Okay, let's be real. Yes, we all took classes in school that taught us the written English language, and some of us got decent grades in those classes. We've written letters to friends, and today we text people all day long. So why don't you just write that web page/blog/newsletter/marketing piece yourself?
Here's why. There are many types of writing, and each is unique in how it is designed to reach the intended audience. Creating a written piece that works is more than just a bunch of words. Creating a page for a website is very different from a press release, for example, let alone the creation of a social media campaign, script for a TV commercial or writing a memoir.
Writing is an art form. When you go to a museum, there are tons of paintings created by many artists from around the world and during different timeframes. How different are they from each other? Very different, right?
Let's say you narrow the selections down to just one artist. Do all the pieces look identical? If you can see when they were created, did the artist's style evolve? Do all the paintings evoke the same emotion from you? Writing is a lot like that.
Every writer's style is unique, and has a voice. Well-trained writers can take on the voice of their clients while still bringing their experience, training and wisdom to each and every piece created. Working with one writer rather than multiples means consistency in your branding, which your marketing department tells you is necessary.
Your human resources and accounting departments will tell you that having one person who knows your business, brand and style is cheaper and more productive than hiring writers off bid-style websites who may not even have command of the English language, At first it may seem cheaper, but it's not and can do more harm than good in the long run when there's no consistency in your style, brand or message.
A good writer will write solid copy. A better one will write copy that accomplishes your end result. The writer you want is one who can do both, AND help you create a writing plan that integrates with your marketing plan, business plan, or any other goals you have in mind.
Call me. Let's talk. Then turn me loose and see what I can do for you. Aren't you too busy to do all the writing that needs to be done?
So you have a brand new website. Good for you! It looks all nice, shiny and new. It has lots of bells and whistles to generate traffic to it, and to help you capture folks' emails when they stop by. That's all good. But what brings them back?
The catch phrase these days is that people buy from those they know, like and trust. So how do you get them to know, like and trust you? Through regular exposure. That exposure can be from seeing you on commercials, hearing you on radio, or by talking with you through your website. How do you do that? Your blog is the easiest way.
It would be great to write a daily blog, and have folks sign on to receive that every morning. That might work, depending on your business. But it might also turn off others if you hit their mailboxes day in and day out. So how often is enough?
That's truly up to you. If your business is all online, I'd say hitting the keys three times a week is not out of the question. If your website is just a calling card, it may be enough to blog once a week or even once a month.
So what are you going to talk about? And do it for how long??? Blogging needs to be done consistently, or the impression you give your clients is that your not dependable, or worse, out of business.
Write about things your clients care about that are related to what you do. I should never write about car maintenance, for instance, or you'd tune out. Blogging is the way to keep your clients coming back to your website, to see what's new, learn new things, and gain tips on how to better their businesses and themselves. Keep a running list of topics in a file, so when you have one of those writer's block moments, you already have choices. You can even write your blogs ahead of time and post them on a schedule. There are software programs that can automatically post in multiple locations for you.
So write away!
There was a time when people exchanged business cards with their names, telephone numbers and addresses on them, and that was all that was expected. That's not the case any longer.
Your clients now expect that you have a website. Your website though, is so much more than just your contact information. A website allows a potential client to snoop around your business, what you do, how you represent yourself, and discover other things about you that perhaps you didn't disclose when you first met. It also is a way for you to communicate quickly and in your own voice to clients and prospects, sell product, schedule appointments, teach classes, build brand loyalty, accept payments, and more. It literally has the potential to be your business office online.
Keep in mind the image you give through your website can make or break a potential client relationship. For instance, have you ever pulled up someone's website, and it's so cluttered and dark that it's hard to read? Perhaps it was a black background with red or grey lettering. Then when you start to read it, you discover lots of typographical errors strewn throughout and outdated information such as upcoming events that have already passed. To top it off, you go to the person's blog page, and they haven't posted anything in months or years. What impression do you have? If you're like me, it's that the person really doesn't care much about their business. In fact, I might even wonder if the business is actually a viable entity, given the outdated nature of the information on it.
Your website can also tell a potential client that you're able to keep up with technological advancements, be reactive to changing trends and more, based upon what's presented on your website and how. Consider a website that has video clips explaining a complicated design process for their product, or a website that includes a shopping cart, pop-up customer service during business hours, a scheduling calendar or members-only section.
Some businesses don't require lots of bells and whistles. So how do you know what your clients are expecting from you? How much website do you really need? Take a look at the websites for your competitors. What are they offering? Ask your current clients what features they'd like to see on your website. Then approach a web designer with your list in hand and ask for their insights.
Also consider whether you want or know how to maintain your website. There are certain platforms for websites that are much easier to update than others, and with less potential for crashing if you do something wrong. If you want to update your site frequently but you choose a platform that requires someone else to make the changes, find out what it will cost to have those changes made, and how quickly they can be done. It may be cost-prohibitive for you. Also, some larger web developing companies are scheduling appointments months in advance, meaning that posting last-minute deals, coupons and openings may not be possible.
Many budding entrepreneurs start out doing all aspects of their business, from initial start-up functions such as business plan writing, marketing, sales, filling orders, and then bookkeeping and billing. In the beginning, this may be necessary, as money may be tight and an extra pair of hands just aren't available.
But there does come a time when the small business owner needs to consider the value of their time. For instance, if you're charging $125 an hour for your services, does it really make sense for you to be doing something you could pay someone else $25 an hour to do? Fiscally, aren't you losing $100 an hour by doing it yourself? Perhaps you are best served to hire those tasks out so you can spend more billable hours in front of your clients than in the office, sorting your emails or answering telephones.
The beauty of technology today is that many administrative functions can be done from anywhere. Telephones can be transferred to ring at someone else's location. Newsletters can be written, websites updated, blogs generated, billing, and so much more can be done and shared virtually, many in real time thanks to the cloud.
But how do you choose the perfect virtual assistant for you? I would ask the following:
1. Are there software packages you need them to be familiar with?
2. If they're not familiar with those packages, will they charge you to learn them?
3. How available are they to take your projects on?
4. Can you see samples of their work or talk to references?
Ultimately you want to find someone you feel comfortable working with, who offers great customer service, communicates well, isn't afraid to ask questions to clarify tasks if needed, and offers top quality at a good value.
I also recommend that you consider someone who has the capacity to grow with your needs, meaning someone who can offer more services than you actually need currently. That way you don't find yourself having to switch to someone new after you've developed a strong relationship with someone you love and trust.
The addage of 'you only get one chance to make a good first impression' is still true today. What's new, is that it's become even more important to pay attention to the minute details than ever before. People draw impressions at a lightning speed today, compared to just 10 years ago.
When you review someone's website, do you notice if there are a lot of typographical errors? Do you notice if the blog hasn't been added to on a regular basis for quite some time? How about if you notice outdated material from two years ago? What's your reaction? I know that for me, I ask myself if this company truly cares about their image, doing a good job, and whether they would take the same kind of care of me. When I see a website that hasn't been updated in a while, I even question whether they're still in business.
As a business leader, it can be difficult to take the time to create blogs, post them, or to write the content for an entire website. So don't! Hire someone who is a prolific writer, skilled in marketing messages and has an eye for details. You won't be sorry.
Sure, you can buy advertising in newspapers, TV, magazines and on the radio. But it's so expensive! What if you could get your message out for free? Hmmm.... do I have your attention now?
After publishing my first book, I did over 1200 radio interviews around the country, promoting my book. I became very good at getting the message out that I had a message they should want to share with their listeners.
I also learned how to take what I did and make it relevant to current events. As a result, I became known as an expert in my field, and started receiving phone calls from producers wanting to schedule interviews with me.
I can help you do this too. Call me!
We all hate spam. Even spammers hate receiving spam. That's why the Federal Trade Commission established the CAN-SPAM Act. Do you know what's required of you before you hit the send button on your latest newsletter/email blast? The regulations stipulate that you must include a way for someone to opt out of receiving your messages, that your Subject line is not misleading, that you give your physical address in the email, and that you also identify clearly in your message that it's an advertisement, among other things. Penalties can run as high as $40,654 PER SEPARATE EMAIL if you are found to be non-compliant.
Here's a link to the FTC's compliance guidelines.
There's no shame to admit you're not an expert at everything. Neither am I. Nor is it a weakness to say you just don't have time to do everything as fast as you'd like to get them done. We are, after all, only human. In addition, humans are now pushing ourselves by automating many functions that back work up behind us, while we still process certain parts at human pace - not machine pace.
So why drive yourself or your staff crazy? Why generate additional stress, anxiety and pressure, while setting yourself and/or your staff up to fail? DON'T! Research shows that employees are far more productive when they can operate at a reasonable pace without being overworked, and with appropriate breaks. The work still comes, so there needs to be another solution. There is.
Hire out a portion of the workload. Choose something that's mundane, like form letter requests for information, appointment confirmation calls, holiday or thank you cards, or digital transcription. It frees you or your staff up to do what is more important or requires a different level of knowledge. Or in the alternative, are there special projects that can be farmed out entirely, such as planning a sales meeting or special event; public relations functions such as writing and releasing press releases; generating newsletters; or a ghost writing project, blogging or updating your website?
Summer can be a difficult time with vacations, time off needed for children's appointments, etc. Use a virtual assistant to help with the ebb and flow of your business! We're just a phone call away...
When you hire someone to blog for you, it's important to have them write in a style and voice that represents your brand. They need to take on your persona - making the world believe you wrote it, but sometimes better than you could or would have.
For instance, are you dyslexic but have a strong message to be heard? Having someone who can take that message and polish it for you will help you appear stronger in your own voice.
Perhaps you just don't have enough time to write your blog posts. Having someone who can step into your industry and generate content on a regular basis gives you the ability to establish yourself as an expert in your field and maintain the appearance of being on top of your game with fresh website content, social media posts and more.
Here's an example of a column I write on a regular basis for a networking magazine in the Las Vegas Valley. The target market is entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and networking professionals. Enjoy!
There truly is an art to sales and marketing, along with science and finesse. Those who are truly good at it, do so with folks believing they've made a buying decision rather than someone having sold something to them. Yet it is clear, if the message is not received, it will not be heard. So how does one create marketing materials; press releases; generate social media blogs that are interesting, and motivate someone to pick up a phone to call? How does one become an expert in generating sales and marketing content when their business is something else entirely?
The answer: you don't.
Over more than 30 years (OMG, do I have to admit that?), I have written more sales and marketing content than I care to admit. I still do. I author a weekly column for a magazine that is actually building my reputation as an author and expert in my field. I trademarked my sales techniques and published a book on how to sell exponentially in the year 2000. I taught sales techniques professionally, and was heard on many radio stations around the country, talking about how to do it respectfully.
Now I bring all that experience to bear for my clients. I write the sales, marketing and public relations content so you don't have to become an expert at it, in addition to everything else you do. No more staying up all night, writing and re-writing something, then sending it out, only to have little or no response. I know how to spell. I have a handle on grammar. I know the difference between a verb, adverb and prepositional phrase. Heck, I can diagram a sentence for you if you really want to test me!
The point is, I make my living writing content on behalf of my clients as well as for myself. I can do it better and faster than most, which gives my clients the ability to focus on doing what they do best as well: calling me to have me write content for them. Then they can be content to focus on other things.
Ronnie Roll is a published author, regular columnist, and entrepreneur that provides support services that allow business owners to do what they do best - run their businesses.