Archive for the ‘How To’s’ Category

How to Make Your Website Copy Memorable

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

The hardest part of writing website copy is figuring out how to make it memorable and stand out from the competition.  Sure, each business has their own flavor of who they work with and how they do what they do but let’s face it, most of us are in industries with fairly standard problems and solutions. As a result, it’s easy to fall into using the same language and making the same points as your competition.

When you don’t take the time to dig deep and write copy that really connects with your reader, your website winds up bland. It doesn’t make a lasting impression and you waste all that work you did to get visitors to your website. So, how do you cover the same ground as your competition and make it unique?

Understand the Heart and Soul of Your Audience

There are no easy rules to writing fresh copy. One thing I can say definitely is that if you’re going to have a chance of writing fresh copy, you have to REALLY get into the heart and soul of your target markets and understand the problem from their perspective.

You can go a long way to getting inside your target market’s head by understanding three things about them:

Who are they geographically?

If your business is location-specific, get clear on where your target markets live, work and play and where they might need your services. If you have an internet based business like I do, you still need to ask yourself “Where does my target market hang
out?” Find out what websites they visit, what search phrases they use and what newsletters and blogs they read.

Who are they demographically?

What industries do they work in? How old are they? Are they male or female? Do they have children? How much money do they make? What kind of car do they drive? The questions can go on and on. The more questions you can answer about them, the better able you will be to speak to their specific needs.

Who are they psychographically?

This is where the rubber really hits the road! When you understand the psychographics of your target markets, you are inside their head. You understand how they perceive what they need, how they do business, what they are looking for and their hopes and dreams. You understand what words they use to describe the problems you can solve which is key to speaking their language and making a lasting impression.

Keep in mind that you probably have more than one target market. If that’s the case, break them down into separate groups. Get as specific as possible!

If You Try to Appeal to Everyone, You’ll Appeal to No One

Often when I challenge clients to more specifically describe the problems of their clients, they worry they will exclude someone and turn away business. I promise, you won’t be turning away business because your website is too specific. You are much more
likely to be turning away business because your website is too general.

The problem with trying to be all-inclusive is that your website copy becomes generic and doesn’t leave an impression at all. You become one of the pack and run the risk of being seen as a commodity. When people buy a commodity, they make their decision primarily on price. To earn more than the minimum, you have to stand out from the pack.

When you thoroughly understand your target markets and speak to their unique situation, your website copy leaves a lasting impression. The people you want to work with come away from your website thinking “Wow! They really understand what I need and have a solution for me.” Some website visitors won’t have that reaction. And you know what? That’s okay. They’re probably not your target market anyway.

You Are the Only One Who Cares About Your Process

When asked “What do you do?” most of us make the mistake of answering with details about the systems, theories and processes we use to help our clients. I know it sounds harsh but it’s true: only you care about how you do what you do. Very few of your prospects care about the systems and processes you use to get your clients from point A to point B. They want to know that you understand their problem, that you have a solution to their problem and that they will get good results. Don’t make this mistake when writing your website.

When writing your service pages and your home page, the structure should be:

Problem —› Solution —› Results & Benefits

Define the Problem

When you’ve done the work of getting inside the head of your target markets, you become very clear on what their problems are. If you are still struggling to define specific problems, reflect back on clients you enjoyed working with and clients you were able to
get results.

Be sure to define the problem as your prospects see it not as you see it. There are times when you know that the presenting problem is different than the real-underlying problem. It’s okay to talk about the underlying problem but first you must discuss the problem as your prospects see it so they know you understand.

Describe the Solution

This is the only place you should go into any detail about how you do what you do. In the first draft, go for it. Write about how you do what you do to your heart’s content. Get it out of your system. Then go back and cut out anything that is not absolutely necessary to linking the problem to the results and benefits.

Stay away from technical jargon and write in plain English. This does not mean you are talking down to your reader; you are meeting them at their level. Include answers to questions you are typically asked such as how long the process takes, who needs to participate and what will be asked of them.

Go into Detail about Results & Benefits

I saw Alan Weiss of Million Dollar Consulting fame speak a few months ago and he made the point that when you talk about what you do in terms of results and benefits, you can set your price. Ultimately, your clients are buying results so be able to talk in detail about the results they will realize from working with you.

I recommend that you practice answering the question “What do you do?” with your version of “I get results for my clients.” When you describe a result or benefit they want, it will intrigue them to move the conversation forward. This is true in face-to-face networking and on your website.

Start with Case Studies

Most people start with their home page which is a top-down approach. Instead, I suggest a bottom-up approach by starting with case studies. First, it’s a much easier and less daunting way to get started. Second, people are much more likely to remember stories than they are claims of greatness. Keep in mind the old writing advice, “Show. Don’t tell.”  What this means is, instead of saying “I’m a creative problem solver.” Tell a story about a time when you did some creative problem solving.

I recommend start by writing about specific clients you liked working with, clients you got great results for and clients who represent more of the types of clients you want to attract. If your business is new or you’re changing directions, create a composite case study or write about a situation you’d like to have.  Just make sure it’s true in spirit if not entirely in fact.  I would never advocate lying about what you can do but a bit of creative license is okay.

Writing case studies will help you identify specific details about your target markets. It will make writing about problem/solution/results and benefits much easier. Ultimately, it will help you make website text stand out from the competition.

When you REALLY get inside the head of your target markets; write about problems, solutions, results and benefits; and start by telling stories; you will create memorable copy that stands our from the competition.

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How to Set Up Google Alerts and Use Them for Internet Research

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Typically, when we want to use the internet for research, we go to Google, type in a search term, and browse through the results. But what if you want to see the latest developments about a topic on a regular basis? You would have to remember to do the search every day, or every week, then sift through pages of results to find the new stuff. This could take hours!

 

That’s where Google Alerts comes in. Google Alerts enable you to put the internet research process on autopilot and have the latest search results show up in your email inbox or in your Google Reader feed. With Google Alerts you can do things like:

  • Stay on top of trends in your industry
  • See who’s talking/writing about a particular topic
  • Monitor what people are saying about your company online
  • Keep track of what your competition is doing online

 

Although you aren’t required to have an account with Google to set up an Alert, setting up Alerts through your Google account makes them easier to manage. If you use Gmail, Google Reader, Google Plus, or any of the other dozens of Google services, you already have a Google account. If you don’t have a Google account, this video shows you how to set up a Google account.

 

Step #1: Log into Your Google Account

To set up a Google Alert, go to http://www.google.com/alerts.

Click on “Sign In” in the upper right hand corner.

Google Alert login screen

Enter your Google account email address and password, then click the blue “Sign In” box.

Google Alert login screen

 

Step #2: Set Up Your Search Query

After you login, you are taken to a dashboard listing all your alerts. To create a new alert, click on the red “Create a New Alert” button at the bottom of your list. (of course, if you haven’t set up an Alert yet, there won’t be a list.)

Setting up Google Alerts

Enter the search term you want to be notified about. In this case I have entered “content strategy” (a topic I need to stay educated about for my business). Once I enter my search query, to the right Google displays an example of what my Google Alert will look like.

Setting up Google Alerts

Bright Idea: Make your search more accurate by using quotes.

Did you notice how I put quotes around my search query? I did that because it tells Google, “I am looking for these words in this order.” If I didn’t use quotes, Google would show me every web page that had the words “content” and “strategy” anywhere on the page. Ugh! That’s a lot to search through when I know I mean “content strategy.”

 

Click here for a PDF version of “How to Set Up a Google Alert.”

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HARO Part II: 5 Not So Well Known Uses for HARO

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

You’ve probably read an article in a magazine or seen a news segment on TV that featured a company similar to yours and wondered “How’d they get that spot?”  They got that spot because they came to the attention of the right journalist.

It used to be that if you wanted to get featured in a national magazine or on TV, you had to spend several thousands of dollars on a public relations firm.  Since the vast majority of small businesses don’t have that kind of marketing budget, it seems like the only way to connect with journalists is to bump into them in line at the grocery store.

That’s where Help a Reporter Out comes in. Help a Reporter out (HARO for short) connects you with journalists writing on your area of expertise. In my last blog post, I described how HARO works. In this blog post, I will show you some of the other ways to use HARO.

1. Forward HARO Requests to Clients and Colleagues

I’m a natural born Connector. I love to put people in touch with other people and resources I think they’d like to know about. So, when I come across a query I think a client or colleague would be a good fit for, I send it to them.  Forwarding HARO queries shows existing people that you are thinking about them and are looking out for their best interest.

2.  Get More Work without Asking for It

Sending HARO requests to non-active client’s has gotten me more work because often their reply is something like “Thanks for sending this. By the way, I meant to contact you about a new project I’ve been thinking about.”

3.  Connect with Experts Who Don’t Have Time for You

I’m a big fan of Jill Konrath and her book “Selling to Big Companies.”  In it she shows you how to sell to people who are so busy they are looking for a reason to blow you off. I don’t know Jill but I recently came across a couple of HARO queries on that topic and forwarded them to her. I got a nice note back from Jill thanking me for them and encouraging me to keep sending them.  You bet I will! And one of these days, I’m going to screw up my nerve and ask her if she would feature my SEO ebook on her blog.

4. Learn Who’s Looking for Content

A marketing strategy  I often recommend to folks is to figure out what experts your customers are paying attention to, read their blog and comment on them. The hard part of that strategy is discovering new  blogs.  Many times, if a HARO source is not a well known TV program or newspaper they will list their URL in the query.  I’ve learned about several business related blogs that I’m now following.  The added benefit of using this strategy  is that you know these blogs are looking for content. Once you get a sense of the content they publish, you could approach them about writing a guest post.

Here’s a list of some of the websites and blogs I’ve recently discovered via HARO:

http://insidesocialmedia.tv/

http://www.shoestringventure.com/

http://www.theladders.com/

http://businessbewareradioshow.com/

http://entreprenette.com/

http://www.writingthatworks.com/

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/

One in particular I think you ought to make note of is Blog Talk Radio which is a website that aggregates hundreds of internet radio shows. I recommend that you search the site for internet radio shows about your areas of expertise and start following them.

5. Hey You’re a journalist too!

Content makes the internet go ’round. But it’s hard to think of something new to say on a regular basis. Interviewing experts or having a guest blogger are a couple of ways to get fresh content and build new relationships. So go ahead a post a query. When you do this, you’ll get a bunch of new visitors to your website so make sure it’s spiffed up before company comes over!

Have you got another use for HARO or a HARO success story? We’d love to hear about it!

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How to Use HARO for Publicity & More! (Part I)

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Getting mentioned in the right publication can mean the difference between living hand to mouth and having more work than you can handle. But, public relations is expensive.HAROSourcing journalists who write about your industry, figuring out what they want to hear and then pitching them takes a lot of work. An experienced PR firm will cost you thousands of dollars a month which is a higher entry point than most small businesses can afford. But! There is a solution. Helpareporter.com is a publicity resource every small business can use.

Help a Reporter Out, commonly known as HARO, is referral service that puts journalists in touch with sources. HARO was started as a Facebook Group by PR guru Peter Shankman in November, 2007. It has since grown to its own website with almost 30,000 journalists and writers submitting over 200 queries a day to over 100,000 sources. HARO was recently purchased by software company Vocus. On his blog, Peter Shankman assures us that HARO will remain a free service and that “We’ll have a kick-ass infrastructure, which will allow us to grow HARO better than ever before. Different countries. More lists. Breaking news queries! You name it. It’s gonna be an AMAZING ride.”

HARO is free but it does require a time commitment. When you sign up as a news source, you get 3 emails a day with a couple of dozen queries in each one. Although the subject line of each HARO email starts with [HARO] which is designed to make them easy to filter into a separate folder, many of the requests are time sensitive so it’s best read them as soon as possible.

How can HARO afford to be free? Each HARO email starts with a paid advertisement about a product or service. Advertising in the masthead of HARO costs $1500. So at 3 emails a day, $4500 a day for a service that is largely automated is a pretty nice passive income stream.

After the masthead, there is a list of the latest queries by industry including:
Biotech and Healthcare
Business and Finance
Education
General
High Tech
Lifestyle and Fitness
Public Policy and Government
Travel

The title of each query contains a one line description and the media outlet. Media outlets can include major print publications, well known websites and blogs, book authors and lesser known websites, blogs and social networks. If the source says “Anonymous” you’re probably dealing with a major news outlet like the Wall Street Journal or Good Morning America.

When you click on a item in the list, you are taken to the expanded description of the query which includes the journalist’s name (unless anonymous), the publication, the due date and a brief description (50 – 100) words of what they are looking for. The description also included an anonymized email address where you can send your reply.

When you come across a query you think you’d be a good source for (and I’m confident you eventually will), keep in mind they are probably getting dozens of not hundreds of responses. If they don’t get back to you don’t take it personally. Also, keep your replies short and to the point. DO NOT promote your products or services. Focus on what you know and how you can help them. This is definitely one of those situations where self-promotion will blow up in your face.

In my next post about HARO, I will show you some other ways I use HARO to find resources and build relationships online.

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How to View a Web Page’s Source Code

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Internet marketing touches on topics far and wide.  Many of those topics require a simple explanation.  Often, I’ve found myself saying “I should write down those directions.”

Source code is a valuable source of information in competition research. This quick guide shows you how to view the source code of a web page. How to view source code is the one topic that comes up over and over again. So I finally got a clue and created easy to follow directions for finding source code. (Jeez! Only took 2 years!)

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