreck of a person, nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers, as my dad used to say, always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  

I know I should probably just move out, but I really want to believe her when she says she desperately wants to get and stay sober. I believe she believes that. And I don’t want to leave her in a bind with the rent. So each time there’s a relapse, I’m willing to give it another go when she says, “Please give me another chance, I promise it’s going to be different this time.”

:: January 18, 2018: No more. I’m at my wit’s end. I’m going to lose what’s left of my remaining marbles, the gossamer strands of sanity that are miraculously still intact, if I don’t make a change, ASAP. Just back from another stint in rehab in mid-January, she relapses again just a few days later. On Thursday January 18, I decide my safety, happiness, and mental health are much more important than trying to help someone by staying in a situation that frankly, feels like a lost cause. How many times does the promise have to be broken before I wise up and move out? Geez, Kimberly.

I call a friend who agrees to come over that Saturday, January 20, to help me get moved out. I’ve already lined up a wonderful place to live with someone who is sober and drama-free. Her home is peaceful, and sane. Huge sigh of relief.

:: January 20 – March 4, 2018: I live in this pleasant situation for a little over six weeks. Then I decide that I need to bring even more stability to my life, so I set about looking for a J-O-B. I figure I’ll do something 9-5, Monday- Friday, in my field of copywriting and marketing, while I continue running my copywriting business as a “side hustle,” at least for now. Or maybe I’ll give up the copywriting business altogether, because I’m just so tired, so very, very tired and depleted from the chaos and drama of the last 18 months.

Lo and behold, I do get a job, as a Copywriter / PR Specialist at a wonderful advertising and marketing agency in the next town over, 40-ish minutes west of where I’m currently living. I move again.

:: March 5, 2018: I begin my new job, woohoo! I move in with my best friend of 30+ years, who happens to live in the town where I get the job. This living situation is temporary, until I get settled in my new job and new town, at which point, I’ll get my own place.

:: March 5 – May 18, 2018: Gosh, how I love my co-workers, the workspace itself, and even the work too, but I know 2-3 weeks in this isn’t the best fit. Have I been working for myself too long? Am I not 9-5 employee material anymore? Is there something terribly wrong with me? I wanted a full-time job, in my field, working with great people on great projects, and I got exactly that.

What in the world is my problem? But I can’t ignore the fact that I haven’t slept in the 2.5 months since starting this job, my stomach has been in knots the entire time, and I’ve been deeply unhappy and stressed.

This does not go unnoticed. Perceptive and kind people that they are, the president and VP of the agency, and my immediate boss, chat with me one Friday afternoon about the situation. They notice I don’t seem happy. They notice I seem stressed much of the time. They want me to enjoy being there; quality of life is one of their highest values. They ask what we can all do to make things better, to make it possible that we can continue working together. We all decide I’ll go to contract status, something I desperately wanted, but was afraid to ask for. Another enormous sigh of relief.

:: May 21, 2018: I’m now contract status at the ad / marketing agency, and I feel almost delirious with joy, almost instantly.

:: June 15, 2018: I move into my new apartment. More joy. New beginnings. My address, in fact, is on “New Drive.” I don’t think this is a coincidence.

Now that I FINALLY, at long last, two years on, have some peace in my life, what does it means for the next phase of my business?

  • Well, for one thing, now that I’m not a full-time employee anymore, I’m taking on copywriting, marketing, and website review clients again.
  • I’m revising a couple of my current offerings, and adding 2-3 all-new offerings (to be announced this summer).
  • I’m developing an all-new opt-in incentive, a free e-course on how to create a magnetic marketing message, so you can get more business, bookings, and sales (to be released this summer). I am soooo excited about this!
  • I’m phasing out one-off client projects, and transitioning to longer-term engagements with clients.
  • I’m creating a digital product to help creatives improve their websites and web marketing, so they can more easily call in and convert their ideal clients, to be released by the end of the year.
  • And I have a few other business things in development up my sleeve as well.
  • I’ll also be spending more time on my non-copywriting-related writing projects. Lots of stuff happening there.

That’s the short list. I won’t bore you with the long one.

Over the last two years I’ve prayed for guidance many, many times for the answer to what course of action I should take – should I get a full-time job, continue building my copywriting business, or do some combination of the two? Should I stick with copywriting and marketing, or go into a different line of work entirely? Should I stay where I am, or move to a different city? Or should I drop out of life altogether, and figure out a way to travel the world? You know, just run away from it all, far, FAR away.  

Somewhere in there, among the prayers and the doubts and the questions, I told myself, instead of trying to figure everything out to the nth degree all on my own, I’ll leave myself open to guidance – from where ever. I decided to trust, and have faith. Not an easy thing for someone who always likes to know the next step, and the next, and the next one after that.

As airy-fairy and woo woo as it sounds, I feel like I’m being lead in the direction I’m meant to go in. As if the last two years, as challenging and exceedingly difficult as they’ve been, have a profound purpose that’s meant to serve me, that I can use to serve others. I don’t yet know what that purpose is or how I will use what I’ve been through to benefit others, but all will be revealed, I believe.

Right now, I’m just taking it day by day (while of course doing some planning for the future. I mean, c’mon, I can’t change who I am entirely, right?)

I don’t know if this is the right approach for everybody, but it’s the right one for me, right now.

I’m trying my best to live by the Martin Luther King, Jr. advice: “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

So, no real copywriting or marketing advice here.  But I hope that my convoluted, messed up, chaotic, drama-filled and wacky journey over the last two years, and the fact that I’m still hopeful, ready and eager to go after my goals with gusto, proves that you can withstand a crap ton of challenging BS, and still come out ready to rock your life plans.