My Best Copywriting Advice, Part Two: 6 Blog Posts That Will Help You Determine the Core Emotional Benefit of Your Offer, Write Web Copy That Sells & Upgrade Your Business Mindset

Last week on the blog, I did something a little different.

Instead of writing a single post about a single topic, I rounded up a handful of posts from yesteryear that highlight some of my “best” copywriting & marketing advice. (“Best” meaning, these are evergreen topics I consider to be some of the most important to building and growing your creative business.)

Today’s post is Part Two of that series.

Let’s dive in.

 

First things first: the mindset stuff.

I’m a firm believer that if your mindset is wonky, you can do all the “right” strategic things in your business, work your buns off, and follow the lead of other successful creative business builders in your niche, yet still not gain any real traction on your business goals.

I say this from deep experience as someone who has let silly limiting beliefs and varying degrees of imposter syndrome keep me from going after what I really want, over and over again.

 

In this first post, I talk about four concepts from Laura Roeder’s “Creating Fame” that have the power to radically transform your business:

Your Big Idea; You Can’t Predict the Future; Discipline Isn’t Sexy, But It’s How Things Get Done and Inevitability Thinking.

In a few months’ time – heck, even as early as next month – your business could look totally different than it does today if you adopt these four practices. I know they’ve helped me.

Four Powerful Ideas That Could Radically Change Your Business 

 

This next post shares a lesson I learned a very long time ago and have never forgotten, and that is, “they want you to be the one.”

This mindset shift will help you if you ever feel terrified of marketing yourself or actively trying to sell your products or services. As in, you know it’s gotta be done, but you don’t do it near enough – or at all – because you let the fear stop you.

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

 

This post is about the natural sales ability we all possess, and how to tap into it.

(Yes, it’s true! We all have this ability, and that includes you.)

I guarantee you’ve been having “sales conversations” all your life, without even realizing it.

Read this post to find out more:

How to Tap Into Your Natural Sales Superpower: Two Quick Tips 

 

And while we’re on the topic of selling, let me share with you what chocolate cake and donuts can teach you about selling more. 😊

This post is about how to find the core emotional benefit of your offer, so you can connect with and convert your ideal clients.

What Can Chocolate Cake and Donuts Teach You About Selling More?  

 

In this post, I share how to create killer web copy for your small business by “painting a picture” of your dream client’s ideal outcome, and give you an example of how it’s done.  

The concept of “painting a picture” in copywriting is very powerful, and one of the key tenets of writing successful copy that converts readers into buyers.

What a Personal Development Classic from 1959 Can Teach You About Writing Web Copy That Sells 

 

And finally, a case study of sorts about successfully using personality in marketing, and how Bolthouse Farms transformed baby carrots from a boring agricultural commodity into a cool, crave-able snack.

The lesson: With enough creativity and resourcefulness, you too can uncover the benefits and bring out the personality of any boring old thing to make it interesting and appealing to your audience.

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

 

That’s it for this week.

I hope you got at least 3-4 instantly implementable ideas to grow your business using the power of  persuasive marketing and copywriting + mindset from these posts!

 

 

My Best Copywriting Advice, Part One: 6 Blog Posts That Will Help You Create a USP That Attracts Ideal Clients, Grow Your Email List & Write an Email That Sells

This week on the blog, I’m doing something a little different.

Rather than a single post about a single topic, I’m rounding up a handful of posts that highlight some of my “best” copywriting & marketing advice. (“Best” meaning, these are topics I consider to be some of the most important to building and growing your creative business.)

Let’s jump in.

 

First up, USPs.

I consider the advice in this 3-part series non-negotiable if you want to stand out in your niche and attract your ideal clients and customers online. (Instead of drowning in a sea of sameness, where everyone looks and sounds virtually the same, and it’s darn near impossible to tell one freelancer, service provider or creative business from the next.)

In Part One of this series on creating a compelling USP for your business, I laid out definitions of the terms USP (unique selling proposition) and “meaningful difference” for our purposes as creative business builders, covered how a memorable USP informs your signature marketing message, and importantly, why your signature marketing message is so undeniably important to the health of your business. I also shared a short excerpt from my guide Marketing Messages That Convert: A Step-by-Step Copy Messaging Guide for Solopreneurs, Freelancers, Creative Business Builders & Other Non-Marketing Types, to help you make sense of it all.

What a USP Is, Why You Need One ASAP, and How to Create One for Your Service-Based Business So You Can Get More Business, Bookings & Sales [Part 1 of 2] 

 

In Part Two of the series, I covered five ways a compelling USP will help you get more business, bookings & sales.

What a USP Is, Why You Need One ASAP, and How to Create One for Your Service-Based Business So You Can Get More Business, Bookings & Sales [Part 2 of 3] 

 

In the final installment of the 3-part series, I shared Real! Live! Examples! of USPs that have helped businesses of all kinds develop enormous brand loyalty with their target audience & stand out in their (very often) saturated niche.

What a USP Is, Why You Need One ASAP, and How to Create One for Your Service-Based Business So You Can Get More Business, Bookings & Sales [Part 3 of 3] 

 

Next, we talk about email.

Ah, email marketing … so critical to the health of your business online – and offline too, even if you run a mostly bricks & mortar business.

The next three posts cover some of the ground-level basics of getting your email marketing game in shape.

 

This is brief, straightforward post shares two tips for getting more email subscribers: #1: create opt-in copy that gives people a compelling & benefit-driven reason to sign up for your list; and #2: create a dedicated landing page for your email list. Includes a couple of examples of what not to do, and an example of what’s definitely the better way to go. 😊

Want More Email Subscribers? Implement These Two Ridiculously Simple Tips 

 

This next post, while similar to the one above, focuses specifically on punching up the copy on your opt-in form itself to make it more persuasive. Includes six examples of compelling opt-in copy.

Grow your email list with better opt-in copy using these two powerful tips 

 

And lastly, a post about writing a sales email. Something I know a lot of folks feel challenged by.

While this post shares the tale of how I came in #4 in a sales email writing contest, there’s lots of good information about how to write your own story-based email that sells. In this post, you’ll find my original contest entry, plus feedback I got from the two esteemed judges, a basic outline of an email that sells, and tips on what emails that sell need to do to be effective.

How I Wrote a Story-Based Sales Email That Landed Me in the Top 5 in a Copywriting Contest 

 

And that’s what I got for ya this week.

In my next round-up post, coming in a week or so, I’ll share more of my best advice, including some non-copy related mindset stuff. Fun! 😊

How to Flout the “Rules,” Be Unconventional, and Still Become a Massive Success (A Must-Read Book That Might Just Change Your Life)

Ash Ambirge The Middle Finger Project book

It’s no exaggeration to say that finding Ash Ambirge’s blog, The Middle Finger Project, changed the trajectory of my life.

A little bit melodramatic yes, but that’s how I roll. 😊

Let me explain.

Once upon a long time ago, I was wandering the career desert, wondering how I could use my writing and marketing skills to create a career that paid well, offered lots of flexibility, and allowed me the freedom to be the quirky soul I was.

A career I could be proud of, one I was actually excited to get to do every day.

I had been working in public radio, which wasn’t cutting it for me (one of several jobs I tried and didn’t love).

Feeling bored and uninspired, I started casting around for something else I could do. And I knew that thing would involve writing.

Then One Night, I Fell Down the Online Rabbit Hole and Discovered the Person Who Would Well and Truly Change the Course of My Life

While tooling around on the interwebs one night looking for a “sign,” I found Ash’s blog post, The 67 Emotions of Unconventional Success: My Story, and was instantly smitten with all things Ash.

It was the beginning of everything.

It jolted me out of my complacency.

It made me feel something.

Reading that post, then signing up for Ash’s email list, and later, taking advantage of her paid workshops, courses, kits and e-books, etc., jumpstarted my copywriting career and my freelance writing  business.

I never would have had the guts to become a freelance copywriter and run things the way I do if not for her.

I never would have even believed it was possible.

Yet, here I am.

I can tell more of that story another day if anyone’s interested, but today, I’m here to tell you about Ash’s fantastic, amazing, quite possibly life-changing new book, THE MIDDLE FINGER PROJECT: Trash Your Imposter Syndrome and Live the Unf*ckwithable Life You Deserve.

Ashley wrote this book …

… for the imposters, the small town girls, the trailer park trash, the inner city warriors, the dirt road queens, the ones without a voice, the ones being supervised by a man, the ones broken and divorced, the ones without enough self-esteem, the ones who don’t know what to do next, the ones fighting every day to find themselves, the ones who don’t know what their passions are yet, the ones who could use a big sister, the ones who need someone to grab them by the hand and say “get the fuck back up, we’re doing this” the ones who are gravely underestimated, the ones dying to find their purpose, the ones who need a dangerous dose of confidence, the ones who are down to ride because THAT IS WHAT WE DO, and the ones who don’t know, yet, that they are so much more capable than they think.

I read an advance copy online (I have an actual hard copy coming to me in the mail this week – woohoo!!), and I can tell you, it is mad inspiring.

Reading the digital version made me want to do something big and bold and c-r-a-z-y, so I can only imagine what’s about to transpire when I read the hard copy – yeehaw!

Here’s what the book’s about, in bullet-pointed nutshell:

  • Girl grows up in a trailer park in rural America
  • Mom = social anxiety, doesn’t leave house
  • Dad dies when girl is 14
  • Mom dies when girl is 21
  • Girl leaves small town. Goes to big city. Tries hard to fit in with people who paid real money for “nude” as a nail color.
  • Becomes disillusioned to discover nobody actually knows what they’re doing and the rules were made up by a guy named Ted who ate a cheeseburger for lunch and has a dog named Wedgie.
  • Leaves job. Rebels. Sleeps in car in Kmart parking lot.
  • $26 left. Lots of chicken nuggets.
  • Hears radio announcer. New music album available for pre-order. Suddenly realizes that value comes in many forms—not just in all of material things she never had—and art is worth paying for. And? It doesn’t have to be *finished yet* in order to be exchanged for future value.
  • Takes hidden talent—writing—and uses it to create an all-new job for herself.
  • Earns first $2,000 from backseat of car.
  • Uses it to kick start new life.
  • Makes first $103,000 that year, and then goes on to earn several million dollars from her art.
  • Learns lots of lessons along the way, like: You must be brave enough to cause problems. And: Sometimes you’ve got to be a bitch about money. And: Every good idea is offensive to someone. And: Selling yourself requires you to insist on your own brilliance. And: We must learn to become mothers to ourselves.
  • Ash: “I NEED TORN DOWN SOULS TO READ THIS. I need them to see that they can do so much more than they think. And not just them, but anyone who feels like an imposter every single day of their life. Anyone who doesn’t know what else to do. Anyone confused about their career. Anyone who doesn’t have passions anymore. Anyone who feels like they’ve lost themselves. And anyone who is still really just an innocent babe inside, trying to find their way.”

Today, Ash runs The Middle Finger Project®, an online company and award-winning blog which has provided tens of thousands of young “women who disobey” with the tools and mind-set to reject the world’s expectations of success and get on their own path to happiness, wealth, independence, and adventure. The women who flock to her message want to hear from someone who has hit rock bottom and survived to tell the tale—all while becoming her own brand of self-made success. Expanding on the short, pithy advice on her blog, Ash’s book of the draws on her unconventional personal story to offer an empowering and occasionally potty-mouthed manifesto for the transformative power of radical self-reliance and taking risks.

I didn’t grow up with much myself, so I have all kinds of respect for this girl who went from being orphaned in a trailer park to becoming a wildly successful CEO and author, now published by Penguin Random House and killing it.

And as she points out over and over again in the book, if she can do it, so can you.

A few choice quotes from the book:

  • Every good idea is offensive to someone. This is the very nature of good ideas: they are good because they change things.
  • You must be brave enough to cause problems. A person who never causes any problems is a person who doesn’t trust herself to handle what happens next.
  • You only have 12 fucks a day to give, so use them wisely.
  • Life circumstances are not life sentences. If a Scranton girl who grew up in a trailer park can make it, so can you.
  • Don’t do something because “it makes sense.” It can make all the sense in the world and still make you miserable.
  • That’s when you know it’s bad: when you’re living a life not even Chip and Joanna Gaines can fix.
  • Radical self-reliance comes from following your most dangerous ideas.
  • Anytime you are doing work that you hate, you are disrespecting yourself and it hurts.
  • Sometimes ensuring that you’ll respect yourself again in the morning is the most important form of self-care we have.
  • It’s not about the work. It’s about how the work makes you feel.
  • If you have an idea, you’ve got something of value.
  • Most people will say anything to justify their own actions, because most people would rather be right than happy.
  • What you believe about yourself will either murder your chances or change your life.
  • It’s not about getting hired anymore. It’s about having enough guts to hire yourself.
  • Trying is always the very best thing we can do in any moment.
  • There is no such thing as a starving artist, anymore: the Internet runs on artists. It’s the only reason the Internet was made: by people like us, contributing their ideas.
  • Quit often. Quit over and over again. Become an expert quitter, because this means that you are also an expert starter.
  • It’s easy to do things that merely promise money. It’s much harder to do things that don’t. But in a most ironic fashion, the latter is the surest way to get a metric crap ton of it.
  • Ladies, you need to have your own money. You need to have enough so that you never have to compromise your own better judgment.
  • Nothing is permanent, not even your worst nightmare. This little blip on your radar? This will not kill you. This will show you that you are made of fucking stars.
  • You don’t have to be the most qualified person, ever, in order to make a valuable contribution. All you have to do is be willing to solve a problem you care about.
  • Nobody’s just going to put two-hundred dollars in your hand. You have to be willing to show up and ask, “Would you like my help?”
  • The most important and courageous thing you can do: simply show up.
  • You can have everything you want in life, as long as you’re willing to sacrifice everything you don’t.

I started this blog, this website, and my entire business around the idea that it’s not easy to flout convention and follow your creative calling, but it can be done, and the brave ones do it despite the odds … and succeed. So you can believe I wholeheartedly endorse Ash and her kick-ass book. If you follow and like my stuff, I fully believe you will love her book. (This is not an affiliate promotion by the way, I just love Ash, and I know from experience that everything she puts out is excellent, truly the best of the best.) 

THE MIDDLE FINGER PROJECT:

Trash Your Imposter Syndrome and Live the Unf*ckwithable Life You Deserve

By Ash Ambirge

OUT FEBRUARY 11, 2020

From the founder of The Middle Finger Project®, which is both the name of her hallmark lifestyle blog as well the title of her first book, a fresh, funny, and fearless point-by-point primer on how to get unstuck, slay imposter syndrome, trust in your own worth and ability, and become a strong, capable, ballsy you.

HOW TO BUY THE BOOK:

You can go directly to Ash’s site, The Middle Finger Project, here

Or buy from your favorite retailer, online or in store.

 

Let me know if you pick up a copy of the book, and we can discuss! 🙂

 

From Full of Excuses and Failing in Business to Self-Made Multi-Millionaire: How a Dead Broke Carpet Cleaner Turned It All Around Using the Power of Copywriting and Direct-Response Marketing

brand vs direct response marketing

Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

Why is it that we so often stubbornly resist what turns out to be the most life-changing advice about achieving business success from those who’ve been there, done that, and know a thing or two, and refuse to do the one thing that might change things for the better and get us to the point of actual traction in our business?

The thing that might transform a wheezing, sickly, underperforming business from breathing its last dying breath into a revenue-generating, full-time income-producing thing of beauty we can be proud of? A business where the number of email subscribers, new client inquiries, and yes, sales, actually increases consistently?

I’d wager fear of the unknown and the natural tendency to avoid discomfort (~ raises hand ~) is probably right up there at the top of the list, wouldn’t you?

Trouble is, we often let this fear and avoidance dynamic keep us stuck inside our wretched comfort zones, where dreams go to die, all the while banging our heads against a wall, expecting something to change even as we won’t, as we go on doing the same ineffective thing day in and day out to get our business to grow.

Sometimes even to the point where the business withers and dies, and we have to – gasp – go back to work for “the man.” Oh, the horror!

Granted, not everyone reading this is in that position.

But plenty of business owners are – gravitating by default to the familiar and comfortable when it comes to marketing and selling, instead of doing something that might be uncomfortable, yet will yield far greater results.

Well, listen up as I tell you a story about a dead broke carpet cleaner who was failing miserably in his business until he discovered the power of copywriting and direct response marketing, then used this knowledge to turn things around.

And turn things around he surely did, going from flat broke and on the verge of giving up, to charging $25,000 per half day for his consulting services, and hanging out with the likes of people like Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Bill Clinton.

Joe Polish is the guy.

As a lifelong student of marketing and copywriting, I’m always on the hunt for people in the copywriting field who are more – and I mean WAY more – knowledgeable and successful than I am, so I can soak up their wisdom and apply it to my business where it makes sense. Joe Polish is one of those people.

Polish is the Founder and President of Piranha Marketing Inc., founder of the Genius Network Mastermind, and co-founder of a highly popular free weekly podcast on iTunes called I Love Marketing. After creating mega-success in his carpet cleaning business, he went on to teach what he learned about marketing to others in that industry, then created a highly profitable marketing consulting business.

But once upon a time, before the accolades, the successes and the abundant income, he was that practically bankrupt carpet cleaner.

Joe’s Story

You can check out Joe’s full story in his own words here, but in a nutshell, when he was in his early twenties and struggling in his carpet cleaning business, as in, on the verge of bankruptcy, dead broke and living-on-credit-cards-struggling, he got invited on a weekend trip that would change the course of his life forever.

On this jet-ski trip to the lake with his buddies, Joe met and struck up a conversation with the multimillionaire real estate investor who owned the jet skis, a man he rightly assumed he could learn a thing or two from. He told the guy about his carpet cleaning business and how poorly it was doing. He shared that he was thinking about getting into another, more lucrative kind of business. He asked the multimillionaire for recommendations for what kind of business he could get into where he could make more money.

The multimillionaire asked him, “Are there people in your industry making money?”

Joe replied that yes indeed there were, and that a few of those companies were even making over a million bucks a year. But he said those companies had an advantage, because they’d been around for years, and had lots of employees and were well-established in the market, with name recognition that he couldn’t compete with as a newbie.

After listening to these and many other excuses Joe made for why he wasn’t successful, the multimillionaire said to him, “If there are other people in your industry doing well and making money and you’re not, there’s nothing wrong with your business, there’s something wrong with you.”

He told Joe he sounded like one of those people who think “the grass is always greener on the other side,” and that going into a new business wasn’t the answer. What he really needed to do was learn and apply fundamental business principles to his current business to make it work, said the multimillionaire.

In Which Our Hero Makes a Very Wise Decision

Our hero Joe takes this advice to heart, and decides he will do whatever is in his power to make his business successful, “or die trying,” as he said.

Cut to advertising and marketing. Except, instead of using traditional image-based or brand advertising, which essentially attempts to create a positive feeling or image around a product or company and build awareness of the brand – think car commercials and fancy perfume ads, for example – Joe decides to use the timeless, proven principles of direct response marketing, which have been working like gangbusters for nearly every kind of business, company and cause for over a hundred years, thank you very much. 

What exactly is direct response marketing you ask, and how does it differ from image and brand advertising?

Unlike brand advertising, which seeks to raise awareness, direct response marketing’s goal is to stimulate an immediate response or action, via print (yes, still!) or web communications. So on the web, that could mean things like getting someone to sign up for your email list, call you for an appointment, set up a free consult, reach out for more information about your products or services, or make a purchase of said products and services.

Direct response marketing works because, as Joe says, “it educates, motivates, and calls your consumers to take action.” (Unlike the Jeep commercial that leaves you full of daydreams about the rugged and adventurous life you might lead if you owned the latest version of the Grand Cherokee, but doesn’t provide a mechanism that allows you to take immediate action.)

And the thing that helps direct response marketing work its wonders? Persuasive writing – copywriting – writing meant to encourage action.

According to AWAI (American Writers and Artists Inc., where I got some fabulous copywriting training):

Unlike news or editorial writing, copywriting is all about getting the reader to take action. That action might be to purchase, opt-in, or engage with a product, service, or company.

But back to our hero . . .

Joe was determined to make his business a success and willing to try direct response marketing to get there. As a result, he went from grossing $2100 per month to grossing $12,300 per month, in just 6 short months. Within a year, he had turned his carpet-cleaning business into a six-figure business.

He began a second business teaching others in his industry the direct response marketing techniques that helped him go from dead broke to six-figure success. He eventually sold the carpet-cleaning business and now generates millions in revenue from his marketing training business.

All because he got out of his comfort zone, stopped complaining about what wasn’t working and opened himself up to something that did, and took action by applying what he learned.

But Will This Work for Me?

Now, you can do “image advertising” or a “brand awareness” campaign if you want to, there’s nothing wrong with that, but just know that it might take months and months to see any kind of traction from your efforts.

Whereas with direct response marketing & effective copywriting, you can create web copy and other communications today that get potential clients and customers reaching out to you tomorrow.

I encourage you to read Joe’s story here, where you’ll learn a lot more about what direct response marketing is and how to apply it, if you’re interested. At the end of his story, Joe shares four proven strategies for marketing your business that worked incredibly well for him and over 6300 business owners in his industry.

And before you go thinking, “But I don’t own a carpet cleaning business, those strategies won’t work for me,” or, “I’m not comfortable using ‘aggressive’ marketing tactics,” keep in mind what I said earlier: the timeless, proven principles of direct response marketing have been working like gangbusters for nearly every kind of business, company and cause for over a hundred years.

And you can adapt those principles in a non-aggressive way to your business and your marketing comfort level. (But don’t get too comfortable, mind you, because your comfort zone is where dreams go to die, and we actually want results here, right?)

Please note, I’m NOT saying you have to actually mail things to people or use the kind of direct response ads Joe talks about in his story (though that works too), but you can practice direct response marketing principles on your website.

If you click on the link above to read Joe’s story, pay special attention to what he says about the difference between marketing and selling, and his definition of what selling really is. I think you’ll find Joe’s definition of selling comforting.

The Takeaway

Over the years I’ve had several clients who don’t feel comfortable “asking for the sale,” or in some cases, even alluding to the fact they have something for sale.

You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that those people make far fewer sales of their products and services than people who know they have to get comfortable with marketing and selling to be successful in business, or act in spite of their discomfort with it.

(By the way, I find it easy as pie to help other people with their marketing, but I’m not that terribly comfortable doing it for myself, despite providing marketing, copywriting, and PR services to my clients since 2001. But I act in spite of my discomfort, because if there’s one thing I’m wildly passionate about, it’s having a successful business so I never, ever, E-V-E-R, have to go back to work for “the man.”)

That said, I get that Joe Polish’s style may not be right for everyone. I understand the strategies and tactics of other wildly successful marketers I’ve mentioned on this blog before, people like Dan Kennedy, Ben Settle, or John Carlton may be a little too aggressive for your taste.

I get it.

However.

From Polish, Kennedy, Settle, Carlton and other classic marketing mentors, to brilliant marketing types like Naomi Dunford, Ashley Ambirge, Marie Forleo and others – I take what works for me, what I can adapt to my shy-ish, sensitive and creative sensibilities, and leave the rest.

No reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as I see it. Instead, I learn and adapt, learn and adapt.

At the end of the day, if solopreneurs and small business owners who are afraid to sell, or think there’s something inherently wrong or sleazy about selling – and therefore resist learning how to effectively market online – would let go of that one very detrimental mindset, they’d be a lot more successful.

And I can say this, because I had to learn this lesson myself in the early days when I was first launching what was then my generic freelance writing business. I fervently wish I hadn’t wasted a year and half and then some working my fingers to the bone doing what was comfortable but wasn’t working, and applied tried-and-true principles of copywriting and direct response marketing instead.

But better late than never, eh?

So my plea to you is, become a student of copywriting and marketing. Even if you don’t learn from me, that is A-OK my friend, but find someone whose teachings and trainings you do resonate with, and learn from them.

Because as Dan Kennedy says, copywriting is the #1 skill to master if you want to increase your income. I wouldn’t be in the business of writing copy for my clients, or helping my clients optimize and improve their current copy, if I didn’t believe that.

In my case, learning from masters like Kennedy, Polish, Settle, Carlton and other copywriting greats has given me a priceless return on my time investment, many times over.

I wish the same for you.

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By the way, if you’re ready for a magnetic website that attracts, engages & sells to your dream clients, using proven direct response marketing principles (in a 100% non-sleazy or aggressive way), check out my Work with Me page for more details.

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What a USP Is, Why You Need One ASAP, and How to Create One for Your Service-Based Business So You Can Get More Business, Bookings & Sales [Part 3 of 3]

Photo by Rupert Britton on Unsplash

[This is the final installment of a 3-part series on creating a memorable USP. You can find Part One here, and Part Two here.]

If you’ve already read Parts 1 & 2 (linked above) of this 3-part series, welcome back! If you’re arriving at this post fresh from somewhere out there on the interwebs and you haven’t read the first two installments, I recommend you read those first. 😊

To recap, in Part One of this post on creating a compelling USP for your business, we defined the terms USP (unique selling proposition) and “meaningful difference,” covered how a memorable USP informs your signature marketing message, and importantly, why your signature marketing message is so critically important to the health of your business, and I shared a short excerpt from my guide Marketing Messages That Convert: A Step-by-Step Copy Messaging Guide for Solopreneurs, Freelancers, Creative Business Builders & Other Non-Marketing Types, to help you make sense of it all.

In Part Two, we talked about five ways a stand-out USP will help you get more business, bookings & sales.

In this final installment, I’ll share a few examples of successful unique selling propositions and talk some about why they work, which I hope will give you solid inspiration for creating a great one for your own business.

Let’s get started.

As I mentioned in Part One, it’s unlikely that your product or service is unique in and of itself, so figuring out what makes you different – whether this is your process, your personality, your backstory, your specialization, your target audience, or all of the above (and it’s usually some combination of all of the above) – and conveying that in your marketing will give you a competitive edge.

I call this the “combo platter” test.

Another framework to consider is the “what your business stands for” test.

As Joe Putnam from Conversion Engine, writing in a guest post on Neil Patel’s blog, says:

A unique selling proposition is what your business stands for. It’s what sets your business apart from others because of what your business makes a stand about. Instead of attempting to be known for everything, businesses with a unique selling proposition stand for something specific, and it becomes what you’re known for.

He shares three excellent examples of this USP framework in action: Starbucks, Zappos, and project management software, Basecamp. Check out Joe’s article on unique selling propositions here for more on that.

Examples of Effective USPs 

If you’re anything like me, it helps to see Real! Live! Examples! to make the theory talk gel and show you the way forward.

I love me some examples, so here’s a big ol’ section full of ‘em.

 [*Caveat: When you look at the first set of examples below from our friend Jim Muehlhausen, you might think, “Oh noes! I have to fit my USP into a short, pithy tagline!” No, you do not. Great if you can do it, but my definition of USP is broader than that. See “combo platter,” above.]

In Compare a Unique Selling Proposition to a Unique Value Proposition, Jim Muehlhausen says:

The goal of any great business model is to have a high-profit product that customers want to buy. A highly marketable product is traditionally described as having a unique selling proposition. Whole Foods offers only healthy choices in its stores. Domino’s Pizza grew rapidly because of its super-fast delivery. UGG boots are not only fashionable but also allow you to walk comfortably without socks. These are all unique selling propositions.

Muehlhausen shares a list of other good examples of products with a clear USP and tagline:

  • BMW:The Ultimate Driving Machine
  • Dawn Dishwashing Liquid:Gets grease out of your way
  • Domino’s Pizza:You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less — or it’s free
  • FedEx:When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight
  • MetLife:Get Met. It Pays.
  • M&M’s:Melts in your mouth, not in your hand
  • Target:Expect more. Pay less.
  • Walmart:Everyday low prices

Want more?

A fantastic resource I love is Corbett Barr’s 10 Examples of Killer Unique Selling Propositions on the Web. I often refer people to this article when they’re struggling to come up with a USP for their business.

Saddleback Leather is one example of a killer USP Barr shares in the article above, saying:

“There is no other leather bag company on the planet like Saddleback Leather This company oozes personality. The website is full of tales of Mexican bullfighting, travel in third-world countries, simple pleasures and touching stories about the owner’s beloved Labrador named Blue.”

About TOMS Shoes, he says:

“TOMS Shoes are quirky, comfy, light and inexpensive. That alone maybe isn’t enough to make a company stand out in the shoe business. The most unique and compelling part of the TOMS Shoes story is that they give a new pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair you purchase.”

Check out the article over on Fizzle.co for these and a handful of other great examples.

Here are a handful of my own favorite USP examples, curated from around the web over the last few years and saved into my personal swipe file:

Hiut Denim 

I can’t even begin to explain how much I adore this company. I would marry this company if I could.

What they stand for?

“Do one thing well. We make jeans. That’s it. No distractions.” 

Their backstory is also very compelling, with a powerful emotional hook. But it’s not contrived. It’s not some made-up marketing B.S. It’s the real effing deal.

Hiut Denim saved a town and its livelihood.

Whether or not you find that meaningful, it’s certainly a story you won’t forget. “Oh, that’s the company that saved the town of Cardigan and got them making jeans again.” 

I mean, sure, Meghan Markle wears their jeans, but in my mind, that’s just a natural result of their extraordinary product and business ethos.

They also have the best weekly newsletter of any retail goods company I’ve come across, called Scrapbook Chronicles. It’s full of compelling stories, creative inspiration, out-of-the-box thinking, and interesting ideas. It’s my favorite thing to read on a Saturday morning.

The Unmistakable Creative 

The Unmistakable Creative is a podcast, blog, and so much more. Podcast host, writer, and multi-published author Srini Rao says about The Unmistakable Creative:

I help creative individuals and organizations bring their ideas to life using research-backed principles from neuroscience and behavioral psychology.

Now, you can argue that’s a value proposition, and you’d be right, but The Unmistakable Creative is a distinctive brand with a stand-out USP.

Srini says about his podcast:

I’ve interviewed bank robbers, drug dealers, billionaires, performance psychologists, New York’s highest paid dominatrix, performance artists, entrepreneurs like Tim Ferriss and David Heinemeier Hansson, and many more, trying to understand what makes some people’s lives so uniquely them – so unmistakable.

The podcast is a treasure trove of fascinating people doing unexpected things, many of them taking decidedly non-traditional paths to finding success, joy & fulfillment in their professional and personal lives.

Definitely not your “usual” business or marketing podcast (though there are many guests who are geniuses at both of those things), which is one of the reasons I find it so compelling.

Anthropologie 

If you want to read an in-depth, case study-like overview of how Anthropologie has developed passionate brand loyalty among its ideal audience, check out the article Sophisticated Sell on Fast Company. 

I read this article years ago, saved it to my “examples of great USPs and messaging” file, and still refer to it often.

The article overview sums up Anthropologie’s unique appeal nicely:

“Why are so many women so passionate about shopping at Anthropologie? Because Glen Senk and his colleagues aren’t just selling clothes and furnishings. They’re selling a sense of adventure and originality — and the promise of self-discovery.”

If you’re a student of effective copywriting and marketing, you’ll know that what we “sell” has less to do with the actual product or service on offer – whether that’s photography, design, art, business consulting, marketing services, or anything else – and more to do with how our products and services make the buyer feel, how our goods enhance or reinforce a perception people have, or want to have, about themselves.

What Anthropologie “sells” is the aforementioned “sense of adventure and originality — and the promise of self-discovery.” (Think about the oft-used example of a mattress: it’s not the mattress itself that’s being sold, it’s a good night’s sleep.)

Their retail stores create a distinct experience. As Anthropologie’s president explained in the Fast Company article, “One of our core philosophies is that we spend the money that other companies spend on marketing to create a store experience that exceeds people’s expectations. We don’t spend money on messages — we invest in execution.”

One of the things Anthropologie does especially well is spend the time and effort to know their core customer deeply, then reflect that in all they do, through every touchpoint of the buyer experience.

“Most stores cater to a broad base of customers or specialize in a product category. We specialize in one customer. And we offer her everything from clothing to bed linens to furniture to soap,” says Anthropologie’s president.

Now that is a distinct USP.

(If you’re on my email list or read my blog, you’ll know that I am absolutely obsessed with beginning the process of determining your USP & signature marketing message by getting to know your ideal client or customer and their needs and desires really, really well. It all starts there. That’s why I love this Anthropologie example so much. I highly recommend you read the entire Fast Company article linked above; it demonstrates how they have done this successfully.)

The Parker Palm Springs 

Hotels. There are a million of them. So how to stand out and be remembered in order to attract your ideal guests?

The Parker Palm Springs does it in a thoroughly captivating way: through the use of a “short memoir” on their website Home page.

The “memoir” shares a day in the life of an ideal hotel stay, from waking and enjoying a decadent breakfast, to exploring the lovely hotel grounds, to spending time at the sparkling pool and enjoying an afternoon cocktail, all the way through drinks & dining in the p.m., and on through to nightcaps the end the evening, and a perfectly delightful day.

The feeling of being transported and pampered the hotel delivers is captured beautifully in their messaging, images and overall web experience. And those rooms! To die for.

What you come away with after visiting The Parker Palm Springs website is a very different experience to most hotel websites, many of which (even for the nicer hotels) feel much more transactional and utilitarian in their approach.

As I like to say, you have to “paint a picture” for your ideal clients and customers, and The Parker Palm Springs does it brilliantly.

 

I hope this three-part series has helped you better understand what a memorable USP is, the importance of creating one for your business, and how to get started devising your own.

My next step suggestion is to begin paying close attention to the brands you’re drawn to, and note why that is – I bet it has something to do with that company’s USP and brand messaging. (For example, I’ve been driving a Jeep Cherokee for years. When I first bought it, I was still living out West after being a life-long East Coaster, and doing a lot of hiking in the mountains on the regular. The Jeep USP and brand messaging aligned with the person I saw myself as at that time – an active, outdoorsy person who doesn’t follow the beaten path in life and likes to do things a little differently.)

Discovering and conveying your USP is essential to business success, especially online where every potential client or customer that could be yours has a world of choices at their fingertips 24/7.

I have more examples of memorable USPs from my swipe file I may share next week, or some other time soon.

In the mean time, good luck with creating your compelling USP and signature marketing message (s)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

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.

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. 🙂

Dumb Decisions, Smart Moves, Flaky People & Amazing New Clients: 2017 Year in Review + 2018 Business Changes

My last blog post for the year was going to be a meaty, lengthy post full of actionable advice about how to do your own website audit. Fairly simple changes you can implement on your own to increase conversions, client inquiries, customers, and closed business, all from your online presence.

I planned to share the exact step-by-step process I use when I do a site audit for my private clients – elements I review, changes I suggest, and key things to revise so the website begins to perform and convert better instantly.

Then I thought, Nooooo, why don’t I write one of those year in review posts errrrrybody seems to do this time of year? I mean sure, I despise clichés, and that kind of post falls squarely into the clichéd category, but what the H-E-double-hockeysticks? It’s what I feel like doing.

[By the way, I will be writing a post about how to do your own website in 1Q 2018.  Never fear.]

So, about 2017.

It’s no exaggeration to say this year was the most stressful, distressing, challenging and confounding year of my life, full stop. I can’t share the details publicly (I know, I know, I hate it when someone says, oh, this awful thing happened, oh, this terrible thing happened, but I can’t tell you what it was, la de dah. But it’s important to protect the privacy of the other actors, so I simply can’t).

Anyhoo . . .

Here are my 2017 highlights and lowlights.

 

A few lowlights:

:: The afore-mentioned chaos that I can’t really mention. It lasted for most of the year, and seriously compromised my ability to grow my business in any meaningful way. As an added bonus, my mental and physical health suffered too.

:: Doing far too many one-off projects for clients, and not enough larger, long-term client engagements. I loved the smaller projects I worked on in 2017, but juggling between 6-10+ projects & clients at once is simply too much. This changes in 2018. More on that below.

:: Flaky, non-serious potential clients who waste everyone’s time. These are people, for example, who reach out to inquire about working together, set up an initial call to discuss their project, then don’t show up for the call. I even had one guy flake out TWICE on this free call, then ask if he could reschedule for a third time. UM, HELL TO THE NO. No wonder the dude’s business is in the tanker. 

Side note: I love offering this free 20-30 minute “get acquainted call” to potential clients, because it helps me learn about their business, their goals, and the copywriting project they have in mind. And I have no problem if, after talking, the client decides not to work with me. That’s totally cool. But going forward in 2018, I may begin charging for this call.

:: Clients who don’t understand the fundamental difference between website copy (copy meant to inspire a particular action or set of actions and get very specific results), and airy-fairy brochure copy or other kinds of copy. Said client hires you to write their website because you’re an expert in website copy, but wants you to write hippy-dippy ineffective brochure copy for their website, that would be a total disaster on a website. And no amount of trying to explain why this won’t work, never has worked, and never will work, will change their mind. So frustrating.

:: I barely worked on my own writing in 2017 (writing that has nothing to do with my copywriting business). That changes in 2018. I have a novel, several essays, and other big-ish writing projects in progress, and in 2018 they’ll get much more attention.

A few highlights:

:: I got much clearer on my ideal clients and narrowed my niche. My focus now is less on beginners who are just starting to create a compelling online presence, and more on those who have been in business awhile. They are beyond the bootstrapping stage and ready to make a serious investment into copywriting and web marketing for their business.

:: I worked with some amazing people and businesses this year. I can’t list them all here because I haven’t asked their permission to do so, but (almost) each and every one was a total joy and a pleasure to work with.  

:: One of the most exciting projects I landed was with a group of commercial photographers in Canada. These guys are wildly talented, do incredible, cutting-edge work, and are probably the nicest guys on the planet. I’m currently writing their website, and looking forward to more projects with them once the website copy is finalized.  

:: I joined a terrific online business support group called Unf*ckwithable Girlfriends.  Created by Ash Ambirge of The Middle Finger Project, this group is the best place online for kickass, real-world, results-getting business AND life advice. It’s unlike any other online group I’ve ever experienced.

:: I joined another excellent FB group at the tail-end of the year called The Copywriter Club, a group for copywriters and content creators only. After a couple hours spent reading through previous posts in the group, I can see the content is top-notch, and the group is full of superior quality copywriters and content creators. I’m going to love this group.

Before I get to the business changes I have planned for 2018, here are a few other highlights from my year, of the non-business-related variety.

:: Because I moved back to my hometown in late 2016, I got to spend lots more time with my family this year, and with dear friends I’ve known so long they feel like family. This was one of the true highlights of 2017.

:: I discovered the comedian Maria Bamford, and the show Lady Dynamite, on Netflix. I am obsessed with this show. I’m pretty sure it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve watched both seasons of the show, along with both of her comedy specials currently on Netflix, TWICE. Damn, she’s funny, and different, and quirky, and owns it.

Watch this one hilarious clip, then do yourself a solid and watch her material on Netflix if you have an opportunity. So, so good.

:: I found a great church that feels like home, and have been attending since December 2016. This is a HUGE deal for me, as I haven’t gone to church regularly since I was a little, little kid.

:: I did a 5K in December 2017 called Running of the Balls. Ok, I walked the 5K, together with a group of friends with who also walked it, but still. It was the most fun I’ve ever had outdoors on a Saturday night in 30-degree weather!

[I’m in the second row, sporting the candy-cane headwear. 🙂 ]

:: I went to some wonderful author events this year: David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, and Wiley Cash. Each one was a gem.

Here’s how David Sedaris signed my book [LOVE it]:

:: I read some great books this year, among them:

Nonfiction  

The Accidental Life: An Editor’s Notes on Writing and Writers, by Terry McDonnell

Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing, by Larry Brooks

Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work That Lasts, by Ryan Holiday

Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002, by David Sedaris

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls: Essays, etc., by David Sedaris

A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life, by Pat Conroy

Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love and Writing, by Jennifer Weiner

The New Old Me, by Meredith Maran

Lust and Wonder, by Augusten Burroughs

Fiction

Siracusa, by Delia Ephron

Sweetbitter, by Stephanie Danler

The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane

Now, onto the Business Changes

I’ll still be writing client-attracting and results-generating website copy and other persuasive marketing communications for creative business builders, and offering web marketing consulting for select clients.

But other things are going the way of the Dodo bird.

The biggest shift is that I’ll be doing far less one-off project work, and working on larger copywriting projects & longer-term client engagements.

:: This means, in effect, that I’ll no longer be available to write single pages of website copy for clients. For example, writing a single About page, or Home page, or Services page, or other single stand-alone page of website copy, etc., except under special circumstances,* has gone away forever.

(*Special circumstances being either: we’ve previously worked together, in which case you get special privileges, OR, I just happen to have an unexpected opening in my project schedule for a one-page copy project, which is rare.)

:: The other immediate change is that the investment for my Creating Better Copy Personalized Help Session increased from $97 to $197 as of January 1, 2018. This service is for you if you need a customized-for-you answer to your top copywriting challenges, and clear ideas for improving your website copy ASAP to more effectively call in and convert your ideal clients. The Creating Better Copy Personalized Help Session is You + Me + a One Hour Private Workshop to address your most pressing web copy challenges right now.

:: In 1Q 2018, I’ll be launching a beta version of my course for wedding, portrait and lifestyle photographers, 30 Days to a Magnetic Marketing Message That Sells. Based on the feedback from the beta, I’ll release an “official” version of the course later in the year.

That’s about it for now.

I’ll be launching new services in 2018, but I haven’t worked out all the details yet. I also plan to create some copywriting resources for the DIY-ers out there who want to write their own copy, and just need detailed copy templates to get going. New free downloads, including an e-course on how to determine your ideal clients and unique selling proposition, or “meaningful difference,” as I like to call it, are also in the works.

I hope you also have plans and projects you’re excited about! 🙂

Here’s to a most excellent and magical 2018, in which all your business (and other!) dreams come true!

Some Notes on Determination

Determination.

Sometimes it kicks in at the exact moment you need it.

I surely would have given up on my business this year without it.

In fact, I almost did.

The last eighteen months around here have been wildly challenging, confronting, and just dang difficult. Most of it I can’t share publicly, but suffice it to say that I find it miraculous, given all that’s transpired, that I’m still running my solo business and haven’t voluntarily checked myself into Butner.

That series of events, combined with a recent slow business month, had me convinced I should seriously consider chucking the business altogether and go get myself a . . . gasp . . . j-o-b.

You know, consistent bi-weekly paycheck, employer paid health insurance, paid vacay, a team of colleagues to interact with, opportunities to advance, the whole nine.

Is Getting a 9-5 Really the Answer?

I thought about it and I thought about it, and finding a 9-5 job in the copywriting and digital marketing field felt like the best decision I could make under the circumstances.

I was exhausted; I felt like I simply didn’t have the energy to hustle in my business the way I wanted/needed to, and work out the stuff going in my personal life at the same time.

So I started spending 4-6 hours of my precious business time each week job searching online, researching companies, writing kick-ass cover letters, tweaking and polishing my resume, and sending said resume for jobs I thought I was a great fit for.

Lo and behold, I got an interview pretty quickly after I set this in motion. With a big, global company, for a copywriter/editor position I would have loved to have. With a nice salary, regular paycheck, and good benefits. Etc.

Can I tell you how excited I was?!?!

Wow, I thought, this could be a dream come true! The answer to my prayers! Working with a team again, instead by myself at the dining room table most days! Knowing exactly how much I’m going to earn! Direct deposits into my bank account twice a month! Relying on someone else to make all the work-related decisions!

I really, really want this, I thought. This would be absolute bliss, I thought.

You know what happened?

My car broke down on way to interview, no kidding. Still, I was only four minutes late. I called my HR contact and the person I was interviewing with, and they were both kind and understanding about it.

Alas, I must not have sold my candidacy convincingly enough, because they didn’t offer me the position.  It’s been long enough now that I know I am never hearing from them.

Initially, I was disappointed. Not devastated, but genuinely disappointed.

(And after I spent all that dough on a new haircut, highlighting my hair, new shoes for my interview outfit, and so on. Ah, well, these things happen, no?)

But This Was Good. This Was Exactly What I Needed.

After my 9-5 flirtation, and the initial sting of rejection of the big, successful, global company deciding not to hire me, I did a whole, whole lot of thinking.

And soul-searching.

And journaling.

And inspiration-seeking.

I binge-listened to podcasts. I read dozens of blog posts. I sought out my favorite business people online, and read and listened to every story they wrote or told of overcoming great odds to get where they are. If I’d ever bought a course from them, I went back through their course material.

I asked myself if giving up on my business was really the answer.

I wrote a question in my journal, “What do you really, truly want? If your business could look a different way, would you stick it out?”

After a week or two of what often felt like self-indulgent navel-gazing, I started to feel better. Motivation and inspiration began to creep back in. Just a little at first, then more as the days passed.

My determination kicked in.

I made a promise to myself to go all out this last quarter of the year, to really, truly give KDH Ink all the love, devotion, strategery, focus and commitment I can possibly muster. To work harder than I’ve ever worked, or at least smarter, if harder isn’t the answer.

To get out of my comfort zone and do things I’ve been putting off for far too long because I don’t feel “ready.” To finally release a small course or other product/program. To go after a couple of dream clients I’ve been wanting to work with. The list is long and I won’t bore you with it here, but there is a list. Because I love me some lists.

Then There Was This Wealth Mindset Book . . .

It just so happened that while I was in the navel-gazing phase around my business, I was reading Jen Sincero’s book, You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth, at the same time.

(Highly recommended, by the way, especially if you like a sense of humor and fun stories of mild debauchery served up with your wealth-attaining advice. The book is both practical and funny, and you can’t beat that combination when it comes to finance/personal development advice, which is often chock full of platitudes and greasy earnestness.)

What she has to say around determination when it comes to improving your finances also applies to business. Bigly.

I read the passage below over and over again, and decided to adopt it as my business rallying cry for 4Q 2017.

I’m going to share some Sincero’s thoughts on determination here. Just replace “desire to get rich” and other money talk with “desire to create the business you love,” and you’ll get the idea.

(If you’re sensitive around the whole idea of “getting rich” and think it’s shallow, selfish, or corrupt, you might want to skip this part.)

On page 141-143 of the book, Sincero says: “Deciding to get rich means you put that decision above all else (except doing illegal, amoral, revolting things for money, of course). You need to be ruthless with yourself because you’re not only growing a new moneymaking mindset, you’re battling a whole lot of subconscious beliefs about money that you’ve never faced before. Any chink in your armor will offer your old conditioning an opportunity to take over and steer you off course, which it will do so quickly you won’t know what hit you.”

You can’t, according to Sincero:

  • Be weird about the fact that you not only desire to get rich, but that you’re going to focus everything you’ve got on making it happen.
  • Make sure everything is perfect before starting.
  • Be precious about getting rid of all the distractions in your life.
  • Whine about how little time you have or how nobody around you is supportive or that you’re already working forty hours a week, how the hell am I supposed to do more?
  • Need to know exactly where you’re going before moving forward.
  • Get advice from people who aren’t farther along than you are.

To all that, I say, yes, yes, and YES. OMG, yes.

All very good advice to implement in your business.

I would love to wrap this up neatly with a bow and tell you my exact plan for 4Q 2017, but I’m still working that out.

What I do know is that somewhere in the last few weeks, a mighty determination came roaring back.

I’m ready to get hyper-focused on my business again and kick 4Q’s arse. 

 

Would You Rather Push a Boulder Uphill with a Feather, or Nail Down Your Compelling Marketing Message?: A Question for Creative Business Builders, Solopreneurs, Freelancers and Small Business Owners

Let’s go way, way back in Internet years to late 2011/early 2012.

I was just bringing my writing business online, and was excited as all get out to finally launch my website and start selling my services on the World! Wide! Web! Yee-to-the-haw!!

I’d been helping clients with marketing copy, content, and other marketing initiatives for years; going live with my website would finally make it legit and “official.”

Ah, the rainbows and unicorns of those halcyon early days! The harp-playing angels on fluffy white clouds when I thought of the possibilities! The opportunities! The freedom! The revenue!

And yet.

By the end of 2012, I was experiencing one of the most frustrating, maddening, and exasperating periods of my business. I was exhausted and on the verge of giving up.

I’m talking tear-inducing, anxiety-producing, hair-pulling frustration, and the occasional to-the-hell-with-this-here-business-thing-if-it-has-to-be-so-hard crying jag alone in my apartment, while my friends were out doing “normal” things like going to dinner, or the movies, or out for beers and live music on a Saturday night.

Pushing a Boulder Uphill with a Feather

It wasn’t that I didn’t have any clients. I just didn’t have enough clients, and certainly not enough of the right kind of clients.

I wanted to serve creatives who were doing interesting things in their business who valued my expertise, and had an actual budget for marketing and copywriting. Yet I was attracting clients in all kinds of random, non-creative industries, many of whom were looking for bargain-priced services, and who didn’t always appreciate the value (and necessity) of persuasive writing/copywriting to their business success.

If you provide one-on-one services in your business, you know how frustrating it can be to work with the wrong kind of clients. Good people, just the wrong clients. Ahem.

On top of that, I was spending hours upon hours producing weekly content for blog posts, newsletters, and social media, yet it didn’t seem to be moving the needle. My email list growth was nearly stagnant, and I wasn’t faring much better in the attracting-the-right-kind-of-buyers department either.

And when I doubled down and worked even harder and longer producing still more content, thinking maybe “more” was the answer?  Nope, still no real change.

It was like pushing a boulder uphill with a feather.

[I covered this fun time in much greater detail in a 3-part blog series from 2013 called Creatives: Are You Making These 3 Web Marketing Mistakes?]

Then It Dawned on Me . . .

In case clicking over to read that 3-part series is not in the cards for you time-wise, I’ll give you the short version of my epiphany here.

My big mistake, and why I wasn’t getting the results I wanted was three-fold:

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

The problem was my marketing message. Or lack of one, to be more precise.

That’s when nailing down and conveying the right marketing message to the right audience became my mission. I was NOT going to give up on making my fledgling business work. No way, no how.

If you read the blog series linked above, you’ll know I eventually worked my way through this exasperating conundrum by figuring out who my target audience and ideal customers were and what they wanted; determining my unique selling proposition (otherwise known as a USP, or what I prefer to call your “meaningful difference”); and using that information in all my content, copy, marketing, and social media, etc., to attract and make an emotional connection with my right people.

Once I did that, things started to improve. Bigly. I got more client inquiries. My email list started to grow. I started getting booked out with projects I loved working on, with clients I loved working with. I started earning more.

To be clear, the process of determining and implementing a marketing message that attracted the right audience took time. Things improved when I got clear on who I wanted to serve and what they wanted, but there were still adjustments to make and ideas to tweak.

Still, I started to see better results almost immediately, which gave me the motivation to keep going. And that was huge for me. It’s what kept me from giving up.  

That’s how it is in business – as you learn more about your ideal audience, you fine tune. Then learn more, fine tune more. Even now, several years in, I’m still fine tuning my understanding of my audience and how to best serve them, and adjusting my messaging, my marketing, and my offers accordingly.

What You Can Do Next

Whatever stage of business you’re in right now – just getting started, three years in, exhausted and ready to give up, or digging in your heels and declaring, “I’m going to make this work!” –  it’s always a good time to take a long, hard look at your audience and your messaging, and ask, “Am I attracting the kind of clients I want to attract? Am I attracting enough of them? Is my message resonating with the right people in this saturated, overcrowded online space?”

And if not, do what I did. Determine who you want to serve, what they want/need/desire, and what makes you uniquely qualified to serve them, and use those insights in your content, copy, marketing, and everywhere else you interact with your audience, so you can begin to attract and make an emotional connection with your right people.

Imagine the possibilities when you do that.  It might just be what your business needs to turn the corner and start feeling joyful to work in again.

Just don’t give up too soon.

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I have a guide that teaches you, step-by-step, how to create marketing messages that convert.  For less than a coffee date at Starbucks, you can grab your copy right over here