Should You Hire a Copywriter? (The answer may not be as easy as you think)

When you’re first getting started in business, putting up your first website, dipping your toe into the vast world of building an audience online and marketing your products and services, creating content and driving traffic to your site, and all the other million and one things you need to do in a day to get your business rolling, you’re most likely in bootstrapping mode and watching every penny.

That’s certainly how it was for me when I first got started.

My Very First Business Investment

I remember the first time I spent $97 on something for my business – a course on how to use Facebook for marketing, I believe it was. It felt like a huge investment at the time. And truth be told, it was, because I hadn’t made any real money yet.

Nervous as my twitchy fingers hovered over the “Buy Now,” button, I felt like I’d jumped off a cliff without a parachute the instant I clicked the button and the $97 wooshed out of my checking account.

I tell you this because in the years since then, I’ve made countless other investments in my business:

:: $2200 for an online business-building program

:: $3600 for a 9-month group coaching program

:: $1200 for a 3-month group coaching program

:: $1200 for a course on course-building

:: $600 on a course about list-building

:: Many other $500 – $1000 investments into various other business-related courses, coaching and programs

:: Plus several one-off purchases of $100 – $500 for books and other resources

But I’ll still never forget that first $97 I spent and the way it made me feel. Like “sh*t just got real – I am really doing this here business thing.”

Which was a very good thing, because it meant I now felt serious about my business; I wasn’t just “playing” at business anymore, and “hoping” it would work. Spending that first $97 created the necessary mindset shift I needed if I was going to move forward and support myself with my copywriting and marketing business.

So, Should You Invest in Your Business by Hiring a Copywriter?

If you’re at the stage where you’ve gotten your business ducks in a row – you’ve launched your website, you have your products and/or services ready to roll, you have at least some idea about who your likely buyers/ideal clients & customers are, and you’re ready to start making some sales, then you may be considering hiring a copywriter or other service provider, and you’re nervous about the investment.

I’ve talked to loads of people over the years who reach out to inquire about my copywriting and/or marketing services. Some are clearly ready to hire a professional copywriter and marketer, and some most definitely are not.

It Can Get Really Confusing, Really Fast

Google “When should I hire a copywriter?” or “Should I hire a copywriter?” or “At what stage of business should I hire a copywriter,” and you’ll find plenty of articles with titles like, “14 Reasons You Should Hire a Copywriter,” “5 Reasons You Should Hire a Copywriter for Your Business,” “Why You Need to Hire a Professional Copywriter,” and so on. [Google returned 10,400,000 results when I did that search. Yikes.]

But the truth is, though these articles make some good points, only you know if you have the dollars to spend, if you’re ready for the kind of services a copywriter provides, and if you have the understanding of what a copywriter actually does.

That last one is really important, because I can tell you that the clients I’ve most regretted taking on over the years are the ones who are confused about what a copywriter does, don’t understand the serious investment of time and expertise a copywriter puts in to get to know your business, your clients, and your business goals so they can write copy that converts web visitors to sales, and who don’t understand that copywriting is a collaborative process that requires time, effort and input from the client side too.

These kind of clients have made my life, if not a living hell, then at the very least, deeply unpleasant during the time I was working with them. Luckily, I have a pretty good spidey sense of who those clients are when they first reach out to me, and steer clear of working with them. But every now and then one slips in, unfortunately.

If I Had to Go Out on a Limb and Say When to Hire a Copywriter . . .

For me the bottom line is, if you have a good idea who your likely buyers/ideal clients & customers are, you’re clear on the benefits your products and/or services provide to your clients, you’ve already proven the need/desire for your products and/or services through the sales you’ve already made, AND – this is important – you understand that hiring a copywriter can be a substantial investment and you understand why that is (i.e., you get that copywriting is about so much more than simply writing), and you have the dollars in your marketing budget to hire a copywriter without creating financial hardship, then by all means, go for it.

These are the minimum required “good-to-haves” before you hire a copywriter, in my book.

Wherein Other People Answer the Question of When Is the Right Time to Hire a Copywriter

One of the best articles I’ve read on whether you should hire a copywriter or write your own copy is Amy Harrison’s  . . . wait for it . . . Should You Hire a Copywriter or Write Your Own Copy?

As Amy points out, if you’ve got more time than money, “you’re already watching your budget, and you have a few hours a week to spare, it’s better you flex your own copywriting muscle.”

Check out the rest of Amy’s article here for six questions you should ask yourself before you hire a copywriter.

Another thing to keep in mind is what kind of copy you need written. For example, I specialize in website copy. I’ve written, and still occasionally write, other forms of marketing communications for clients, but my specialty is website copy.  

What this means is that I have knowledge and expertise in how people interact with online content specifically, what a website must do to move people from browsers, to requests for more info, and to clients and sales, and other web-specific attraction, marketing, and conversion knowledge.  

If it’s website copy you need written and you’re going the DIY route, make sure that you’re learning from someone who specializes in website copy, or if your budget allows, and you meet the other minimum required good-to-haves above, that you hire someone who specializes in writing website copy. There are a lot of us out there.

If you’d like to read one of the most trusted resources online about copywriting and when to hire a copywriter, check out Copyblogger’s 5 Situations That Demand You Hire a Professional Copywriter.

This is one of the best short, wise, and to-the-point articles on when to hire a copywriter I’ve read, and I’ve read A LOT. Also, as I tend to great wordiness in my blog posts (*cough, cough*) I surely can appreciate how much knowledge they pack into this brief blog post.

If you were confused when you first started reading this article about whether or not it’s the right time for you to hire copywriter, but based on what I’ve shared, and what the experts I linked to here have to say, you’ve made your mind up about what you need to do, then good on ya. I’m happy I was able to help.

On the other hand, if you’re even more confused now than when you started reading, leave a comment below, and I’ll reply as soon as I’m able and see if I can help get you on the right track.

Next Up

In Part 2 of this post to be published in March, I’ll share my process of working with copywriting clients in detail, so you can get a sense of what really goes on, learn more about how copywriters work and what they actually do (it’s SO much more than writing), and if you’re wondering, find out why the investment can sometimes seem “high” (which of course is relative).

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If you want immediate feedback from a professional copywriter and marketer on your website copy, customized-for-you answers to your top copywriting challenges, and clear ideas for improving your website copy ASAP to more effectively call in and convert your ideal clients, then check out my Creating Better Copy Personalized Help Session right over here.

Thank you for being part of my community + updates

Can you believe it’s already the end of 2016?

If I’m being honest, a new year can’t come soon enough for me. 2016 has been tough, and I mean really tough, for me and a whole bunch of other people I know as well.

And I’m not just talking about the terrifying political situation we now find ourselves in, though that’s a big part of it.

While I firmly believe that every moment, even the “bad” ones, can have their own unique blessings, I am good and ready for a whole bunch of “good” moments strung all together in several looooong months/years at this point.

But hey, on to brighter things! 

The real reason I’m writing today is to thank you for being a part of my community this year.

Whether you stopped by to read a blog post, signed up for my weekly copywriting tips newsletter, left a comment, sent an email with a question, told me how much you enjoy receiving my weekly emails, inquired about working together, or simply reached out to say hello, thank you. It’s deeply appreciated.

It means so much to me that you get value out of the articles I write and the emails I send, and that you actually take time out of your busy day to tell me that. That’s a big deal, so again, thank you.

And if you became a client this year, I appreciate your trust in allowing me to write marketing copy for your business to help you generate more clients and sales.

I don’t take any of these things for granted.

I’m blessed to have worked with several amazing clients this year, and to have interacted with many of the amazing and wonderful readers of my blog and my weekly newsletter this year as well.

So know that you are loved and appreciated, and that I’m wishing you the very best, in your business and in your personal life, for the coming year.

UPDATES

Some of you may have gotten what you needed from my blog posts and weekly emails and be ready to move on. If that’s the case, no worries! There’s only so much time in the day, and you have to be careful where you spend your time and attention. So if our “relationship” has run its course, I’ll understand if you need to unsubscribe from the newsletter and/or stop reading the blog. 

But if you decide to stick around these here parts in 2017, here’s what you can expect:

:: More blog posts, tips, ideas, and how-tos for writing compelling copy that helps you attract your ideal clients, customers and collectors, geared especially for creative business builders, solopreneurs and other non-marketing types.

:: A new [free!] short e-course on how to write a magnetic, client-attractive website. This will be something like 7 or 8 lessons delivered over a week – 10 days or so, so you can go through it quickly, get what you need, and get it implemented on your website, pronto, to start attracting more of the kind of clients & customers you really want.

:: My first ever product – I’m not sure exactly what this will look like yet, but it will be created based on the most frequent questions I get from email subscribers and clients, + the issues and challenges you all share with me in my Creating Better Copy Personalized Help Session private workshop calls. It will be affordable, uber-useful for getting your website copy and marketing in tip-top shape, and FUN to read and implement!

:: And more . . . stay tuned for details! 🙂

In the meantime, if you’d like some customized-especially-for-you help with your web copy or marketing now, or in early January to start the new year off just right, check out my Creating Better Copy Personalized Help Session: You + Me + a One Hour Private Workshop to Address Your Most Pressing Web Copy Challenges Right Now.  It’s customized-for-you answers to your top copywriting challenges, and clear ideas for improving your website copy ASAP to more effectively call in and convert your ideal clients.

That’s it for now.

Hope your holidays are magical and miraculous!

See you in the New Year!

Warmly,

Kimberly

Think your business is not “interesting” enough to stand out online and attract more clients & bookings? That’s where you’re wrong, my creative friend.

I get emails on a fairly regular basis from blog and newsletter readers who tell me they have no idea how to differentiate themselves online.

They understand there are many, so very many, other people online offering similar products and services to theirs, and they know they need to differentiate themselves to be able to attract their ideal clients and get more bookings, sell more art, or get more people interested in checking out their offerings.

But they’re at a loss for just how to do this, declaring themselves and/or their businesses, “ordinary,” “too similar to other businesses out there,” and sometimes even “just not that interesting.”

[The cheerleader in me wants to say, “Don’t say that about yourself, yes you are interesting!!!”]

I mean, of course I get it. (Do you even know how many other copywriters there are out there? Thousands, upon thousands. Upon thousands. That’s a whole lotta copywriters.)

And it’s not just blog and newsletter readers emailing me about this, a few of my clients have also shared that they don’t feel they have anything uniquely compelling to offer to get more traction online with their desired audience.

One of the questions I ask on my copywriting client intake questionnaire is:

Let’s say I turn out to be your ideal client. Could you give me two or three reasons why I should pick you/your business, versus another business with similar offerings?”

I typically get one of two responses:

:: The client understands how their business is different from others with similar offerings, but doesn’t know how to express that difference in their web copy in a way that compels their “right people” to reach out to them about working together.

OR . . .

:: They honestly have no idea how their business is unique in the marketplace, or why anyone would choose to work with them over others with similar offerings.

What I say to blog readers and clients alike is that it’s not usually one big thing that sets you apart, it’s a combination of smaller things, that woven together, make up your “meaningful difference” and help you stand out to the clients you’d most like to attract.

Let’s take me, for instance. I’m a copywriter, one of thousands, as we previously established.

BUT.

:: I work mostly with creatives; and I specialize in writing web copy, mainly. I’m also well-versed in web marketing, so I bring that knowledge to the table too. And I have a background in PR, advertising and sales.

:: Plus, I once studied photography, applied to art school, and got accepted to the photography program at The School of Visual Arts in New York City, which gives me some “street cred” (do the kids still use that phrase these days?) with creatives who want to hire me.

All of those elements taken together make up my “meaningful difference,” which becomes part of my compelling marketing message. And that compelling marketing message is what continues to get me clients who are just right for my services.

Now, there’s a wee bit more to it than that, which I’ve written about at length before. You can check that out in this 3-part series on the tale of my 3 business-repelling web marketing mistakes and how you can avoid them

But what I want to say to you today is that you DO have something unique and compelling to offer: your experience, background, founder story, talents, skills, gifts and abilities; the type of clients you work with and the kinds of products and services you offer, all combine to make up your meaningful difference and your compelling marketing message.

So don’t tell me you/your business is boring, or that you’re “just not that interesting.”

It’s so not true. 🙂

If you want to learn how to figure out what your “meaningful difference” is and how to implement it in your web copy to attract more of your ideal clients, read the 3-part blog post about how I did just that and how you can too –> here

And if you’re a wedding, portrait or lifestyle photographer and you’d like to know when my upcoming course, 30 Days to a Magnetic Marketing Message That Sells: A Course for Wedding, Portrait, and Lifestyle Photographers, is ready, get on the interest list right over –> here

3 Simple to Implement Web Copy Tips To Help You Sell More of Your Stuff

If you’re trying to get better results from your website in the way of more client & customer inquiries, e-mail sign-ups, and sales, and things aren’t going quuuuite the way you’d like them to at the moment, the solution could be as simple as a few strategic website copy tweaks.

Fairly simple to implement things you can do today that can have a big impact on your results over time. Or hey, maybe even tomorrow under the right circumstances. 🙂

These three copy improvements are what I call “The Three C’s” – clarity, client-focused copy, and clear, compelling calls to action.

I recently wrote a post about this topic over on the Artstorefronts blog, and though the post is geared to artists, anyone, in any kind of business, can benefit from applying these 3 simple web copy tips:

Learn more here about using clarity, client-focused copy, and compelling calls to action to sell more of your stuff.

 

[Want more copywriting tips? 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.] 

Embarrassing Web Copy & Marketing Fails

So the other day I had a meeting with the owner of a web design and development company who I may be working with on some upcoming writing projects.

Naturally, we got into a conversation about some of the unfortunate website mistakes we’ve seen over the years, on both the copywriting side and the design side – including our own.

Yes indeed, even the pros make mistakes and suffer web marketing fails.

For example, I remember back in the day when I was first getting started online. Those halcyon days when I actually believed that putting up a decent website, writing some basic copy, and doing a little bit of marketing each week was going to have new clients beating down my door, fairly busting a gut to work with me.

What actually happened?

Well, friend, they stayed away in droves, to quote the late film producer Samuel Goldwyn. (Well, ok, not completely in droves, I did get a few clients from that original website.)

But why so few? Why so many hours spent trying to be visible online to get merely mediocre results, despite doing everything I was told to attract clients through my website?

Turns out the problem was that my website copy was very “flackluster” (a new word I just made up on the spot to describe something that is both “flaccid” and “lackluster” at the same time, ha ha), and so it wasn’t doing me any favors in the client-getting and revenue-generating department.

And here’s the crazy part.

I knew exactly why I was getting these anemic results – I hadn’t figured out who my ideal clients were, or worked out what set me apart among others online who were providing similar services, and all this was reflected in my sad, generic, no-personality, underperforming web copy.

All of which lead to painfully average results.

Still, I dragged my feet for months to fix the problem.

I felt like I couldn’t step off the hamster wheel of blogging, social media posting and otherwise trying to be visible online for long enough to get clear on my ideal client avatar (ICA) and my unique selling proposition (USP), so I could write web copy that was actually compelling to my ideal clients.

Though I knew taking care of these two key things would start attracting more and better clients, and bigger paychecks, I resisted.

But finally, after too many months of craptacular results, and the looming fear that I’d have to go back to work for “the man” if I didn’t get this little challenge resolved, I decided I’d had enough and changed everything.

I got clear on exactly who my ideal clients were. I worked out what my “meaningful difference” in the marketplace was. I rewrote all my web copy, every last page of it, to be compelling, client-attractive and attention-getting to the people I most wanted to work with. I infused it with my personality, worldview and unique selling proposition.

And once I did that? Well that’s when things started to turn around fairly quickly.

I got more email subscribers almost instantly – from exactly the same amount of website traffic. I started getting client inquiries with email subject lines like “I want to work with you, please call me!” and “Photographer very interested in working with you,” sometimes several just like this in a single day.

I got more clients, and not just any clients, but clients who were ideal for me and who I absolutely loved working with. And I generated more income.

Again, I didn’t increase the traffic to my website to do this – I simply wrote better, more targeted, and more persuasive, personality-filled web copy that reflected my unique selling proposition and spoke directly to the kind of clients who were ideal for me.

Why, oh why hadn’t I done this sooner?

It pains me to think of all the wonderful clients, projects, and income I left on the table, simply because I wouldn’t slow down long enough to go off the grid for a couple of weeks to get my web copy in order.

But all’s well that ends well. And I needed to learn the lesson that not understanding my audience or my USP, coupled with the generic web copy that resulted, was never, ever going to bring in the kind of clients, projects and income I wanted.

So, what about you?

Is that where you are right now? Is your web copy “flackluster” and underperforming? Is it not doing its job?

(To be clear, if you’re in business, your website’s JOB is to get you consistent client and customer inquiries, new clients, and sales. If it’s not doing that, that’s a problem. A problem that must be fixed if you plan, like most of my clients do, to use your website as your main marketing vehicle.)

I’ve written about the importance of determining your target audience/ideal clients and working out your “meaningful difference” or unique selling proposition (USP) on the blog before. I even included free downloadable worksheets to help you get clear on these things so you can start getting more traction from your website.

You can check out those posts here:

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

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

Now, if you’d prefer some one-on-one guidance to help you get crystal clear on your target audience and “meaningful difference”/USP, and how to implement these things on your website for better business results, I make a few strategy sessions available each month specifically focused on these two critically-important-to-the-success-of-your business topics. If you’d like more details, simply email me at Kimberly [at] kimberlydhouston [dot] com, and I’ll send you the info.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Granted, not everyone reading this is in that position.

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

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

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

Joe Polish is the guy.

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

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

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

Joe’s Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Which Our Hero Makes a Very Wise Decision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But back to our hero . . .

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

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

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

But Will This Work for Me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

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

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

I get it.

However.

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

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

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

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

But better late than never, eh?

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

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

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

I wish the same for you.

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By the way, if you’re ready to get one-on-one strategic guidance to help you to write a magnetic website that attracts, engages & sells to your dream clients {without becoming a pro copywriter}, I’ve got something that will help.

It’s not right for everyone, but if you’re interested in the details, you can check them out here:

The Shape Up Your Website Copy to Start Making More Sales 30-Day Fast Start: A Private Writing & Marketing Mentorship

 

If you’re ready to transform your website copy from lackluster to luminous, so it’s more compelling and client-attractive to your target audience and generates more client inquiries and sales this might  be a good fit for you. Click on the link above for details. 

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Afraid to Sell

By far, one of the most problematic things I see on websites I’m hired to review or write copy for is an unclear, confused marketing message. The web copy doesn’t resonate with the kind of clients the business owner is trying to attract, so when said client lands on the website, they spend 3-7 seconds looking around, don’t feel any connection to what they read, and leave.

And what compounds the problem in many of these cases is it’s nearly impossible for the web visitor to figure out how to actually make a purchase if they were so inclined.

Now, granted, sometimes the above scenario happens when you’re just starting out, and you don’t know what message your website needs to convey to appeal to your desired audience just yet, or when you’re still trying to figure out how all this marketing and copywriting stuff works to help you do business online successfully.

HOWEVER . . . .

Other times this website confusion (and the resulting poor sales performance) is a result of being afraid to sell, of being fearful of actually letting people know that, #1, you have something awesome for sale, woohoo!, and #2, hey, they can buy it right over here! (On the Work with Me, Products & Programs, or Services page of your website.)

And furthermore (well, don’t I just sound like my Mom when she was getting ready to read me the riot act?), many business owners, despite having an email list of potential clients and customers who might just love to buy something from them, have never actually shared with their subscribers that they have products or services available for purchase.

Bottom line, they’re afraid to sell.

You know, one of the questions I ask on the intake questionnaire I have all new clients fill out is “What are the last 5 things you’ve done to market your business or sell your products/services?” And I’ll tell you, an answer I rarely get is, “I made an offer to my email list/audience/blog readers/etc.”

If you’re not selling anything, let me ask you, are you offering anything? Are you sending an email to your list telling them you have something they can buy? If you’ve been at this online business thing for a while, and you haven’t made an offer to your list yet, my question for you is, why not?

Now, let me just say right here: I GET IT.  I was dreadfully uncomfortable coming right out and making an offer to my email list the first time I did it too, but I will tell you it gets much easier after you “break the seal” and do it the first time.

I actually wrote a blog post about this fear of marketing and selling called, They Want You to Be the One, So Stop Being Afraid to Market Yourself, which essentially says that, when someone lands on your website or signs up for your email list, they know you’re operating a business, so it’s not going to be a surprise to them when every now and then you let them know you have something they can buy.

They expect this.

And furthermore (geez, that word again), they were looking for the solution to a problem or the answer to a question when they landed on your website in the first place, and they’re hope, hope, hoping you will be the one who can help them solve the problem or answer the question.

So do not be afraid to sell.

Notice I didn’t say, don’t be uncomfortable about selling. I’ve been in the marketing/PR/copywriting/sales field my entire adult life and I still sometimes feel uncomfortable making a pitch for my services. That’s normal. I said don’t be afraid. Because at the end of the day, even if you do get rejected, you will survive. Rejection might feel crappy, but it won’t kill you.

And if anyone gives you any grief about selling, that just proves they don’t have the first clue about how real business works, and they’re not your ideal client or customer anyway. So not to worry.

So even though I’m not always comfortable selling either, I do it. And you know what I’ve noticed?

When I sent an email offering something for sale, people bought. I made sales. People participated in actual commerce, money and services changed hands, and we all lived to tell the tale.

And by the way, when you’re selling, you don’t have to behave like a carnival barker or be in your face, sleazy or aggressive about it.  You can do it subtly, the way I’m going to do it at the end of this blog post by letting you know I’ve revamped my service offerings and have a bunch of new services available.

You can do it in the P.S. of your email newsletter.

You can make a subtle mention of your promotion in your latest blog post.

Or you can send a full-fledged “sales message” (again, this can be done with subtlety) to your email list.

So please, please, if you have something awesome for sale, let your audience know about it. The sky will not fall if you do, trust me on this.

And here’s the part where I’m going to let you know about my new services. You can’t check them out right over here on my Work with Me page.

Or check out the abbreviated description of them below.

Happy Selling!

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{If you’re interested in any of the services below and want to find out which one might be a good fit for you, shoot me an email and we’ll set up a 20-minute, no-obligation conversation to explore the possibilities.}

The Irresistible Web Copy VIP Package: The 3 Key Must-Have, Uber-Important, Can’t-Do-Business-Online-Without-‘Em Web Pages {+ a little extra} Every Successful Business Needs

If you’re serious about having a successful website that calls in your ideal clients and sells your programs and services, you need:

  • A compelling Home page that grabs attention and gets your right people eager to find out more about you
  • An About page that conveys your unique personality and bonafides in accessible, client-focused language
  • A Services, Work with Me, or Programs page that demonstrates your singular value and gets your ideal clients dreamily thinking, “she’s/he’s the one I want to work with”

The Irresistible Web Copy VIP Package includes: Learn more here.

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The Copy Brilliance Web Copy Makeover

:: Not everyone needs their website written from scratch. You might have one particular web page that’s just not working for you – and it’s keeping you from calling in your ideal clients or making more sales.

:: In that case, I can apply my copywriter’s “let’s uncover and highlight the sales-inducing benefits in this web copy” brain to one page of your already written web copy to transform it from lackluster to luminous, so it persuasively conveys your value and appeals to your ideal clients.

:: If you already have the key must-have website pages on your site written, but you’d reallllly like some professional copywriting tweaking & fine tuning on one of those pages (or another page of your choice) to make it sparkle and shine to call in your ideal clients, the Copy Brilliance Web Copy Makeover is for you.

How it works: Learn more here.

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Copywriting & Messaging Strategy 60-Minute One-on-One Intensive

Think of this like a rapid-fire website audit from a copywriting, messaging and branding perspective. We’ll work side-by-side in one 60 minute session over the phone, as we look at your website together.

You’ll walk away with at least 5-10 ideas for improving your website copy ASAP to more effectively call in and convert your ideal clients.

 This is for you if:

:: Your website copy is in pretty good shape but you want to pick a professional copywriter’s brain for ideas on polishing it up to a fine “I want to magnetize my ideal clients to me” sheen, get feedback on your messaging, or ask questions about specific elements of your copy

:: You’re just getting starting and want some DIY copywriting advice you can run with on your own to write your own copy

 How it works: Learn more here.

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Strategy Consulting for Creatives

So, what you need doesn’t fit neatly into any of the categories above?

No worries, my creative friend.

You can invest in a pack of strategy consulting hours to discuss any of your web marketing and copywriting conundrums. This is great for things like ongoing web marketing advice, guidance and feedback on a specific marketing campaign or bigger marketing project or initiative, help figuring out who your ideal customers are or what your unique difference in the marketplace is, and so on.

How it works: Learn more here.

 

How to Write Headlines for Your Creative Business That Don’t Make You Cringe with Embarrassment (or, Why Great Headlines Beat Peanut Butter on Pancakes)

Formulas. Blueprints. Templates. Rules.

I tend to dislike most of these things. And so do most of the other creative business builders I’ve talked to.

But when it comes to writing headlines, templates and formulas can help if you’re experiencing a rough patch while trying to create magnetic headlines for your creative business, especially when you’re first starting out.

Besides, templates and formulas are just a starting point, a way to get the creative juices flowing. You use them to get something down on paper, then you tweak from there, depending on your personality and your business and service offerings.

So today I give you headline formulas, blueprints, templates and rules.

Because if you can train yourself to write attention-grabbing headlines (you can), then your content is much more likely to get read, shared and acted upon. Good news for you, right?

How Important Are Headlines?

Some well-known and uber-successful copywriters suggest that at least half the time you spend writing a piece should be spent on the headline; it’s that important. Agreed.

You may have heard the statistic that 8 out of 10 people will read the headline, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest of the copy. The headline is there to get them to read the rest of that copy – that’s its sole purpose, in fact – so if it’s not compelling, you can bet the rest of the blog post or article or sales page you’ve just slaved over will, unfortunately, be ignored.

And we’re trying to run successful businesses that rely on writing and sharing content that moves people to act, so ain’t nobody got time to be ignored.

That said, the body content of the thing you’re writing, be it a blog post, a newsletter, a sales page or what-have-you also needs to be well-written and persuasive, and it must deliver on the headline. But you knew that.

Golden advice nugget: When writing headlines for your creative business, keep in mind what your audience is thinking, and that is, WIIFM: “What’s In It For Me?” 

Now then, let’s talk about a few headline formulas.

Promise a Benefit or Arouse Curiosity

Two of the most effective ways to approach writing headlines is to promise a benefit or arouse curiosity.

This is something I learned in my American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI) copywriting training. According to the fine folks at AWAI, a powerful headline does these 4 things:

  • Begins to develop a relationship with your audience/potential clients
  • Delivers a complete message
  • Compels readers/potential clients to read more
  • Grabs the reader’s attention

Examples of benefit-driven headlines from my blog:

:: For Photographers: The Simple Yet Powerful Website Copy Tweak That Will Win You More Clients (& How to Implement It) {Benefit: win more clients}

:: The Dreadful Client-Repelling Mistake That Will Keep You Broke (and how to fix it) {Benefit: how to fix a mistake that repels clients}

:: What a Personal Development Book from 1959 Can Teach You About Writing Web Copy That Sells {Benefit: write web copy that sells}

Pretty straightforward, right?

Using Curiosity in Headlines

Google will return over 14 million results when you search on the phrase, “creating curiosity in copywriting,” which tells you what a powerful concept curiosity is in persuasive writing.

If you want to arouse curiosity, one way to do it is to ask a question your audience/readers/potential clients want the answer to. If you pose a question that’s aligned with your audience’s needs and desires, they’ll want to read on to find the answer.

Examples of headlines that evoke curiosity from my blog:

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

:: Can Copywriting Principles Work for Visual Artists?

:: Creatives: Are You Making These 3 Web Marketing Mistakes?

A site called Upworthy does the curiosity headline very effectively, by essentially creating that really annoying “clickbait” I personally don’t jive with. At all. But hey, it works for them.

You can read more about Upworthy and some background on why “curiosity-gap headlines” work here:

Upworthy’s Headlines Are Insufferable. Here’s Why You Click Anyway 

Follow Copywriter, Brilliant Marketer and Expert Business Strategist Dan Kennedy’s Lead

As a copywriter and marketer, I follow Dan Kennedy’s work, read his blog, subscribe to his email newsletter, and read the occasional book he’s written. And while he’s not for everybody, his advice works, if you feel comfortable following it.

In Chapter 3 of his book, The Ultimate Sales Letter: Attract New Customers, Boost Your Sales, Kennedy shares some fill-in-the-blank headline formulas you can use to get people to read your sales material. (He mentions the movie Gone in 60 Seconds and wisely says, “That’s what your recipients will be if you do not command their attention and literally drag them into reading.”)

Of course, the same formulas can be used to create headlines for your blog posts and subject lines for your emails as well.

(Caveat: If you spend any amount of time online you’ll recognize these formulas, because so many bloggers, copywriters and other business builders use them. For that reason I try to use them sparingly, because I don’t want my writing to sound like everyone else’s.)

Here are a few of Kennedy’s fill-in-the-blank headline formulas along with his examples of how to apply them:

Who Else Wants ___________?

Examples:

:: Who Else Wants a Hollywood Actress’ Figure?

:: Who Else Needs an Extra Hour Every Day?

How ___________ Made Me ___________

Examples:

:: How a “Fool Stunt” Made Me a Star Salesman

:: How Relocation to Tennessee Saved Our Company $1 Million a Year

___________ Ways to ___________

Examples:

:: 101 Ways to Increase New Patient Flow

:: 17 Ways to Slash Your Equipment Maintenance Costs

Two other formulas Kennedy mentions that I’ve personally used are the “Secrets of” and the “How To” headline.

Examples from my vault:

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

:: How to Create a Free Opt-in Offer Your Target Audience Will Love (and why you need to)

Check out three other effective headline formulas on Kennedy’s website here:

Three Killer Headline Formulas That Could Skyrocket Your Conversion Rates…

Use Specificity and Numbers

Let get real: we’re all crazy-busy trying to build our creative empires online, and the people we’re trying to attract are too. So you have to get their attention quickly.

One way to get straight to the benefit-driven point in your headlines and immediately hook your readers is to use specificity and numbers.

Why does this work so well?

Because specific details and numbers are more credible than general statements.

For example, which of these examples is more compelling and believable to you?

:: How to Make More Money Selling Digital Products

OR . . .

:: How I Made $6,557.68 Last Month Selling 2 Easy-to-Create Digital Guidebooks

And how about this . . .

:: Tips for Getting More Clients with Your Website

OR . . .

:: 7 Easy Website Tweaks You Can Implement Today That Will Double Your Client Enquiries

Here are two headline examples from my own vault that use specificity and numbers:

:: A Foolproof 6-Step System for Generating Dozens of Ideas for Blog Posts and Newsletters That Your Target Audience Wants to Read (in Under an Hour a Week)

:: How to Improve Your Small Business Website Content Today for Better Sales: A 7-Point Checklist

These kind of headlines reward the reader by letting them know the specific and compelling benefits of reading the article even before they’ve read a word of the body content. What a timesaver for your readers; they’re gonna love ya for it!

The Instant Clarity Headline Formula

The instant clarity headline looks like this:

End Result Customer Wants + Specific Period of Time + Address Objections

Obviously, to be able to make this formula work, you need to have a deep understanding of your customers and clients and their needs, wants and desires with respect to your offering.

I first learned this formula from a fellow called Dane Maxwell, and the example he uses to demonstrate the formula is this, from the real estate niche:

Recruit 2 Top Producing Agents Each Week Without Cold Calling Or Rejection

He goes on to share that using only the first item (end result) or the first and second together (end result + time frame) can also be effective, but using all three elements at once is the most powerful and persuasive.

The reason this formula works well is because it instantly telegraphs the benefits and results the reader (or client or customer) can achieve from reading the content or buying the product or service. It’s all about what important to the reader, client or customer.

So if you’re a wedding photographer for example, maybe your clients want candid, natural-looking shots in which they look relaxed and happy. And the time frame they want it in is their wedding day. As for objections, they may feel there’s no way you – someone they don’t know all that well – can capture their special moments without making them looking posed and stiff.

So using this formula, a wedding photographer could come up with something like this for a blog post headline:

:: The No-Fail Formula for Getting Candid, Natural-Looking Shots on Your Wedding Day Without Looking Posed, Uncomfortable or Stiff

Or let’s say an interior designer wants to write a blog post to help her ideal client – a busy young family on the go with a couple of small children and a dog – undertake a DIY design project to spruce up their home. The end result they want is a luxurious home that reflects their specific taste and design style, but it also has to be practical and easy to keep up. And they don’t want their lives to be disrupted in the process, so the DIY project can’t take more than a month.

So our interior designer could write a blog post with a headline like this:

:: From Chaos to Calm: 7 Simple Steps for Transforming Your Busy Young Family’s Home into an Oasis of Practical Luxury in 30 Days or Less

Now let’s talk about the “cringing with embarrassment” part. (or, How to Use Magazine Headlines and Book Chapter Titles to Craft Compelling Headlines Your Target Audience Will Love)

The headline formulas discussed above are time-tested and work well, which is why they’re used and shared so frequently. But sometimes the headlines that result can feel over the top for us sensitive creative types.

So one of the handy little tips I like to share with my clients when it comes to both getting ideas for content their target audience wants to read, AND brainstorming great headline ideas at the same time, is the magazine headline method and the book chapter title method.

Magazine Headlines

One of the best ways to practice writing headlines (and to spark ideas for blog posts your audience actually wants to read) is to grab a bunch of magazines in your niche and read through the headlines.

(I wrote more here about using the magazine method to find out what your target audience wants to read.)

Publishers do exhaustive research and spend thousands of dollars to figure out which stories will generate the strongest response among their readers, so why not piggyback on that research to gather headline ideas for your own blog or newsletter?

And to make it super-easy, you don’t even have to go to the bookstore, just sign onto Amazon online and go to the magazine section.

Once there, search for magazines in your industry or niche and read through headlines of 5-10 magazines there.

(Caveat: Don’t copy these headlines/ideas verbatim; instead, put your own creative spin on them, geared specifically to your business and your audience.)

For example, suppose I want to generate headline ideas for an interior design business. So I go through some magazines in the home design niche over on our good friend Amazon, and putting my own spin on what I find there, I come up with the following headline ideas:

:: How to Create the Perfect Beach House Décor on a Budget

:: How To Do Rustic Right

:: How to Create Big Style in a Small Space

:: Your Luxe Living Room: 12 Small Changes You Can Make Today for Big Impact

:: DIY Weekend Project: Create the Perfect Outdoor Retreat

From Magazine Headlines in the fashion industry, I came up with these headline ideas:

:: The Best _________ for Every Body Type (swimsuit, dress, etc.)

:: How to Look Like You Hired a Stylist (Even When You Didn’t)

:: Hot Trends and Amazing Accessories for Every Budget

:: 5 Minute Styling Tricks You Can Learn Today

:: The One Accessory Every Woman Needs Right Now

:: How to Dress for Your Body Type

Book Chapter Titles

You can use the same method to gather book chapter titles to use as headline templates. Here’s what you want to do here:

Search on your topic in the books category; choose a few books in your niche from the returned results.

Once you get to the list of books you want to check out, click on books with the “Look Inside!” option on the book cover image so you can get a look-see at what’s inside.

Once “inside” the book, cruise through the Table of Contents, specifically Chapter Titles of said book, and let the idea sparking begin!

(Again, you don’t want to copy these headlines/ideas verbatim; you want to use them to craft headlines that are geared specifically to your business and your audience.)

So let’s take our hypothetical interior design business and come up with some headline ideas from book chapter titles:

:: How to Decorate Like a Pro, Even If You’re Design-Challenged

:: 3 Investment Pieces Everyone Should Own: Which Pieces to Spend the Big Bucks On and Why

:: Home Design Basics: What You Need to Know Before You Get Started on Your Next DIY Project

:: The Ultimate Guide to the Best Decorating Resources Online

:: How to Build a Room Around a Signature Piece

Now let’s do the same for our fashion business:

:: How to Shop Like a Stylist

:: How to Go from Demure to Daring with a Signature Wow Piece

:: 3/5/7 or 2/4/6: Guide to Understanding Clothing Sizes

:: The One Must-Own Item That Complements Every Body Type

:: 10 Wardrobe Staples Every Woman Should Own

See, how easy was that? By spending just half an hour looking through Amazon, we came up with 21 headline ideas, not to mention, ideas for what to write about in the first place!

Now just for fun, if you’re completely stumped for a headline idea, head on over to Portent’s Content Idea Generator. Enter the subject you want to write about, and the generator will give you some headline ideas.

When I did this for the very article you’re reading right now, Portent suggested the following headlines:

:: Why Great Headlines Beat Peanut Butter on Pancakes

:: The 5 Best Resources for Magnetic Headlines

:: How Benefit Driven Headlines Are Making the World a Better Place

And my personal favorite:

:: Why Copywriting Will Change Your Life

Fun stuff, huh?

So there you have it. Tons of easy-to-implement headline templates you can start using today to get your content read, shared and acted upon. And for still more writing magnetic headlines goodness, check out the additional resources below.

Additional Resources

If you’re serious about learning to write great headlines, you can head over to Copyblogger at the link below and sign up to receive the free e-book, How to Write Magnetic Headlines. I’ve got it and it’s good. Seriously, you’ll find dozens of easy-to-implement headline templates in it, so go to town, my friend:

How to Write Magnetic Headlines

From Alexandra Franzen, here are 10 ways to write blog post titles, headlines & email subject lines that make people go, “whoa!”

And from Buffer, check out this in-depth post on how to write headlines for all the various kinds of content you’ll be writing as you build your online empire:

30+ Ultimate Headline Formulas for Tweets, Posts, Articles, and Emails

 

Comments? Questions? Other headline templates you’d like to share? Leave ‘em in the comments below!

[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.]

 

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 three examples: 

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!

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

magicofthinkingbig image

Wherein we talk about how to create killer copy for your small business website by painting a picture, and I give you an example of how it’s done . . .

So a few weeks ago I was at a friend’s house drinking wine, chatting, and having a gay old time, as the old-timers say.  On the way out the door, I stopped by her bookshelf – I’m a sucker for spying on what other people read – and spotted a book called The Magic of Thinking Big: Acquire the Secrets of Success . . . Achieve Everything You’ve Always Wanted, by David Schwartz, Ph.D.

(Even though this book is a classic published way back in 1959, I’d heard of it; in fact, it was on my mental list of “inspiring books to read soon.”  A mental list which, miraculously, hadn’t been erased by all the booze I drank on vacation last week, or I might never have remembered I wanted to read it.)

While the book is certainly worth reading so you too can train yourself to “harness the power of thinking big,” what I want to talk about today is a specific passage in the book that perfectly describes what your small business web copy needs to do if you want to attract your ideal clients and customers, and that thing is “paint a picture.”

This picture you’re painting with your copy is of your ideal customer’s ideal outcome, and if you do this well, these ideal customers will want to give you money for your products and services. 

Say, wouldn’t that be just swell?

Painting a Picture with Your Web Copy

On page 71 of the afore-mentioned book, the author tells us to “see what can be, not just what is.”  Which is a perfect instruction for small business copywriting.

He illustrates this concept by telling us about a successful realtor he knows.  This realtor is selling lots of unattractive rural property that other realtors in the same area can’t sell on a bet.  How does our realtor do this?  By selling the property not as it is, but as what it can be.

As the realtor states:  “I develop my entire sales plan around what the farm can be.  Simply telling the prospect, ‘The farm has XX acres of bottom land, and XX acres of woods, and is XX miles from town,’ doesn’t stir him up and make him want to buy it.  But when you show him a concrete plan for doing something with the farm, he’s just about sold.”

So here’s what successful realtor guy does:  He comes up with three possibilities for what the farm can be, and sells prospects on one of those three possibilities, fully fleshing out the benefits of owning this farm so the prospect can see in his mind’s eye exactly what an idyllic life he will have once the farm belongs to him, revenue-producing possibilities included.

Keep this technique in mind as you’re writing your own small business web copy.  You want to highlight the benefits of your product or service.  (“Sell a good night’s sleep, not the mattress,” as a famous copywriter once said.)  In our example here, the “XX acres of bottom land and XX acres of woods” are features, not benefits.  And while it may necessary to mention features at some point, remember “facts tell, benefits sell.”

The Realtor’s Painted Picture

In my favorite of the 3 scenarios, our realtor paints a picture of the farm converted into a riding stable.  Why does this work so well?  Because the farm is near a big city, which means access to a large, sophisticated market of eager end users of the riding stable. Our realtor knows that big city residents of a certain income level like to escape to the countryside to enjoy the great outdoors on weekends, and that many of those people like to ride horses.  All he has to do now is sell the potential buyer of the lot on this scenario.

So, instead of selling his prospect on XX acres of bottom land, and XX acres of woods, and is XX miles from town, he shares the compelling vision of a thriving riding stable business, with glossy horses and wholesome couples with disposable income riding off into bucolic nature with their picnic baskets full of expensive artisan cheeses and fine champagne. (OK, I made that last bit up – there is no picnic in the realtor’s painted picture, but there would be in mine.)

Using this method, our realtor says, “Now, when I talk with my prospects I won’t have to convince them that the farm is a good buy as it is.  I help them to see a picture of the farm changed into a money-making proposition.”

Smooth, right?   He is not selling the land, the dirt, the acreage – the features, in other words – but the full-blown dream of a horse farm with a riding stable and beautiful couples riding happily through the trees, which they will pay handsomely to do.

So whatever it is you sell, help your clients and customers see what can be for them, in their particular situation. Show them the payoff of using your product or services by selling them the solution, the results, the vision of what can be.

A Real World Example from the World of Interior Design

Now, let’s look at a real-world example of copy that does not paint a picture from the world of interior design.  Specifically, an interior design business’s “About” page.

Why an “About” page, you ask?  Well, here’s what I see over and over again on interior design websites and blogs:  designers using their About pages to list their education and design credentials, when what they should be doing instead is “painting a picture” of their ideal customer’s ideal outcome, while weaving in their credentials and experience.  Because even in your About page, you want to paint a picture of what you can do for your clients. 

This is a much more powerful way to connect with your prospects on an emotional level, which is key to driving more sales in your business.

(And because I would never want to hold anyone up to ridicule publicly, names and specific details have been changed to protect the innocent in the following example.)

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 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 style combines practicality with sophistication.

Where do I begin?

From a strictly writerly perspective, that copy commits a cardinal sin – that is, it tells rather than shows.  We want to know HOW Jane makes each project unique for each client – show us.  Also, it’s boring.  And thirdly, it talks about Jane, not the client.

When looking at this copy from a “painting a picture” perspective, you can see that, beyond being deadly dull and not really saying anything very useful to the client, it does not, in any way, shape or form, make an emotional connection with the reader/potential client and show them what can be by working with Jane.

Here’s how we might improve Jane’s copy:

You’re one-of-a-kind.  An iconoclast.  The “rules” you follow in life are your own.  Not everyone gets it. And you want your home to be a reflection of your unique perspective.  Your approach to life can’t be replicated on an assembly line, and your home’s interior shouldn’t be either.  

Hi, I’m Jane, an expert in telling your story, your way, through your home’s design. Together we’ll create a truly singular space that boldly expresses your one-of-a-kind personality and translates your unique sensibility into a home that could belong to no one but you. 

My approach to design is less about rigid rules and color schemes and more about translating your personal tastes and preferred lifestyle into a sophisticated oasis that is luxurious, yet livable. The result?  A home that gives you that “I-can’t-believe-I-get-to-live-here” feeling every time you walk in the door.

Jane could add more “painting a picture” copy here, then add information about her training and design credentials.  But she should lead with painting a picture

Now obviously, if I were writing this copy for an actual interior designer copy client, I would meet with said client to get the details about their target audience and their target audience’s needs, wishes and desires so that I could write copy specifically for that audience.

Here the copy I wrote was meant to appeal to a design client who has a strong vision, knows what they want, and wants to work collaboratively with a designer to achieve their dream home design.   The copy would be vastly different if “Jane the interior designer” only worked with Moms on a budget with young toddlers in tow, or a family with teenagers and a grand home on the beach, or empty nesters looking to pare down.  You get the idea.

So that, my friends, is how you paint a picture with your copy.  

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