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! 

For Creatives: The Secret to Transforming Your Boring, Lackluster About Page into an Ideal Client-Attracting Magnet

(Wherein we talk about the critical importance of a well-crafted About page that generates leads, and I show you a before-and-after of how it’s done.)

Write a Client-Attracting About Page

Did you know your About page is one of the most-visited pages on your website, and often the page that determines whether the potential ideal client who just landed there will choose you, or one of the 7,698 other creatives online who do what you do?

Yet I see so many creative professionals online who either don’t have an About page at all, or who simply throw up a standard, boring bio and call it done.

This is a huge wasted opportunity, because a knock-out About page is one of the most effective ways to set yourself apart online.  It’s essential for strengthening your brand identity, and the ideal place to create a connection with prospective clients.  And best of all? A well-crafted About page can generate leads.

Which means you don’t want to ignore this page or half-ass it. Yes, it can be difficult to write.  You don’t want to sound arrogant or full of yourself, I get it.

But here’s a little secret copywriters know for writing a killer About page that instantly connects with ideal clients, with the added bonus of being easier to write without sounding like a braggart:

Your About page isn’t about you so much as it is about your ideal client or customer and their challenges and desires, and the solution you offer that can help them achieve their goals.  You want your About page to answer the question “what’s in it for me?” for your ideal clients.

Lead with how you can help your ideal clients. Demonstrate you understand your audience and their fears, desires and goals first, then talk about your experience, training and other relevant background information. Because when a potential client lands on your site, they don’t care about you yet, unless and until you demonstrate you get them – and have the solution they seek.

{There’s a much more thorough discussion of how to write an effective About page, including a step-by-step template, in my free CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE here.}

To illustrate how this is done, I’ll show you how I transformed a dull, ineffective interior design About page into a compelling, client-attracting thing of beauty.

EXAMPLE OF A “BAD” INTERIOR DESIGNER ABOUT PAGE*

For this example of a “bad” About page, I found six About pages (among dozens) of interior designers who lead with writing about themselves on their About page instead of focusing on the kind of clients they want to attract.

*Every word of copy in the following example is a real, true sentence I found on an interior design website About page. (In other words, “I am not making this up,” as writer Dave Barry would say.)

 

:: EXAMPLE: THE ABOUT PAGE, BEFORE ::

Jane Smith Design is a full-service interior design firm with over 10 years’ experience in the design and construction industry.  Jane specializes in interiors, space planning, and construction management, working integrally with every member of the design and construction team. Her diverse and imaginative portfolio speaks volumes and demonstrates her diverse range of creativity.

Jane graduated from Parsons with a degree in interior design and a minor in studio art. She is an active member of ASID Carolinas Chapter and the local design community. She attends many conventions and workshops locally and internationally to stay on the cutting edge of design.

Jane began her professional career at a local architecture firm where she focused on residential and commercial interiors. In 2008, she opened Jane Smith Design, a full-service interior design firm.  Jane’s fundamental belief is that the design of interior spaces should be elevated beyond what people typically expect so that their day-to-day experiences in their everyday surroundings can be enhanced. With her varied residential and commercial experience, she is able to address the functional needs of any space while still creating the desired aesthetic.

Jane makes each project unique for each client and has a fine-tuned ability to work with a variety of interior design styles and settings.  Her signature design style combines practicality with sophistication.  Jane Smith Design can offer you everything from a few hours of design consultation to a full home or office remodel.

:: END OF EXAMPLE ::

So, what’s so wrong with that About page?

For starters, it’s written in the third person, which puts a barrier between you and your potential clients. If you want to make an instant connection with your audience, you’re going to need to be real, be human, and be your quirky self – and it’s difficult to make that happen if your About page is written in the third person.

What else, you ask? It’s boring, overly formal and full of jargon; it’s lacking in personality or emotional connection; and it’s terribly “me-focused” – there’s not one iota of anything in that copy that shows Jane understands her ideal clients, is there?

The page’s worst offense is the way the copy doesn’t connect with the reader by talking about what’s important to them as a potential design client – it doesn’t answer the “WIIFM” question – “What’s in it for me?”

Instead it leads with Jane’s background, experience and design credentials, which we don’t care about yet as a potential design client until we know that Jane gets us and the design challenges we want solved.

Now let’s take a look at the rewritten version.

:: A Better Interior Design About Page ::

(*IMPORTANT NOTE:  If “Jane” were a real client of mine, she’d answer an in-depth questionnaire about her ideal clients, the way she works, her design philosophy and aesthetic, and other pertinent details.  Since I don’t have that here, I used quotes and information from interviews I found online with a hip young designer whose interior design work I happen to love, “pretending” she’s Jane the client and using some of her story, quotes and background info to write the “better/after” version of this About page. 

This “after” About page is crafted solely on the basis of the information I was able to find out from reading interviews with the designer, it is NOT the current About page on her website.  This designer’s business is in the South; she works with “families with young kids or messy grown-ups looking for a sophisticated interior that is human-proof – peanut butter, dog hair and red wine, no problem!”)

:: EXAMPLE: The About Page, After ::

Accessible Luxury for the Modern Young Family on the Go

[This headline speaks to Jane’s ideal customer – a busy family with a hectic schedule who want a beautifully designed interior that’s “human-proof,” i.e., “accessible luxury.”]

Dog hair, sticky kid handprints & red wine spills.

Modern, sophisticated design.

The truth? You can have both.

You’re a busy professional with a demanding career, soccer practices, dance recitals and playdates to ferry the kids around to, dinner dates with your significant other (when you can find the time), and possibly a menagerie of pets at home to boot.

Crazy-busy? Yes.  Ready to give up and give in to the idea that a young family with kids, careers and a rambunctious pet or two isn’t meant to come home to an oasis of comfortable elegance at the end of (yet another) jam-packed day?

Definitely not.

[The section above focuses on Jane’s ideal clients and their needs and desires; it demonstrates that she has a genuine understanding of what her ideal client’s life is like. This establishes emotional connection and trust.]

Hey, I know kids, pets, and red wine are facts of life (they’re definitely the facts of my life), but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an inspiring, sophisticated home environment – one that stands up (gracefully) to your energetic young family’s wear-and-tear.

[What I did here, using the parenthetical – “they’re definitely the facts of my life” – won’t always be applicable, but here it lets Jane’s potential clients know that she’s just like them – a wife and mother with a demanding career and a busy life who still believes she deserves a beautiful home.  This also goes to establishing trust, and if they don’t trust you, they ain’t buying from you.]

That’s where I come in.

I’m Jane Smith, and I create interiors that are luxurious, yet livable, for the modern young family on the go.

[Here Jane talks about herself (after she’s focused on her ideal clients and their wants and needs), and begins to tell us about the solution she offers, one that is specifically geared to her ideal clients – busy young families on the go.]

I’m a Parsons-trained interior designer and an active member of ASID Carolinas who honed my skills at the elbow of master French designer Robert Couturier.  I’ve been called a “decorating superstar” and a “Southern visionary with an impressive sense of style,” but at the end of the day?  My most important goal is create a space that works for the family living in it, so they get to experience that “I can’t believe I get to live here!” feeling every time they walk through the door.

From French Modern to Classic Contemporary to Southern Traditional with a twist, I create interiors that balance natural elegance and glamor with practicality.  My designs combine casual, organically modern style – think sophisticated finishes, elegant nature-inspired elements, and gorgeous lighting – with durability that stands up to your life:  sticky fingerprints, dog hair, wine spills and all.

[More details about Jane’s business and her design philosophy.  If she wanted to include her backstory – as it relates to her business and the solution she provides – she could do it here, or link off to another page on her site.]

What Others Are Saying

“With 2 small children under the age of 7, two dogs, and a crazy schedule, I’d almost given up on the idea that my home could be beautiful, comfortable AND practical at the same time, but Jane made it happen.  She created a true sanctuary for our family that we’re thrilled to come home to every day.” Abby M.

“She’s a creative genius, I could not be happier with the beautiful, warm, calm space she created for me and my husband.  Bonus: she’s a dream to work with – friendly, down-to-earth, and easy to talk to and collaborate with.”  Elizabeth G.

“We still can’t believe we get to live here, in our own personal magazine spread.  Our teenagers actually want to hang out at home now.”   Tom and Cindy H.

[Social Proof section:  Be strategic about the testimonials you choose – again, they should speak to the ideal clients’ wants and frustrationsYou don’t have to call this section “What Others Are Saying” – call it whatever makes sense to your personality and writing style.]

Enter your email below to grab my free guide, “From Chaos to Calm: 7 Simple Steps for Transforming Your Home into an Oasis of Practical Luxury.” (Plus weekly design tips and inspiration I only share with my email subscribers.)

[The *incredibly important* call to action.  It could be a prompt to sign up for your email list, or call for a free 15-minute consultation, or whatever specific thing you want them to do next.  It should be the next logical step in the process that deepens the relationship with you.  In most cases, that will be to sign up for your email list. This is where lead generation comes in.]

:: END OF EXAMPLE ::

 

Notice how the rewritten version of the About page leads with the potential client’s challenges and desires, then later talks about Jane and her qualifications. This serves to create trust by proving that Jane understands her ideal clients and the specific solution they seek – in this case, “accessible luxury for the busy young family on the go.” This is what you want to do too if you want to attract your ideal clients.

At a bare minimum, you want to include the following on your About page:

  • A client-focused headline
  • A client-focused first paragraph
  • Then a paragraph about you and the solution you provide geared specifically to your ideal client’s challenges and desires
  • A call to action, such as signing up for your email list or calling for a free consultation, etc., so you can collect leads

Remember, a knock-out About page is one of the most effective ways to set yourself apart online, essential for strengthening your brand identity, and the ideal place to create a connection with prospective clients.  And if you’ve done all that effectively, adding a call to action to your well-crafted About page will generate leads. And who doesn’t want that?  Nobody, that’s who.

[For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, sign up for free weekly updates here 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 High-Quality Content Drives Sales: A 3-Point Primer

Creating High Quality Content

I talk a lot on the blog about creating regular high-value content each week so your business gets noticed online and you get more clients, customers and sales.

Actionable content geared toward helping your audience solve their problems will drive targeted traffic to your site, help you get seen as the go-to person in your niche, get more people on your email list, and get more warm bodies in your bricks-and-mortar business.

How does this happen?

 

In a nutshell:

1.  When you offer unbiased and valuable information on your topic through your blog or website, your newsletter, and your social media outlets, you earn trust with those who interact with your content. Increasing the trustworthiness of your brand helps increase business.

2.  In terms of SEO and search traffic, the more content you create, the more search engine traffic you’ll accumulate because you’ll be increasing your longtail search visibility. Plus, well written content gets linked to, and backlinks are key to better search engine rankings.

3.  Consistently creating compelling content gives people a reason to return to your site again and again to sample your expertise. Which gives you multiple opportunities to potentially sell to them. The more often potential customers engage with your carefully crafted and high-quality content, the more open they will be to a sales message from you at the right time.

Creating amazing content for your site and your newsletter, posting it on a reliable and consistent schedule, and following a strategic plan for sharing it on social media will get more people interested in your products and/or services and increase the number of client and customer inquiries you get.

 

And that’s the down-and-dirty Cliff Notes version of how excellent content, consistently posted, can help you in your small business.

Since I know one of the biggest challenges is coming up with ideas for blog posts and newsletters on a consistent basis, I’ve linked up 3 articles below that outline some dead-simple and effective strategies for coming up with loads of killer ideas.

Check out this post for 3 Killer Resources for Sparking Dozens of Content Ideas.

Go here for 3 More Resources for Easy Idea-Gathering.

And check out this simple but highly effective strategy for creating EXACTLY the kind of content your audience wants to read.

How to Up Your Business Visibility Without Spending a Dime

DIY PR using HARO If you’re a creative small business owner or solopreneur on a budget, no doubt you’re already using no-cost and low-cost ways to market your business.

For example, you know that consistently publishing high quality content to your blog, in your weekly newsletter, and on your social media accounts is one way to up your exposure so that when a potential customer goes online to search for that thing you do, they find you.

But there’s another way to gain exposure that doesn’t cost a dime, and can seriously propel your business visibility to the next level, and that is some good ol’ fashioned media coverage.

Getting quoted or profiled in a local, regional — or heck, even national — online or print publication confers the kind of third party validation that money can’t buy.

Anyone can pay for advertising, but getting coverage in a publication read by your target audience puts you on a whole other level, one that carries a lot more weight than a big, pricey ad could ever do.  You’ll simply never get the same kind of credibility from paid advertising.

Media coverage can raise your profile, create awareness around your products and services, build credibility for you in your niche, get more traffic to your website or bricks-and-mortar location, and ultimately get more sales in your business, if done correctly.

The best thing is, you don’t have to have a big PR budget, or any PR budget at all, to do this; we’re talking DIY PR here, and today I want to share a great resource to help you get started.

This resource is HARO, and it can help you get press for yourself.  You will have to learn a few things about media relations protocol and etiquette, but you’re a smart cookie, so no worries there, am I right?  ; )  Plus, I’ve linked up a couple of articles below that will help you in that department.

What the heck is HARO, exactly?

HARO is an email list you sign up for to receive queries three times daily from reporters who need sources for their stories.

HARO gives you real-time media opportunities, straight from journalists on a deadline needing a source.

There are advanced and premium versions of the service, but the no-cost option is perfect for getting started, and includes dozens of queries each week from reporters looking for expert sources on a variety of subjects and topics.

Simply identify the queries that are appropriate to your products and/or services, choose queries to which your knowledge and expertise are an appropriate and exact match, and reply.

(It’s critically important to give the journalist precisely the kind of information they’re asking for, and well within their stated deadline.  No off-topic or late pitches – take it from someone who used to pitch reporters on a regular basis!)

Sharing your knowledge and expertise using HARO queries can be a powerful marketing tool for your small business.  You’re in business to serve a specific audience and need, so there’s no point in hiding in plain sight waiting for someone to discover you – get out there and make some noise about your awesome business!

You’ll find all kinds of helpful information on how to make the best use of HARO queries and the ins and outs of media-pitching etiquette in a good ‘ol Google search, but in a nutshell , you’ll want to keep these helpful hints in mind:

Pitch on topic, respect the deadline, and be brief/don’t waste the reporter’s time.  (Also see the articles I’ve linked up below under “More Resources” for help here.)

Visit the link below and click the “Become a Source” button to start receiving your own daily HARO queries:

http://www.helpareporter.com/

More Resources:

Here’s a terrific article called “How to Pitch HARO Successfully”

http://www.bloggingprweb.com/how-to-pitch-haro-successfully

And here’s an example of how an educator – not a professional marketer or PR pro – replied to HARO queries and got hundreds of media interviews (you read that right – hundreds).

http://www.bloggingprweb.com/tips-pitching-haro

 

[Hey there, gorgeous. Did you know you can get my FREE weekly newsletter, with actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Go ahead and enter your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now, and let’s get you glowing online.]

How to Tap Into Your Inner Genius in 10 Minutes a Day

Today I want to share a very effective problem solving technique I recently discovered.  This technique will help you generate ideas, come up with solutions to business and life challenges, and generally gain  insight into anything you’re currently trying to work through.

The technique is called “Sentence Stems,” which I was introduced to through Rich Schefren’s  “One Step Ahead” newsletter.  It’s easy and even fun to do, and takes just 10 minutes per day, though you can spend as much time as you like on it.

Here’s how it works:

Start with a sentence stem that’s based on a challenge you’re trying to work through, a goal you want to achieve, a problem you want to solve or anything else you want to gain insight into.  The sentence stem itself will contain the solution to the problem you want to solve or outcome you want to achieve.

For example:

“I could start earning more money each month right now if I . . . .”

“It would be easier to get referrals for my business if I . . .”

“I could get 2 new clients in the next 30 days if I . . .”

• Then every day for a week (or for maximum results, two weeks), write out 6-10 endings to the sentence stem.

• Each day (ideally first thing in the morning, when you’re fresh and full of energy!), write out your sentence endings without looking at the previous day’s answers — you don’t want your previous day’s answers to guide your new answers.

• Write your endings as quickly as possible without second guessing yourself, worrying about perfect grammar or spelling, or stopping to “decide” if this idea will work or not. Just write.  The idea here is to bypass your conscious mind and tap into the powerful awareness of your subconscious mind.

• Try not to use the same ending more than once.

• Now, at the end of your 7 days or 14 days or however long you decided to do this, review everything you’ve written, strike out any repetitions, and consolidate what’s left.  Some of the ideas you wrote down will give you new ideas; write these down as well.

• Then review your list again, decide which ideas are best, and prioritize the ones that are immediately actionable, and begin taking action on them.

Now, your sentence stems don’t have to be business related of course.  Your stems will be about whatever particular challenge you’re currently facing.

Maybe you want to get healthier, so your sentence stems could look like this:

“It would be easier to exercise 3-4 days per week if I . . .”

“It would be easier to eat a healthy diet daily if I . . . “

And so on. You get the idea.

Let me tell you, this technique works.  I used the sentence stem “I could increase my monthly income immediately if I . . .” and after just 4 days of doing the exercise, I have 28 ideas, and the week’s not over yet.  What’s more, I’ve already taken action on one of these ideas, which is going to net me an extra $1100 in income next month.   And I still have 27 more ideas to explore – wheeeee!  ; )

The idea I took action on is something that wouldn’t necessarily have crossed my mind had I not done this exercise.  Although it isn’t an ideal solution to a consistent increase in my monthly income year round, it doesn’t matter, because what I was after was a solution to more income right now, within the next 30 days, and that’s what I got.

I even wrote down my next half dozen sentence stems to work on when I’m finished with the current one.

One of the other benefits of doing this exercise is it will get you thinking of solutions and answers even when you’re not actively completing your sentence stems each morning.  I’ve come up with ideas lying in bed, while in the shower, while in (boring) meetings, driving around, and in the market.

Now YOU try it, you genius you!  ; )

And next blog post, I’m going to take you through some ideas I generated when I applied this exercise to a friend’s dilemma of getting more customers into her bakery/cupcake shop.  Stay tuned!

 

How to Use Twitter Search to Find Clients and Customers

Twitter Search to Find Clients

How cool would it be if you could spend just 15 minutes online and find potential clients and customers in your area, looking for exactly the kind of product or service you provide?

Well, you can use Twitter Search to do just that. Now, a word of caution: once you do find people looking for what you have to offer, you don’t want to do a hard sell; instead, you want to give them a valid reason to check you out.

For example, say someone’s looking for happy hour specials at a full service bar within a 5 mile radius, and you happen to be a full service bar with great happy hour specials within that 5 mile radius.  So you reply to their tweet with “Great happy hour specials at —Name of Your Fabulous Bar Here—on Front Street, ½ price appetizers & handcrafted beer until 7:00 pm!” or similar. Or if that’s too “salesy” for you, offer a $5 off coupon off for their next visit to your establishment.  You get the idea.

OK, so let’s get down to it and do a Twitter search so I can show you what I’m talking about. There are two ways to do this.

Log into your account, and once there, use the simple search bar at the top of your page:

Twitter search bar

Enter your search terms and see what turns up.  You’re going to want better, more targeted results than a general search will give you though, so click on “refine results” in the bottom right corner of that pane once your initial search results are returned, which will take you to the Advanced Search page.

Twitter cupcake search

Or, you can simply go to http://search.twitter.com/, and click on “Advanced Search” from there.

Twitter Advanced Search

Advanced Twitter Search

Once you’re in the Advanced Search pane, you’ll see all sorts of options for searching, so just have a play around and see what works; you’ll see that you can filter searches in several ways there.  If you’re a location-based local business, then obviously you want to use the “places” filter for finding people in your specific area searching for what you offer.

Here’s how I set up my search:

I searched for the general term “cupcakes,” which returned far too many results.  I then “refined” the search to: “need cupcakes,” within a 15 mile radius of Washington, DC, then clicked the “Question” box on the bottom of the advanced search page.  Here’s what that search turned up:

Twitter cupcake search results

Bingo!

Now what if you’re a bakery with mini cupcakes/cookies in this person’s area – don’t you think with a well thought out response to their tweet, offering them exactly what they’re looking for, that customer is coming to your store?

Here’s another example.  Let’s say you’re a caterer who specializes in catering large weddings. Using Advanced Search, you look for mentions of the words “wedding caterers” within 15 miles of your town, and you select the “Question?” checkbox in Advanced Search, which will narrow the results to tweets that contain your search terms and also pose a question.

You might not get results on your first search, but it’s entirely possible that if you run this search on a regular basis, you’ll find someone asking for recommendations for caterers who specialize in large weddings.  Then you can respond to these tweets with a special offer, a free consultation, or something else of value.

If you use Advanced Search to find people who are looking for what you provide, and you offer genuine, non-douchy value and solutions, chances are you’ll be able to add new clients and sales to your business.

Have you ever used Twitter search to find new clients and customers?  How did it work? Let me know in the comments below!

[Hey there, gorgeous. Did you know you can get my FREE weekly newsletter, with actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Go ahead and enter your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now, and let’s get you glowing online.]

Why Your Food, Wine or Creative Business Needs an Email List

As we discussed in the last blog post, there are a number of reasons you want to have a blog for your food, wine or creative business, and for some of those very same reasons, you also want to have an email list.  These may be glaringly obvious if you’re already using online marketing, specifically email marketing, to promote your business, but they’re worth mentioning for anyone new to the topic.

Obvious Thing #1:  First and foremost, you need an email list so you can capture leads.

You want people to come to your blog or website to find out what you have to offer, learn more about you, and benefit from your awesome, value-driven content, but you also want folks to elect to deepen the relationship by giving you their email address.

In order to remain top-of-mind to folks who come to your blog when they’re not on it, interact with them at a deeper level, and do business with them at some point, you’re going to need a way to contact them again.

Ask yourself how many blogs or websites you’ve you visited and left, never to return again. And I mean even if you really liked the content, you’ve done this. I know I have.

Well, if you really liked what you saw on that site, and there was an opt-in form to sign up for said blog or websites special offer or free content or weekly newsletter or what-have-you, and that what-have-you was going to be beneficial to you in some way, you’d sign up, right?

On the other hand, if you visit a blog and there’s no way to enter your email for updates or newsletters, etc., there’s a good chance you won’t visit again, simply because as a small business owner, there are so many other things that take up your attention units on a daily basis.

You can have the best traffic strategies on earth, but if you’re not getting your visitors to sign up for your email list once they get to your site, you’re leaving a lot of potential prospects, customers and dollars on the table.

Obvious Thing #2:  An e-mail list is a great marketing tool, and one of the best assets your business can have.

So, you’ve gotten your target audience to your site, and with an attractive, value-driven reason to join your list, you now have your audience signing up to receive your regular email updates.

Now you have an opportunity to build a relationship with them that keeps them coming back to your site again and again, and keeps you top of mind even when they’re not visiting your site, as in, when they’re wondering where they can buy the product or service you provide.

Think of your email list as one of the highest ROI assets your business has. It’s a list of people who have raised their hands and said “I’m interested in your content, offers, information, services, etc.” This makes them a much better prospect for you than folks who follow you on Twitter or fan you up on Facebook, and once you’ve got them on your list, you can market to them again and again.

Now, Facebook and Twitter are important for driving traffic to your site, and for the ever important task of engaging and interacting with your customers and prospects on a regular basis, so you want to be providing value there as well.  However, not everyone is using these sites just yet, but almost everyone has email.  So leverage your Facebook fans and Twitter followers by having them come over and sign up for your email list.

I’ll say it again:  an email list is a list of people who have raised their hands and said they’re interested in what you have to offer, a highly targeted audience you can market to directly, without the kind of noise and distraction that can exist on social media sites.

Real World Example

So we’ve said that by keeping your name top-of-mind, you’re increasing the likelihood that your customers will purchase from you when they’re in a position to buy.

Here’s an example: let’s say you’re a wedding and baby photographer.  A couple comes to your website to check out your wedding packages and signs up for your weekly e-newsletter, where you share useful content each week like “tips for looking natural in your bridal portrait,” or “why natural lighting at X time of day is the most flattering,” or “Should you contract for photography only, or video as well?”  (I’m just making this stuff up, but you get the idea.)

Because you’ve stayed in touch on a regular basis, with quality information about a topic they’re interested in, when they are ready to buy, you’ll be at the top of the list of people they want to contact.

Why would they go searching online for a photographer they’ve never heard of when they already know you – the person who sends them useful information each week?  And when they want shots of their beautiful bundle of joy, or have friends or acquaintances getting married, guess who they’ll think of?

Obvious Thing #3:  You can drive traffic to your bricks-and-mortar business and make actual cold, hard cash with your email list.

Again, an email list that you mail to regularly gives you an easy way to keep your name in front of your customers and prospects on a continual basis, which translates to a ready-made, eager audience for any sales, special promotions or offers you have.

Think about it – once you’ve provided value to your list on a regular basis, every time you have something interesting going on at your place of business, you’re pretty much guaranteed to makes some sales, simply by pressing a button and sending an email.

Now, not every subscriber will become a loyal customer, but many will, and you’ll be much more successful selling to your list than to a group of relative strangers.

And even if the folks receiving your emails don’t read every one of them, they still see your name on a regular basis, so they won’t forget you.

Real World Example

Let me give you an example of this – I regularly shop at the same 2 wine stores in town, both of them sort of inconveniently located many miles from my house.  Even though there’s a perfectly good, well-stocked wine store just minutes away from where I live, I very rarely shop there, because I seldom remember they’re there.

This is because I get an email newsletter from the two other wine stores regularly.  One of them sends an email about once a month; it feels kind of random – some months I seem to get the newsletter, some months I don’t — but I do shop there fairly often, because I get that newsletter semi-regularly, so I remember them.

The second wine store, the one where I do most of my shopping, sends a regular email, each and every week, like clockwork,  announcing the wines they’ll be featuring at the weekly wine tasting, with tasting notes and prices – super handy!  Because even if I can’t make it to the tasting, I’m likely to stop in and buy some of the featured wines, based on the information in the newsletter.

Again, this store is not close to my house and therefore not very convenient, but I frequently shop there, because I’m getting that weekly newsletter, so they’re top of mind for me when I’m thinking about wine.

The wine store that’s way more convenient for me because it’s right around the corner from my house?  I haven’t shopped there in more than a year, because I hardly ever remember they’re there.  Seriously.  Until writing this blog post in fact, I had forgotten they were there, and they’re located just 5-10 minutes from my house.

So I hope you can see by now how powerful an email list and a consistent, targeted email marketing campaign can be to the bottom line of your business.

You can also use email to get great feedback from customers about what they’d buy more of if you offered it, and what doesn’t really move them about your current offerings.  And e-newsletters are easy to share and forward, so your customers will send them to their friends if they find value in them, generating even more business for you.

If you haven’t set up your email capture form on your blog or website yet, I hope you’ll put that on your marketing to-do list this week, and make email marketing an integral part of your regular marketing mix.

[Hey there, gorgeous. Did you know you can get my FREE weekly newsletter, with actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Go ahead and enter your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now, and let’s get you glowing online.]