For Creative Business Builders: A Powerful Yet Painless Way to Market Your Business That Practically Does the Selling for You

Most creatives I’ve worked with or talked to have some level of discomfort around the idea of marketing and selling. Sure, they want to earn a good living from their creative products and services, but they practically writhe in agony at the notion of actually having to market, or even scarier, having to sell. 

Look, I get it. Marketing and selling can bring up all kinds of uneasiness. You don’t want to seem intrusive, pushy, or even worse . . . scammy

But, and this is the truth, authentic marketing isn’t pushy or sleazy, it’s simply deeply connecting with your ideal audience and communicating that you can provide a product or service that is beneficial to them, that they already want, or they wouldn’t be searching for it online and have landed on your website in the first place. For more on this idea, check out a post I wrote called They Want You to Be the One (so stop being afraid to market yourself).

That said, there is a powerful way to market your stuff that feels genuine and easy, and in fact, practically does the selling for you, if done correctly.

What is this thing I speak of?

Client testimonials.

Client and customer testimonials are social proof and third party validation all rolled into one. And because of the third party validation aspect, much more persuasive to would-be clients than anything you say about yourself. Potential clients trust them because they’re essentially a referral from someone who doesn’t benefit directly if a new client signs on with you.   

It’s akin to a lesson I learned when I worked in advertising and PR: any business can pay for advertising, but not any business can get written up in Forbes or Inc. magazine, which is why third party endorsement via good PR was much more valuable to my PR clients back in the day than big, glossy ads in high profile publications. 

It’s the same with client testimonials.  

If you have a page of glowing testimonials on your website that speak to the transformational work you do and the results you get for clients, referring potential clients and customers to this page during the client-getting courtship phase can do a lot of the making-a-sale heavy lifting for you. And in way that doesn’t make you feel like you’re twisting arms or coercing anyone to do anything against their will.  And who doesn’t want that? 

So, how do you get your current and past clients and customers to give you the kind of testimonials that persuade new clients to find out more about working with you? 

Well, I’m going to share some wonderful resources on how to tackle that very thing at the end of this blog post, because it’s been covered very adeptly by other people I admire and respect who can show you how it’s done.

What I want to share with you here are a few patient testimonials I wrote for a medical center client that highlight transformation stories, a very persuasive form of third party validation. You can adapt the same idea for your own business to create client testimonials on steroids. 

Note the powerful impact of storytelling in these four examples: 

CPR Saves a Life and Forges a New Friendship 

NHRMC eased Eileen’s pain so she could get back to her garden . . . and start planning her African safari. 

A fall paralyzed her. The trauma experts at NHRMC helped her get back on her feet. 

Minimally invasive spine surgery helps Dianne get back to active life. 

Now obviously you don’t want to copy the style and layout of these examples. I share them with you strictly to use as idea generators for thinking about how you can have your clients tell the story of their transformation, or the key aha moments they experienced after working with you or buying your products. Then craft this client feedback into compelling stories that speak to what’s possible when clients and customers work with you, as in the examples here.   

:: If you’d like someone experienced at extracting persuasive stories from clients and creating testimonials like the ones above, get in touch with me at: Kimberly [at] kimberlydhouston [dot] com, and let’s talk specifics. I’ll create a custom proposal based on your specific needs.

Resources for Creating Powerful Testimonials

Here’s a brief article by publicity/marketing/business expert Melissa Cassera in which she shares a simple two-step approach to getting testimonials. Love her suggestion here that’s its less stressful for the client and will net better results for you if you ask for “feedback” rather than a “testimonial.”

How To Get Your Customers To Write AMAZING Reviews (Without Begging, Pleading Or Being Pushy + Creepy) 

How to Get Testimonials That Get You Business, wherein business coach Christine Kane share 7 tips for getting great client testimonials that will help increase your sales.

And from the fine folks at Copyblogger, here are 6 Questions to Ask for Powerful Testimonials. Highly recommended. If you only have time to read one of the posts linked up here, please make it this one.

And finally, here business coach and consultant Erica Lyremark shares 3 quick formulas for writing powerful testimonials, in Testimonials Made Easy.

And if you want to understand – and implement – the power of storytelling in your marketing (client testimonials are a great place to do this), read this article:

 Science of storytelling: why and how to use it in your marketing: A look at how humans have always loved stories, and six tips for incorporating them into your digital marketing 

And there you have it. If you have any questions or comments, please share them in the comments section below, and happy testimonials creating!

For Photographers: The Simple Yet Powerful Website Copy Tweak That Will Win You More Clients (& How to Implement It)

photography web marketing

[NOTE: Though this post is geared to photographers, the principles apply to all creatives selling any kind of product or service.]

Photographers, I love you. Fine art photographers, wedding photographers, lifestyle photographers, product photographers, pretty much all of you.

For years, I wanted to be among you:  a working photographer, making a living from photography.  I chased this dream for some time.  I took a year-long course in photography at my local community college, worked for a local photographer as an assistant, then put together a portfolio and applied to the photography program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Lucky for me, I was accepted into the program. Unluckily, I decided art school wasn’t in the cards for me at that moment. I moved to New York anyway and went to “regular” college, taking a few photography courses during the three years I lived there between other commitments.

I share this with you because I want you to know that my heart is with you, that I’m not coming to you strictly from a place of sharing advice on how to write persuasive web copy that can help you win more clients in your photography business, but also from a place of big, full-hearted, sappy love for the work you do every day.

Now that we’ve established that, let’s talk about the simple yet powerful web copy tweak that can help you win more clients. But first . . . .

The Problem with Most Photography Websites

Many photographers make the serious mistake of assuming their gorgeous images will speak for themselves to sell their services and get clients, imagining that once a potential customer sees the talent evident in the online portfolio, they’ll immediately reach out and inquire about working together.

Unfortunately, this rarely happens.

While having a web presence and an online portfolio is a great first step, it’s not enough. The “build it and they will come” approach simply does not work online, where you’re competing with dozens, if not hundreds, of other photographers in your town who provide exactly the same service you do. And if you live in a big city, thousands of other photographers.

Since your potential clients can easily find at least two dozen other talented photographers whose images are just as stunning as yours with a simple Google search, you’re going to have to show them more than your gorgeous portfolio to get them interested in hiring you.

What Potential Clients Are Looking For

What a potential client is looking for when they land on your photography site is evidence that you clearly understand who they are as a client, that you have the solution they’re looking for, and that you, specifically, are exactly the person to provide that solution.  

In other words, they want you to be “the one.” They’ve been searching and searching online, and they’re feeling frustrated that they’ve already been to 12 other wedding photography/lifestyle photography/insert your photography specialty here websites, and they can’t distinguish one photographer from the next. They want to land on your site and think, “This is it, I’ve found the ideal photographer for my job at last. I can stop searching, cue the trumpets.”

This is why you get price-shopped, by the way. Because most photography websites look nearly identical to one another and most photographers provide similar services, the ONLY thing potential clients have to go on to distinguish you from your competition is your price, so naturally they’ll choose the person with the lowest price.  This is not the kind of client you want.

{To learn more about web surfing behavior and what potential customers are looking for when they search online for that thing you do, check out 7 Ways to Improve Your Web Copy Today for Better Sales: Basics for Creative Entrepreneurs. And pay particular attention to Item #2, where I share an example from the world of wedding photography.}

So how do you convey to your ideal clients that you’re the right photographer for their project? You do it through compelling, client-focused web copy. That’s the simple yet powerful website copy tweak that will win you more clients: CLIENT-FOCUSED web copy.

That may sound way too simple, but you’d be surprised how many photography websites don’t adhere to this simple, yet persuasive principle. (Lots of other kinds of websites don’t either, by the way, not just photography sites.)

Your web copy must connect with the reader/potential client and speak to what’s important to them as a photography client, as opposed to using company-centric copy that focuses mostly on the company, i.e., with language like “our goal,” “we have,” “we specialize in,” etc.

Because the edifying truth is, people don’t really care who you are, they want to know how you can help them. They’re seeking the answer to the question, “WIIFM?,” meaning, “What’s in it for me?”

So what you want your web content to do is make an emotional connection with your ideal clients through speaking directly to their desires, wants and needs in a way that makes them eager to do business with you.

Building the Foundation: How to Create Compelling Client-Focused Web Copy

To create persuasive web copy that effectively sells your services, you have to get the foundation in place first.  This is critical work that if left undone, will create frustration, vexation, and irritation (you can tell we love our thesaurus around here), loads of wasted time, and frankly, will attract more than your fair share of pain-in-the-butt, price-shopping clients. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

On the other hand, if you do the foundational work first, creating compelling web copy for every page on your site, from your Home page, to your About page, to your Services and Pricing pages, and everything in between, becomes a breeze.

This foundational work consists of:

#1: Figuring out who your ideal clients are so you can speak directly to them with a targeted and persuasive marketing message

#2: Determining what makes your work, your process, your services, or the way you do business different, better, more special, or more compelling to these ideal clients than others who do what you do, also known as your unique selling proposition

I cannot stress enough how important these two steps are to creating your compelling marketing message; everything flows from this.  It will inform everything else in your business, from the kind of clients you work with, to the services you offer, to how and who you market to, to your tagline and your client pitches, and lots more besides.

Stick with me, I’m going to tell you how to do this.

{If you want to read the story of the exhaustion, struggle and overwhelm I experienced in my business and how I resolved it by figuring out my ideal clients and unique selling proposition, check out Creatives: Are You Making These 3 Web Marketing Mistakes?}

Defining Your Ideal Clients

This is the fun stuff – where you get to dream up exactly the kind of person who would be perfect for your services and who you’d L-O-V-E to work with. 

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

To find out more about defining your ideal clients, including the opportunity to download a free Defining Your Audience Checklist, check out The Dreadful Client-Repelling Mistake That Will Keep You Broke (and how to fix it). The downloadable checklist is at the end of the blog post.

How to Uncover Your Unique Selling Proposition

Once you’ve determined who your ideal clients are, you can begin to work out what your unique selling proposition is. Your USP is simply the collection of factors unique to you and your business that compel your ideal clients to choose you over someone else who offers the same product or service.  In fact, who you serve – your ICA or “ideal client avatar” – can be part of your unique selling proposition.

The benefit of a well-defined USP is that you’ll begin to connect with and convert your ideal clients, instead of ending up with the ones who make you want to plunge daggers into your eyes.  Because when a potential ideal client lands on your website and sees it’s not like the hundreds of photography sites they found when they were Googling that thing you do, they will stop and take notice, instead of trucking right on past your website never to return.

To find out how to uncover your USP, including the opportunity to download a free Defining Your USP Checklist, check out Creatives: How to Uncover Your Unique Selling Proposition (and why you need to). The downloadable checklist is at the end of the blog post.

In that post you’ll find a couple of examples of creative service providers doing differentiation right, so you can see what that looks like in the context of writing client-focused web copy. On a similar note, you might want to check out this guest post I wrote called 6 Authentic, Low-Cost Ways to Differentiate Yourself Online to Attract Your Ideal Clients and Customers.

Ok, So You’ve Figured Out Your ICA (Ideal Client Avatar) and USP (Unique Selling Proposition), Now What?

Once you’ve knocked out these two very important first steps, you’re ready to implement what you’ve discovered about your ICA and USP to create compelling client-focused copy on your web site. The foundational work you’ve now done makes this much easier.

I would start with the Home page and the About page first, because those are the two most visited pages on most websites.

(For more information on writing an effective About page, including a template created especially for creatives, check out For Creatives: The Secret to Transforming Your Boring, Lackluster About Page into an Ideal Client-Attracting Magnet.  At the end of that blog post you’ll have an opportunity to get the template I use to write About pages for clients, gratis, of course.)

Now on to the Home page. You want to think of your Home page as a virtual storefront – unless you provide a warm, welcoming, value-packed reason to come inside, people are going to walk right on by.

On the web, that means potential ideal clients will click away from your site faster than green grass through a goose if you don’t instantly demonstrate value and relevance to them.

Your Home page needs to: 

Convince busy web visitors on a mission to find specific, problem-solving information to stay on your site long enough to read further, find out what you’re about, and take some kind of action – such as checking out your products and services, signing up for your email list, or requesting a quote/more information, etc.

And because of the way people read and search on the web, you only have a few seconds to do this.

Here’s a down-and-dirty Home page checklist that will help you get yours in tip-top shape.

An effective Home page will do these 5 things:

1. Demonstrate that you understand your target audience’s problems

2. Offer a solution to those problems by sharing the benefits of what you have to offer, clearly, concisely, and compellingly.

3. Explain how solving the problem will improve your clients’ lives. See copywriting power tip #1, below.

4. Let your website visitors and potential customers know how you’re different from the competition and what makes you uniquely qualified to solve their problems.

5. Include a clear call to action. Very simply, this means giving them something to do next that will deepen the relationship with you, such as reading your blog or signing up for your email list, etc.

Remember, all the copy on this page needs to be client-focused. It’s less about you and more about your potential client’s wants, needs, and desires.

Your Home page will demonstrate what you can do to make your clients’ lives easier, better, healthier, richer, more successful or what have you, depending on the exact product or service you provide.

While the blog post linked up here is not strictly about Home pages, you’ll find some helpful advice on wooing and engaging potential buyers with web copy:  Why Most Product Websites Make Me Sad: The Good, the Bad, and the Unsightly.

For the fine art photographers reading this, I know you may think that these suggestions won’t work for you. If that’s the case, I suggest you check out this post I wrote on how you can apply copywriting principles to what you do:  Can Copywriting Principles Work for Visual Artists?

A Powerful Way to Reel ‘Em In: Three Bonus Client-Attracting Copywriting Power Tips

Copywriting Power Tip #1:  “Paint a Picture”

Whatever services you offer – wedding photography, lifestyle photography, product photography, even fine art photography – you need to help your potential clients and customers see the vision of what can be for them when they use your services or buy your work – their ideal outcome.

A very effective way to do this is to “paint a picture” with your web copy. Get the nitty-gritty details of how to do that here:  What a Personal Development Classic from 1959 Can Teach You About Writing Web Copy That Sells.

Copywriting Power Tip #2:  Inject Personality

One of the most common website faults among creative service providers is boring, bland, and flavorless web copy.  Remember, bland and boring does not sell.  And since bland, boring copy is a common malady all over the web, if you buck that trend, you’ll stand out – in a good way.

There are creative ways to invest even the most plain, utilitarian thing with personality through the use of compelling web copy. That said, creative services typically are not bland and boring, so your web copy shouldn’t be either. Copy with personality gets remembered, creates desire for your services, and more importantly, sells more effectively than homogenous, dull as dirt web copy.

This doesn’t mean you have to get crazy, mind you. If you’re more Josh Groban than David Lee Roth, then own it, and let that shine through in your web and other marketing.

To learn more about using personality in web copy, check out these two posts: How to Sell Any Boring Old Thing with Scandalously Good Copy and If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: The Baby Carrot Story and Using Personality in Marketing.

Copywriting Power Tip #3: Tap into the Power of Emotion

One of the most important pieces of advice I can ever share with you about writing compelling copy that persuades people to buy your creative services, is to tap into the power of emotion in your copy. Buying decisions are emotional decisions.  People buy based on emotion and justify purchases based on logic.

You may have heard that little bon mot dozens of times, but what does it mean in practice?

Think about chocolate cake.  Or Krispy Kreme donuts.  (Mmmm, donuts . . . as Homer Simpson would say.) If people acted rationally they wouldn’t buy these things – sugar is bad for you, it’s not nutritious, and it makes you fat – it’s nothing but empty, unhealthy calories.  But cake and donuts are both multi-million dollar industries because eating them makes you feel good.

So when writing your web copy, you want to make an emotional connection with your ideal clients that makes them feel good, or excited, happy, inspired, relieved, encouraged, understood, relaxed, or any one of dozens of other emotions, depending on the exact service you offer.

So, how do you figure out the deeper emotional benefit you want to tap into? One way to go beyond the surface benefits your product/service offers to get to the core emotional benefits your customers want is through the use of what’s called the “so what?” technique.  It’s simple, and it works.

Learn the “so what?” technique and how to apply it here: What Can Chocolate Cake and Donuts Teach You About Selling More?

The bottom line: you have to use client-focused copy to create an emotional connection – that’s how you stand out among all the other talented photographers online, and that’s how your right people will find you.

And there you have it, my talented photographer friends – the simple website copy tweak that will win you more clients: client-focused web copy, and how to create it.

I know this was a heckuva lot to take in all at once, so here are the steps again, simplified:

  1. Figure out who your ideal clients are and what they desire (I pointed you to a free downloadable worksheet for this)
  2. Determine your unique selling proposition (Ditto on the free downloadable worksheet)
  3. Use this information to create compelling client-focused web copy that speaks to your ideal clients wants, needs and desires, starting with the Home page and About page on your site

But wait, there’s more!

You might find this post I wrote on taglines valuable as you re-work your website copy to focus on your ideal clients. It’s a dead-simple formula for creating a tagline for your creative business in 20 minutes flat: Taglines 101: How to Create a Tagline for Your Creative Business.

Questions? Comments?  Leave ’em below! 

To get on the VIP List to find out when my upcoming course — 30 Days to a Magnetic Marketing Message That Sells: A Course for Wedding, Portrait, and Lifestyle Photographers — drops, head right over here.

[For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, 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 fun stuff for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]

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

chocolate cake & persuasive copy

Image by Max Straeten

One of the most important pieces of advice I can ever share with you about writing compelling copy that persuades people to buy your creative products and services is to tap into the power of emotion in your copy.

Buying decisions are emotional decisions.  People buy based on emotion and justify purchases based on logic. Yes, you’ve probably heard that little bon mot dozens of times, but what does it mean in practice?

Think about chocolate cake.  Or Krispy Kreme donuts.  (Mmmm, donuts . . . as Homer Simpson would say.)

If people acted rationally they wouldn’t buy these things – sugar is bad for you, it’s not nutritious, and it makes you fat – it’s nothing but empty, unhealthy calories. 

But cake and donuts are both multi-million dollar industries because they make you feel good.

So when writing your web copy, you want to make an emotional connection with your ideal clients that makes them feel good, or excited, happy, inspired, relieved, encouraged, understood, relaxed, or any one of dozens of other emotions, depending on the product or service you offer.

Worth-repeating-until-eternity step number one is always, always, ALWAYS knowing who your ideal client is and what they need/desire – everything flows from this. 

You really want to get inside their heads and figure out the deeper emotional benefit they’re seeking as a result of buying your product or service.  What is the core desire you’re tapping into with what you sell?

If you make one-of-a-kind jewelry, it could be your customer’s desire to feel unique and special, and therefore validated as the quirky individual she is. If you sell knitwear for infants, it could be that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from your customer knowing how safe and warm her baby is in the wintry weather, all while looking too adorable for words.

So, how do you figure out the deeper emotional benefit you want to tap into with your copy?

One way to go beyond the surface benefits your product/service offers to get to the core emotional benefits your customers want is through the use of what’s called the “so what?” technique.  Ask “so what?” until you feel like you’ve gotten to the real benefit your thing provides.

Here’s an example from some work I did with a professional organizer to help her figure out the core emotional benefit of her email opt-in offer:

These tools will help you get more organized. (surface benefit)

So what?

Your home will be less cluttered and look nicer. (surface benefit)

So what?

You’ll feel less frazzled and actually be able to really relax and enjoy your family when you’re at home, because everything is tidy and in its right place. (deeper benefit)

So what?

You’ll enjoy high quality family time the way it was meant to be enjoyed, because there won’t be petty annoyances and frustrations from nagging the kids or the husband to keep things neat or put things away, etc. Time at home will be spent watching a movie, or playing a game, or cooking a meal together and other fun and satisfying family activities.  (even deeper benefit)

So what?

You’ve created this wonderful oasis that your family loves spending time in together and you’re all bonding and getting along so well – wow, you really care about your family, you’re an amazing wife and Mom.  (Bingo! Core emotional benefit.)  

The emotional benefit the professional organizer’s audience – busy Moms with young kids and an active family life – wants to achieve is a calm environment that benefits the whole family and creates stress-free family time. With this in mind, one idea I pitched for the name of her opt-in offer was a handy organizing guide called:

From Chaos to Calm: 9 Easy-to-Use, Inexpensive Tools to Get Your Home and Family Organized, Eliminate Overwhelm, and (Finally!) Create a Stress-Free Oasis Your Family Can’t Wait to Come Home To

So the bottom line is, you want to convey how your creative goods or services enhance your customers’ lives by demonstrating the emotional benefits of owning/experiencing them, like we did here with the professional organizer’s opt-in offer. 

And that’s what chocolate cake and donuts can teach you about selling more: tap into what makes your ideal audience feel good.

Your turn: what’s the name of your business and the core emotional benefit it provides?  Let me know in the comments section!

[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 fun stuff for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]  

Can Copywriting Principles Work for Visual Artists?

image by Clarita

image by Clarita

Recently I received an email from a subscriber who had just downloaded my Creative Rebel Guide to Writing a Client-Attracting About Page and thought it was “just fantastic!,” to use her words.

But there was a small problem.

She mentioned that as a visual artist and not a service provider, the suggestions in the guide wouldn’t really work for her, because, as she said, “I don’t offer solutions to peoples’ challenges or other services like design or advice.” 

Here’s the thing, though.

Anyone selling anything, online or elsewhere, can benefit from using tried-and-true copywriting and marketing principles to win clients and buyers, and make sales.  It all starts with getting clear on who your ideal buyers are – whether they are collectors, clients, customers or whatever you call them in your world based on what it is you provide – and what they want.

Because I know there are other visual artists out there who struggle with how to apply copywriting and marketing principles in their business, I thought I would share my response to this lovely reader so those of you in the same position can start thinking of how you can do the same:

Thanks for getting in touch, and thanks for the kind words, I appreciate it!

Let me just say I still think you could adapt the advice in the Creative Rebel Guide to Writing a Client-Attracting About Page to your work as a fine artist.  Once you get clear on why your clients buy art from you, you can tap into that to write your About page. [And any other copy on your website.]

Mainly, the advice in the guide is about focusing on your clients and customers in your website copy and on what they are seeking, then positioning yourself as someone who can deliver that to them. You are delivering the *experience* of art to them, and they will have all kinds of motivations for buying art from you, so the key is to figure out what those motivations are and tap into that in your website copy.

So although you create fine art, that IS the solution some people are seeking — they want to experience beauty, or create a beautiful home – and fine art is part of that – or maybe they collect art because it makes them feel “special.”  There can be many motivations for why people buy your work, and if you can home in on what those reasons are, you can write your About page, or any other copy on your website, to focus on those needs and emotional drivers in a way that really connects with your ideal clients and customers.

I hope this makes sense, and I wish you the very best of luck!

Cheers,

Kimberly

So, for you fine artists and other visual artists out there, what are your thoughts? What has your experience been with using copywriting and/or marketing principles to attract clients or collectors and sell your work? What’s worked and what hasn’t? Let me know 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.]  

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

No matter how you currently feel about sales as a topic (maybe that it’s icky, pushy, sleazy, manipulative – any of these ring a bell?) or your own sales ability in this moment, you already possess a natural ability to sell. And it doesn’t involve any of the afore-mentioned limiting beliefs about what sales is or does.

Yes, you – you have a natural ability to sell. In fact, you’re having “sales conversations” all the time, and you’ve been doing it all your life.

Think about it. When you were growing up, how often did you try to “sell” your parents on taking you to the mall, or letting you stay up late, or buying you something special, even when it wasn’t Christmas or your birthday?  

When you were in school, did you ever try to convince your friends skip school, or have a party when their parents were out of town, or to find out if that special boy or girl “liked” you?

As an adult, have you ever tried to talk your significant other into taking a trip, going out to dinner, or picking up his/her socks, fer cryin’ out loud? Or persuading your kids to clean their rooms or do their homework?

And when a friend asks you to recommend a hair salon, dog groomer, dry cleaners or a restaurant, how easy is it for you to wax poetic about your favorite service provider in any of these categories?

These are all sales conversations, of a sort. Of the authentic, unforced, perfectly natural and comfortable variety. You can think of them as “connection conversations,” if “sale conversations” rubs you the wrong way.

And really, that’s all “sales” is – connecting people – whether friends and family, or clients and customers – with something that will help them improve their lives in some way.

So remember this when you start to get tweaked about having to sell – and I know you’ve had that icky  “I-really-wish-I-didn’t-have-to-do-this” feeling about selling, because I’ve had it, and I hear it from other creatives. Often. (Of course, you could be different. You could love sales. If so, shine on, you crazy diamond.)

If you sometimes feel the “ick” factor about selling, keep in mind that sales is not about applying undue pressure; it’s not about forcing, but “tempting.” And you already have experience with that, you little minx. 

So fear not selling.

 

Here are two quick tips for when you’re writing content for your website, sales page, email newsletters, or however you communicate with your clients and customers to make an offer:

:: Imagine you’re having a conversation with a close friend. You’re hanging out together at the coffee shop or the bar, talking informally with just this one person about something that will enhance their life in some way – that’s how you want to write your sales messages. To one person, conversationally, connecting them to something that will help them solve a problem or achieve a goal.

:: Start your sales letter with, “I was thinking about you today.” This effective insider copywriting tip comes from master copywriter Drayton Bird. It’s a great way to get into the conversation without sounding like a douchey, over-the-top huckster.

So if you want to write a sales page or make an offer without feeling “salesy” or “markety,” try one of these techniques.

In the comments section, tell me about a time you used your natural sales ability to persuade someone to do something, and how it turned out. Or share your own tips for creating effective sales messages, I’d love to hear ’em! 

[For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, 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.]

7 Ways to Improve Your Web Copy Today for Better Sales: Basics for Creative Entrepreneurs

7 Tips for Writing Web Copy

Let’s start with something that may be obvious to you.

Web content is different from other kinds of written content. And if you’re a small business owner, solopreneur, freelancer, or creative entrepreneur writing your own website copy, it’s important to know the difference. Especially if you’d like to get more clients, customers and sales.

You may read that and think “Duh,” but I’ve had half a dozen conversations in the last week with smart writers and/or marketers who were either curious about the difference between web content and other kinds of writing, or who didn’t understand there was one.

One newspaper columnist with 30 years of experience asked me how writing his weekly column was any different than writing for the web, and the PR Director of a very large organization who wants to hire a freelancer for a big web copy project bemoaned the fact that of all the experienced writers she’s interviewed recently, not one had web writing skills.

So yes, there is a difference between writing for the web and writing other kinds of content, and it’s important to understand what that difference is so you can get the most traction from your own web writing and marketing.

So for you small business owners, solopreneurs, freelancers, and creative entrepreneurs writing your own website copy, I’ve got 7 tips you can implement today to improve your web content to get better results in your business.

But first we need to understand how people look for information on the web.

HOW PEOPLE READ ON THE WEB

Web users are busy; they want to get the straight to the facts. When they land on your website, they’re scanning the page. (Research on how people read websites found that 79% of users scan web pages, just 16% read word-for-word.)

The thing to keep in mind is that people on the web are typically in a hurry; they’re searching for answers to questions and solutions to problems. They quickly skim for information that meets their specific needs.

And because web users don’t know who is behind the information on a web page, it’s also important to use indicators that prove you’re credible. Excellent writing is one of the things that confer trustworthiness online.

I know nothing kills credibility faster for me than poor writing. Let’s be honest: bad content clumsily organized reflects poorly on your brand.

 

7 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR WEBSITE CONTENT TODAY FOR BETTER SALES

 

1. Tell readers what they’re getting in the headline

For example, I could have called this blog post “The Difference Between Web and Print Content,” or some other such dull thing like that, but would you be reading it now if I did? I bet not.

7 Ways to Improve Your Web Copy Today for Better Sales instantly tells you what you’re getting and sells the benefit of reading the blog post.

If you want to see examples of killer headlines that really get the job done, just check out your favorite magazines. Magazines spend thousands of dollars and do exhaustive research to figure out which headlines grab readers, so modeling their tone and structure will get you off to a good headline-writing start. (Another great resource for learning how to write compelling headlines is Copyblogger, or Jon Morrow’s free downloadable report, “52 Headline Hacks,” available on his website at Boost Blog Traffic.)

*Bonus Tip: Go to Amazon.com or magazines.com and read through a bunch of headlines for ideas on how to structure good ones; this is a veritable goldmine of killer headlines, and you won’t even have to get off your couch to do it. Score!!

2. Make your small business website content about the reader

I know this may be a hard pill to swallow, but successful web content (meaning: it helps you get more customers and make more sales) is not about your business per se, it’s about the solutions you can provide for the potential client or customer who lands on your website. Company-centric web content will turn off readers.

Of course your web copy is going to be about your business, your mission, and your products or services, but first and foremost it needs to clearly convey that you understand your audience and the results they want to achieve, and that you can help them get there with your product or service.

So talk about your business as if it’s a lovely gift you’re presenting to your web visitors that says, “Open me now, I’m exactly what you’re looking for!”

Let’s look at two examples from the world of wedding photography:

(In the first example, I’ve changed the name of the business and a couple of identifying details so as not to be a tool and call anyone out.)

At ABC Photography, we specialize in family beach portraits, beach wedding photography, bridal, maternity, newborn and senior portraits. Our goal is to provide the highest quality photography available. With over a decade of professional photography experience, we have the skills, reliability and experience needed to capture your most precious memories. If you are interested in professional photography services, please contact us to discuss your project or receive a quote.

Ok, that’s boring copy (another no-no), but the main problem is that its central focus isn’t on the audience or potential customer, it’s on the company.

Now compare that to this:

Head Over Heels. Hi there, lovebirds. Congratulations! After the question has been popped, it’s time to eat, drink and be married. Let’s talk about The Wedding Day. Here comes the bride and here come the cliches: “This is one of the biggest days of your life.” “When the cake has been eaten, all you’ve got is the photos.” When it comes to photography, we try to avoid clichés at all costs, while honoring the truth behind them.

For us, this isn’t just another wedding; it’s your wedding. We look for the thoughtful touches and shared moments that tell your story. Our photos emphasize the emotions, details, and moments that make your wedding uniquely you–your grandfather’s cuff links nestled in your bouquet; your mom’s reaction when she sees you in her old wedding dress; your end-of-the-night-get-away in a classic vintage car.

(This copy comes from Millie Holloman Photography, a great example of a photography website that combines beautiful images with effective web copy that makes an emotional connection with potential clients, which is just want you want your web copy to do). 

The copy in example #2 connects with the reader – it speaks to what’s important to them as a potential photography client – “thoughtful touches and shared moments that tell your story” – and avoids the worn-out clichés of standard wedding photography web copy.

Contrast that to the company-centric copy from the first example, which focuses almost wholly on the company, i.e., “our goal,” “we have,” “we specialize,” etc. People don’t really care who you are, they want to know how you can help them. They’re seeking the answer to the question, “WIIFM?,” meaning, “What’s in it for me?”

3. Lead with benefits, not features

I’m sure you’ve heard the old saw, “People buy based on emotion and justify based on logic” more than once by now. That’s because it’s true.

The goal is to connect with your audience on an emotional level, and you do that by selling benefits, not features. Features have their place, but’s it’s important to lead with benefits.

A feature is something your product or service is or contains, a benefit is what the product or service does or provides – the desirable results.

One way to make sure you’re focusing your web copy on benefits is by painting a picture of your potential customer’s ideal outcome.

As in the photography example above: “the thoughtful touches and shared moments that tell your story,” and photos that capture “the emotions, details, and moments that make your wedding uniquely you,” as opposed to something like, “our photographers are the most skilled and experienced working in the wedding photography industry today and use only the most advanced technology and equipment to capture your special moments.”

Think about your laptop. Its features are things like “Wi-Fi enabled, widescreen optimized, lighting-fast processor,” etc. But if you were selling its benefits, it might look something like this: “Don’t get tied down to an office like the rest of the 9-5 worker bees, get your work done quickly and efficiently from anywhere on Earth with the insert name of laptop here. For ultimate time and work freedom,” or something similar. (Think of how Apple sells its products – in fact, go to the Apple website and spend some time reading through the product descriptions if you want to see how leading with benefits works for product copy.)

Now think about the benefits your products and services offer your target audience – how they make the customer’s life easier, better, more fun, less stressed, healthier, or wealthier, etc. If you edit your web content today using this one tip you’ll be miles ahead of other small business owners who go on and on about features rather than benefits. (Features are important too.  While they don’t sell the product or service, they do justify the sale.)

Remember, “Facts tell, benefits sell.”

4. Make it short and to the point

As best you can, you want to get to the point quickly. Web users are on a specific mission, and if they land on your site and see they’ll have to dig through long-winded, jargon-filled web copy to find the answer to their question, they’re going to hit the back button quicker than green grass through a goose.

Long-winded copy usually happens when the business owner doesn’t have a clear understanding of what their target audience really wants or needs to know, so the tendency is to mention everything related to the business in any way, or trot out lots of credentials, etc.

You can avoid this by getting really clear on what your target audience wants.

If you spend some time thinking about your ideal customer’s ideal outcome, you’ll be able to get right to the point and convey how your business can make their desired outcome a reality.

5. Make it scannable and easy to read

Remember, 79% of web readers are scanning, not reading word for word, so create your content with this in mind. Think of it as the “bread crumb” approach – you lead readers organically through your content with markers like headings, subheadings, bolded text and hyperlinks to highlight the really important bits.

Use short, 2-3 sentence paragraphs, and keep it to one idea per paragraph.

Try using an inverted pyramid structure where you start the content piece with the conclusion, the way I did with this post:

Web content is different from other kinds of written content. And if you’re a small business owner, solopreneur, freelancer, or creative entrepreneur writing your own website copy, it’s important to know the difference. Especially if you’d like to get more clients, customers and sales.

6. Make it conversational, not boring (no jargon or formal-speak)

Write the way your target audience thinks and speaks. You can do this by paying attention to your current clients and customers and noting the way they describe their challenges.

There’s no need to write web content as if it were an instruction manual, yet I see this all the time. Inject some personality into it. If you know what your target audience wants, and how they think and speak, this won’t be difficult.

This is obviously going to depend on your audience – an accountant is going to write web content differently than a yoga instructor. But the end result should be the same – your web content speaks directly to the desires, wants and needs of your ideal client or customer and makes them eager to do business with you.

7. Include a clear call to action

A call to action is an instruction in your copy – whether that copy is on your website, in your newsletter, on your blog, or in your ads and other sales material – that directs your audience to take a specific action.

After your readers finish reading a particular piece of content on your website, there’s something you want them to do next – usually some action that gets them closer to becoming a customer. Say, clicking on a link to read more about your products or services, calling to ask for more information, visiting your store, or completing a sale.

A strong call to action is essential for making this happen. To make it more powerful, you can convey a sense of urgency with phrases like, “now,” “today,” and “for a limited time,” etc.

Call to action examples:

“Come in today for 30% off”

“Buy now”

“Sign up for our newsletter today and join the ‘Insiders Club’ for special subscriber-only deals”

“Mention this blog post for 25% off when you buy a 12-pack of yoga classes, for the next 7 days only”

“Follow us on Twitter for special promotions and behind the scenes shenanigans”

Rules are meant to be broken under the right circumstances, and you won’t always be able to follow all the advice here when creating your web copy, but apply these 7 tips where appropriate today to start getting better results in your business.

And there you have it. 7 things you can do today to improve your web copy to get more clients, customers and sales.

[For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, 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.]

 

 

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

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

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

Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t happen that way.

You actually have to – gasp – market yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s the same in your business.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

[Like this post? Then 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.]  

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

Defining Your Unique Selling Proposition

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

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

To recap, those mistakes were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happens when you have a poorly defined USP?

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

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

The cure for this is differentiation. 

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

The benefits of a well-defined USP

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

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

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

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

Just something to keep in mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creative service providers doing differentiation right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defining Your USP Checklist.

 So take action, and good luck!

 

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

Defining Your Ideal Client Avatar

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

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

To recap, those mistakes were:

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

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

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

What happens when you have a poorly defined target audience?

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

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

As Sonia Simone of Copyblogger says,  

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

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

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

What happens when you define your target audience?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But where do I find this information, you wonder?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next?

Your Defining Your Audience checklist, that’s what.

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

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

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

Now go and download your checklist!

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

 

Creatives: Are You Making These 3 Web Marketing Mistakes?

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

This is not the post I originally planned to write.  No, this is a cautionary tale.

My original plan was to talk about website mistakes that are pretty easy fixes: implementing a way to capture leads, providing a clear path to work with you or buy your stuff, creating a home page that orients your website visitors to who you are and what you have to offer, and so on.

And while all those things are important, they don’t come first.  Not by a longshot.

In fact, those easy fixes won’t be effective for getting clients at all unless you do the more important work I’m going to talk about here first.  The kind of work that requires time and effort, but pays enormous dividends in the way of marketing clarity.

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

The cost of not taking care of this work up front is lots of wheel spinning in your business.  You’ll write and market and make videos and be all over social media, working yourself to a frazzle, yet you won’t gain much traction, your website won’t convert browsers into email subscribers or clients, and you won’t get the kind of client inquiries you want.  Plus? You’ll be exhausted.

And many of the clients you do get will be price shoppers, pita (pain-in-the-*ss) clients, and other assorted just plain “wrong” clients.  The kind of clients and projects that will wear you down and make you think that you might, you just might, be ready to quit your creative biz and go get a j-o-b.

But stick with me here, because we certainly DO NOT want that, do we?

For over a year I made these mistakes, which seriously impeded my ability to attract the right kind of clients and make myself some folding money, as we like to say here in the South.

Because I didn’t do the foundational work that would have set me up for success, my business languished. (To lay all my cards on the table, it’s not picture-perfect now, but I’m supporting myself doing about 25 hours of client work per week, I’m getting more client inquiries from the kind of clients I want to work with, and I’m getting more targeted email subscribers.)

So if you want to save yourself months of struggle and overwhelm, let my story be a lesson.

My Big Mistake (Wait, make that three big mistakes)

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

Ironically, this is the very kind of work I help clients with when writing their copy, but hadn’t done for myself in the same focused, structured way until a few months ago.

When I first launched my copywriter’s website (which in the beginning also covered social media and other assorted online marketing topics), I was trying to be all things to all people, and instead wound up being nothing to no one. Harsh but true.

Because I hadn’t figured out these core elements, my site and my services were generic, run-of-the-mill, lackluster, boring, wildly untargeted, and lacking in personality or emotional connection to the audience I truly wanted to serve.

Want to know what that looked like day to day?

Exhaustion. Struggle. Overwhelm.

Since I wasn’t focused on a narrowly defined audience looking for a specific solution, I was free to write blog posts and weekly newsletters about every topic under the sun I could think of to do with marketing online – social media tips, blogging tips, content creation ideas, web marketing, productivity hacks, copywriting, and so on and so forth.

And because of the vast sea of topics I could write about in those categories, I was overwhelmed by what I actually should write about.  So I wrote and I wrote and I wrote.  About many different topics. Email newsletters and blog posts and social media updates galore, yet the needle was hardly moving.

Every week the same thing – sign into Aweber, upload the newsletter for the week, check subscriber count, become disappointed, get despondent, say out loud no one, “This isn’t working! Grrrrr!!”

Then go hard at it again – blog some more, write more email newsletters, be even more active on social media, and still . . . mostly crickets.  Thank goodness I had enough client work to squeak by and keep the lights on, because if I’d had to depend on my website for quality leads and ideal client projects during that time, I would have had to move into my Jeep.

What I Did Next – The Ideal Customer Avatar

In the early months of 2013, I spent several weeks figuring out precisely who I wanted to serve and what they struggle with, how I was uniquely positioned to serve them, and how I was different from other copywriters who offered similar services.

I did this using good old fashioned brainstorming, loads of research, and exercises from two courses I was taking at the time – Marie Forleo’s B-School, and courses inside Fizzle.co: Honest Online Business Training.  To be clear, the brainstorming and research I did on my own was hugely helpful to figuring out who my ideal clients were and how to best serve them, but taking these two online business trainings dialed the process up many notches.

Once I determined who my Ideal Customer Avatar (ICA) was (you can call this person your ideal client, your perfect customer, your target audience, or whatever else makes sense to you), what I would write about in blog posts, email newsletters, social media updates, and every other piece of content I would produce instantly became much clearer.

What a huge relief!  It was like the boulder I’d been pushing up the hill evaporated, just like that.

Unless you get your right person/ideal client figured out, marketing clarity will elude you and you will struggle to connect with your perfect people online.  You won’t know how to talk to that person or how to help them with their challenges.  It’s like standing on a street corner and shouting at random passersby about your thing – no one cares.

So how did I figure out this ideal person I’m meant to serve and precisely what they struggle with?

At the outset I knew I wanted to serve other creative freelancers, solopreneurs and small biz owners who sell a creative product or service, so I figured out where they hung out online and stalked them there.  What I was after was information on the top 2 or 3 thing they struggle with most, in their own words. (This is an iterative process, so I’m always adding data to my “ideal audience” research document. You’ll want to do the same.)

So I read blogs.  I spent time in forums. I spent time on sites of people who already have the audience I want to serve and paid attention to the dialogue there. I did keyword research. I polled friends who are in my target audience.  I spent time trolling through the places on Twitter and Facebook where creatives hang out.

[I won’t go into detail about the process here, because in part 2 of this 3-part series to be published next week, I’ll deconstruct exactly how I did this and demonstrate the process I used to come up with my Ideal Client Avatar. There will be a handy checklist for you to download so you can do the same.]

And then after that came . . . Differentiation, or The Unique Selling Proposition

Next, I determined my unique selling proposition, or unique value proposition, which is really just a fancy-schmancy way of saying I nailed down the collection of factors that would make someone in my target audience want to do business with me instead of other copywriters or web marketers who offer a similar service.  (Once I determined who my ideal client avatar was, this became much easier.)

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 conveying that in your online marketing will give you a competitive edge.

If you’ve spent any amount of time online, you know how important this is, especially as a provider of creative products or services. I always use the example of wedding photographers, because it’s such an apt one.

If you Google wedding photographers, even in the small town where I live, thousands and thousands of results come up.  Yet all these sites are virtually the same: beautiful photo galleries, a little bit of contact info, and maybe a blog. Except for the name of the business, I couldn’t tell one from the other if my life depended on it.  If I were a bride searching for someone to document the very most important day of my life, I’d be completely hamstrung about who to even contact for further info.

This is how you get price-shopped, by the way.   If your site and your services and your business looks just like everyone else’s, the only thing potential clients have to go on to differentiate you is your price.  So they look at your price, then they look at the next person’s, and they choose the least expensive option.  Effective differentiation can help solve this problem.

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

How did I figure out my USP?

Good old-fashioned Google research started the process – I looked at lots of other copywriter websites and made notes about the similarities I saw. Lots of notes.  I brainstormed how I could differentiate myself in several categories based on what I found in the research – what did most copywriter websites look like, and how could I make site look and feel different?  What services did other copywriters offer, and what could I do to distinguish mine?  What copy needs did the clients I wanted to serve have that other copywriters weren’t meeting?  What about my backstory or personality was relevant to my service offerings, and how could I incorporate those elements into my business to stand out?

That was my initial approach, then I honed in on specifics among those categories and several others, until I chose a mix of things that worked for me.

Like one of my favorite marketers, Derek Halpern, says, “It’s not about finding unique ingredients, it’s about finding a unique recipe.”  None of the things I do is unique in and of itself, but the combination of my offerings, personality & style, and backstory is.

[Again, I won’t go into detail here, because in part 3 of this 3-part series, I’ll deconstruct exactly how I did this and demonstrate the process I used to come up with my USP.  There will be a handy checklist for you to download so you can do the same.]

Results So Far

It’s early days for me – I want to be straight up about that.  Although I help clients hone in on their ideal customers and unique selling proposition so that the copy I write for them is targeted and effective, I only just implemented the same process for myself recently. As I’m writing this, it’s been about two months since I implemented my ideal customer avatar and unique selling proposition work on my website.

The biggest and by far most beneficial change has been marketing clarity in who I’m serving and what they struggle with.  Which means I know exactly what to write about on the blog and in the newsletter week after week after week, with no struggle and no stress. Once I figured out my ideal customer avatar and USP, I planned all my blog content and email newsletter topics for 6–8 months.  Sweet relief!  I probably added 5 years to my lifespan from stress reduction from that one activity alone.

I also got clarity in which service offerings to create, what kind of social media status updates to post, which potential products to develop, and which blogs to approach for guest posting opportunities. I knew exactly what kind of free opt-in offer to create. And so much more.

Doing this work has made an enormous difference to the satisfaction I now feel in my business – there’s joy, happiness and peace that didn’t exist before.  I now get up every day energized and excited, eager to get to work because I know what to do each day, who I’m serving, and how to best serve them.

Everything that was once a chore now feels like a breeze.

I’ve also gotten more client inquiries and targeted email subscribers in the last two months than I got in in the entire 6 months previously. But that’s not the biggest benefit.

The biggest benefit of doing this important foundational work is that I no longer feel like I’m pushing a boulder uphill with a feather.

Maybe you can relate.

Figuring out your ideal customer avatar and unique selling proposition could be a full-on course all its own, so I’ve only hit on the high points here. In part 2 of this series next week, I’ll deconstruct how I came up with my ICA and how you can do the same, and talk about what to do with that information once you have it.  (Hint: everything will become easier.)  There will be a downloadable checklist you can use to do this for yourself.

Then in part 3 of the series, we’ll do exactly the same for differentiation/USP.  And there will be a handy downloadable checklist.

If figuring out your ideal customer avatar and USP is something you still need to do for your own creative business, be sure to check out part 2 next week, and part 3 the following week.

Comments? Questions?  Have you done this foundational work for your own creative biz yet?  Please share in the comments section!