Here’s Why Your Business Copy Sucks

Maybe you’re a business owner, startup, entrepreneur, or solopreneur who has been DIY-ing your copy. You’re writing your own blog posts, putting together your web page copy by yourself, and drafting your own emails. And you’re frustrated because you aren’t seeing results, nothing has gone viral, and your copy isn’t converting.

Why?

Because your copy sucks. Plain and simple. Your copy sucks, and it’s joined the ranks of crappy copy all over the internet.

Too many business owners, startups, entrepreneurs, etc. neglect their copy, and I get it. I know why you do it. It’s annoying to sit and write things, especially if you’re not a fan of writing, and even if you do enjoy writing, that doesn’t mean you’re good at it (#harshtruth). Add on to this the fact that quality copywriters are not cheap, and you may be wondering “what the heck do I DO about my crappy copy”?

I see you. I wrote this post for you because you shouldn’t have crappy copy. Because I want to see crappy copy die. Because I know that crappy copy could very well be the thing that’s holding your business back from true success.

A note before we start

Notice that my reasoning/examples here are quite broad. Your specific copy goals and needs are absolutely dependent on you, your company, your audience, the type of copy you’re writing, and the delivery system.

Also, if you’re confused about what I mean when I say “copy” it’s a term I use to refer to any written communications with your customers. This could be blog posts or articles, webpages or landing pages, sales funnels, emails, newsletters, social media posts, marketing materials, advertisements, etc.

I give detailed reports, solutions, and strategies to my consulting clients, however, even these free guidelines can help you overcome some crappy copy.

Okay, we’re diving in. Take notes.

Here’s why your business copy sucks

You don’t have copy goals

It’s not enough to put something out into the dark, cold void that is the internet and hope for the best. In fact, you’re wasting your time and resources by creating copy with no purpose. Copy for copy’’s sake is not going to work. Not for you, your audience, or your business. That’s why you need to establish copy goals.

Here are some questions you need to ask before you set copy goals:

  1. What is this copy going to do for you, your audience, and your business? Not sure? Here are some ideas:
  • Inform
  • Educate
  • Entertain
  • Build credibility
  • Establish you/your business as the industry expert (or, the go-to)
  • Build visibility
  • Grow your audience
  1. What action do you want readers to take after they get their eyeballs on your copy?
    Do you want them to call you, share your post, buy a product or service? Or do you want them to learn something new, have an emotional reaction, or think “hey, this person knows what they’re talking about”? It can be more than one of these options, or any other option you dream up.

  2. Who is going to write this copy?
    Do you employ an SME (subject-matter expert) who will produce this copy for you? Are you going to write it yourself? Are you going to hire out a copywriter to do it for you? (Please, for the love of god, you get what you pay for. Remember that.)

  3. Where will this be published?
    Is this copy for your website, blog, newsletter, printed materials? Each publishing avenue will garner subtly different goals for the copy you produce.

You don’t know what you’re talking about

Fake it ‘til you make it isn’t great advice, generally, but it’s even less helpful when it comes to writing copy. Very, very few writers can fake expertise. “But wait”, you shout at the screen, flummoxed and intrigued, “Morgan, writers can’t know all the things!” I know. We can’t. We try. And we brag. But we can’t.

That’s why if you find yourself writing about a topic you don’t know well, find a SME (Subject Matter Expert) and ask them a billion questions. Do your research. Learn as much as you can. Have the SME review the written materials before you publish them to make sure they’re coherent. Then you can write with authority.

This is a lesson I learned during my years of corporate technical writing. In fact, I spent months and months writing installation guides for Fire Alarm Control Panels. I didn’t know how to install those things. Wires are scary. But I had access to people who had been doing it for 30 years, asked for hands-on training and took weeks worth of classes (that certified electricians pay thousands of dollars to take) and had the SME’s review everything I wrote before it went out to the customers.

That’s how you write with authority, even if you aren’t an expert. So, if you choose to (or are forced to) produce copy for your business in areas that you aren’t 100% on, you know what to do.

You don’t know who you’re talking to

If you don’t know your audience (and you don’t have copy goals) your copy is going to feel disjointed and weird. One week you’ll write an article that’s perfect for potential customers and the next you’ll write one perfect for other experts in your field.

That non-strategy is going to make it really difficult for your audience to find you, trust you, follow you, and engage with you.

Your copy is self-serving

Your business copy doesn’t have to be altruistic, and you certainly don’t have to avoid selling your product or service, but copy that is totally self-serving is transparent, and it’s a big turn off for your audience.

Think of your copy like an extension of your customer service department. Your copy should work to meet the needs of your customers first, and meet your needs second. This is a big principle in Content Marketing (I’ll discuss this more at a later date) but it applies to all of the copy your business produces.

Cut sheets inform. User manuals educate. Marketing materials educate. Blog posts and articles can entertain, inform, educate, etc. Webpage copy answers questions. See? It’s about the customer. Yes, this consistently engaging, quality content will put your business in a position of authority, will build trust, and will ultimately generate more revenue, but that’s all second thoughts to customer service.

Your copy isn’t accessible

When we talk about levels of writing, we’re talking about the language you use to communicate ideas to your audience. You’ll write differently for copy that is targeted at high-school seniors than you would copy that’s targeted at Ph.D. students. The same goes for different levels of industry.

Unless your audience is other experts in your field, you’ll have to stay away from jargon and industry slang. (Did you notice that I took the time to define what I meant by “copy”? That’s because I’m not writing to other copywriters; I’m writing to business owners and entrepreneurs.)

Likewise, if your copy doesn’t have a logical flow, or a point, you’ll lose people quickly. No one wants to read a disjointed rant on the correct screw size to use for table benches.

Okay, there are a lot of ways copy can suck. But what makes good copy?

Here’s what good copy does

  1. It communicates ideas clearly, avoiding jargon, hyperbole, and illogical organization.
  2. It makes connections that may not be obvious.
  3. It converts potential customers to paying customers.
  4. It resonates with (or provides value to) readers.
  5. It listens to customers (not your competitors).
  6. It recognizes and solves unique problems for your readers.
  7. It portrays value.
  8. It gets to the point (brevity, yo), when appropriate, and gives more details when needed.
  9. It quantifies when it can.

Conclusion

There you go, here’s a list of some of the reasons your business copy sucks. Fortunately, crappy copy isn’t an incurable disease. If you need extra help creating a content strategy, or creating killer copy that doesn’t suck, reach out to me and I’ll be happy to help your business figure it out.

 

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What to Include in a Welcome Packet

Why Welcome Packets are Essential to your Service-Based Business.

How to welcome new clients

If you work with clients in any capacity you must have some sort of onboarding process. Typically, a client finds you (or you them), you chat about your respective needs and wants, a contract is signed, and money is exchanged. But, then what happens?

Are your clients left in the dark waiting to hear from you? Do you scramble to fit projects in and communicate timelines to your clients? Are they frequently asking you the same questions over and over again? I thought so. You, my friend, can benefit from a Welcome Packet.

And when I say you can benefit from a Welcome Packet, what I really mean is “your clients will benefit from a Welcome Packet”. If your clients win, you win.

So, what is a Welcome Packet?

Essentially, a Welcome Packet just serves to make your clients feel special, informed, prepared, and, you guessed it; welcome. Think of it as the honeymoon phase of your client — service-provider relationship. You need to make a big show of how awesome it is that they’re onboard! It’s awesome! (Just make sure you don’t mess it all up by failing in customer service later on… more on that subject in a future article).

What kind of businesses can benefit from a Welcome Packet?

Any business that provides services to a client will benefit from a Welcome Packet. Of course, these will look and feel very different depending on your industry and the types of service you provide. Welcome Packets for creative services (writing, design, art, photography, videography) will have a different tone and design than WP’s for business services (law, accounting, coaching, consulting, etc.)

What do I need to include in each packet?

You’ll need to include anything and everything your client needs to tackle the project. This can include, but is not limited to:

  • A copy of the contract you both signed (if you don’t have a contract, get one NOW)
  • A welcome letter
  • A projected timeline or write-up of the process
  • A collection of FAQ’s (with answers, of course)
  • Your contact info (include social media networks) and work hours
  • A list of what you need from them to start the project (this could include questions for your clients, documents you need, passwords, whatever.)

Why does my client need one of these?

If you’ve ever been a client working with someone on a big project, you probably remember being pretty excited to start, maybe unclear of the process, and definitely thinking about the money you invested (hoping it wasn’t a waste). You don’t want your client to EVER feel like you don’t care about them or their needs, or that you’re just too aloof to help them. Plus, you don’t want them to doubt that their investment was worth it.

That’s why you want to clearly communicate all of the things they need to know, and the Welcome Packet is the easiest, most concise, prettiest way to do it. Your client will forget what you tell them, or they’ll skim over that novel-length email you wrote (hi, I’m guilty of this). But a well-designed Welcome Packet will make sure they have all of the info they need in one place, and it will encourage them to keep turning pages.

Cool. Now, can I see some examples?

I’ve got you, boo. Pinterest is a great resource for Welcome Packets for creatives. There are a ton of cute designs for photographers, especially, but don’t get frustrated if you’re not a photographer. You can still see what’s included in other packets and get ideas for your own.

Here’s a Pinterest board I created dedicated to the topic (because Pinterest, duh).

Conclusion

If you’re not yet using a Welcome Packet, are you going to start? Do you need any help brainstorming ideas or designs? I’d love to help you make a plan for creating your Welcome Packet. This will revolutionize your onboarding process, and it will “wow” your clients right out of the gate.
If you know of any gorgeous packet designs or templates, can you let me know? I’d love to collect them on the Pinterest board so they’re all in one place.

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How to Practice Creativity

10 tips to help you think outside the box

10 tips for thinking outside the box, even if you think you aren't creative.

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m just not creative.” Maybe you’ve been guilty of saying that about yourself. Well, I call bullshit on that. Maybe you’re not particularly creative right this second, but there’s no reason you can’t be. Why? Because creativity comes with practice. Yup. I said it. You have to practice creativity.

You’re probably thinking, “Why do I need to worry about creativity?” or maybe, “creativity doesn’t apply to my business or career”. Let’s set a couple of things straight, shall we?

  1. Creativity applies to every business and career. Think about it. If you’re not solving problems creatively, or using creativity to develop new products or services, you’re making yourself obsolete.
  2. Creativity does not equal artistic. I know lots of people think of painting or drawing or creating music when they think of creativity. But that’s a limited perspective. Creativity applies to the use of imagination or original ideas.
  3. If you think of any successful business or entrepreneur in the last 20 years, what do they have in common? Usually, they approached a problem, industry, or technology creatively. In other words, they were innovative.

According to this article by Business News Daily, “companies that actively foster creative thinking outperform their rivals in revenue growth, market share, and competitive leadership, according to the report.”

Bottom line, no matter your industry, business model, or expertise, creativity is essential to your success.

So, what do you do if you aren’t creative?

Well, as established, I call bullshit on you not being creative. You’re just rusty. I pretty firmly believe that creativity is an inherent trait of most humans, and all it takes is a little practice to get it out. (Creativity was probably stamped out of you at one point… )

Creativity is intelligence having fun. – Albert Einstein

As a creative business owner, I’ve found that my creativity and ability to look at things differently waxes and wanes with my practice of it. When I’ve taken day jobs to help pay the bills while I’m building my own business, my creativity frequently decreases. My brain gets foggy, I find it hard to write and think, and it’s frustrating as all get-out. BUT, it always comes back when I take the time to practice.

Great. How do I practice creativity?

I’m so glad you asked! I’ve compiled some tips from my own personal practice and from the practice of other creatives I know. You can try to implement some or all of these into your creative practice. Just be consistent and go easy on yourself.

10 Tips for Practicing Creativity

  1. Read more fictionI know, lots of entrepreneurs and business owners hate this idea, but you have to read more fiction. Self-help books are great. Non-fiction is great, but it doesn’t always force you to use your imagination, and imagination is key to creativity.If it’s easier, get some audiobooks and just try to imagine the scenes or the what the characters look like. This just helps your brain start working (plus, reading is cool).
  2. BrainstormI’m talking grade-school style spider webs and shit. Or, make tons of lists. The key here is that you just let your brain go without checking it. We love to stop ourselves when an idea or thought isn’t practical or logical or doable. That stifles creativity.I recommend using actual pen and paper, but if you think faster than you can write, then a Google Doc works just as well. Just set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes, and choose a broad umbrella topic (i.e. Customer Satisfaction). Then, dump everything out of your brain onto paper. It can be ideas about how to increase customer satisfaction, how to measure it, incentive programs, internal training, whatever. Don’t censor yourself, and don’t judge yourself.

    I do stuff like this a lot (probably once a day at least) and I’ve come up with some of my best ideas while dumping things onto paper.

  3. Try connecting unrelated topicsI know this seems weird, but it honestly does help. I do this a lot for storytelling, but it applies to any form of creativity.Choose 2 seemingly unrelated topics (i.e. unicorns and trains). Now, come up with a series of sentences or ideas that can connect the two (no, you can’t just jump to “a unicorn is riding a train”). I’m forcing you to storyboard this thing. Try to come up with 5 or 6 separate sentences that will be able to creatively connect the unicorn to the train. It can, will be, and should be nonsensical at first.
  4. Be comfortable with suckingI know. It’s hard. Personally, I find it very easy to quit when I’m not automatically good at something. In fact, I struggle with that a lot. It’s something I have to continually work on.Like my friends in the military say, “embrace the suck”. You are probably going to be so bad at this at first. And that’s okay. We forget because we’re humans, but we were bad at everything before we got good at it. Walking? We sucked. Talking? We sucked.
  5. Schedule it and stick to itAs with any practice, you need to set aside time to do it and be consistent. You don’t have to devote hours a day to your creativity practice, but starting with 15-20 minutes daily is a good idea.
  6. Don’t compare yourself to othersThis is the fastest way to discourage yourself and give up. Comparing yourself to other people (especially other people who are years ahead of you in their career or creative practice) doesn’t do you any good. It’s always a good idea to keep an ear to the ground and be aware of what people are doing around you, but berating yourself because you aren’t exactly like X person is senseless. Don’t do it.
  7. Trust your instinctsIf you’re drawn to a specific niche, technology, style, or thought, trust that. Take that road and see where it goes. It doesn’t always go somewhere useful, but it may lead you to a life-changing realization.
  8. Be comfortable with evolutionI’m not talking Darwinism, here (see what I did there? I’m so funny…) Being creative will lead you to a lot of ideas and techniques and solutions. And, often, you’ll find yourself somewhere you didn’t necessarily mean to go. I did this myself. I started out as a technical writer dabbling in design and copywriting on the weekends, and look at me now. I’m building an entire business around graphic design and copywriting, and I love it.The point is that you shouldn’t be so stuck to an idea or image of yourself that you’re unwilling to make natural shifts as they occur.
  9. Choose music to fit the moodThe right music can help set your frame of mind for your brainstorming session. I rely on this a lot when I’m working on creative writing or creating new art pieces. I try to stay away from music that has lyrics (sometimes those lyrics sneak into my work, haha).
  10. Step away from your work and get outYour brain needs breaks to process data and solve problems. That’s why it’s vital that you take a break from your work and let your mind process your problem in the background.Do your due diligence; research, brainstorm, plan, and think. After that, though, you need to be able to let it rest for a few hours or days before you start working on it again. This doesn’t mean neglecting your daily practice in creativity, but rather not spending all of your time focused on one problem or thought.

You don’t need to do all of these things right out of the gate. In fact, if you’re anything like me, you shouldn’t do all of these things right out of the gate. You may overwhelm yourself and decide it isn’t for you.

Instead, pick a few that sound doable and just do them. Then add more as you go. Pretty soon your brain is going to be oozing creativity and you’ll think “huh, when did this happen?”

Do you have any tips for practicing creativity? Any stories about how creativity helped you in your business? I’d love to hear them and chat about it in the comments.

6 Small-Business Website Updates to Make in 2017

A new year typically means new resolve to focus on your health, relationships, and business. And while many small-business owners choose to focus efforts on marketing, social media, creating new products and services, or hiring new employees, lots of owners neglect to update their websites. So, what about those website updates to make in 2017?

According to a Local Consumer Review Survey taken in 2012, 85% of users have used the internet to look up a local business. I do this all of the time, and you probably do, too. Potential customers Google to find out about the business they’re considering supporting, and an outdated website could be just as detrimental as no website at all.

If you have an existing website and it’s out of date it can give the impression that you’re not a reputable business, that your business can’t keep up with new technology, or that you don’t care about web users.

If you don’t have a website:

You’ve resolved to work on your business this year so you need to make some changes to your web presence. If you don’t have a website at all, get one! We help small businesses finance a one-page website for $195 a month. Reach out to us if you want to learn more.

If you do have a website:

If you do have a website it’s a good idea to review it closely and plan to make some changes. It can be difficult to know where to start so I’ve made a list of 6 changes you should make to your website in 2017.

6 website updates to make in 2017 (don’t wait too long!):

Make sure your website is mobile-friendly (responsive).

If your site was built a few years ago there’s a good chance it’s not a mobile friendly (responsive) website. This is killing your online presence! 75% of U.S. internet users access the internet through mobile devices (source), and they don’t have the patience to deal with an unresponsive site.

Tip: To find out if your website is responsive, drag your browser window to a smaller size. If your website doesn’t adjust to fit all of the content in the window (i.e. you have to scroll left or right to view the full page) then your site isn’t responsive.

Blog regularly or not at all.

You’ve probably heard somewhere that a blog is great for your website. That’s true, but only if you blog regularly. Blog content is a great way to organically improve your SEO rank but it looks unprofessional if you don’t maintain a consistent presence.

You don’t have to publish a blog daily or even weekly, but you should create a schedule and stick to it. If you can’t commit to consistently posting it’s better to remove the blog from the site altogether.

Only link to active social networks.

Similar to the point on blogging, you don’t want to send customers to a Facebook page that hasn’t had an update since 2015. It’s a good idea to reserve a username for each of the major social networks, but if you can’t commit to being consistent it’s better to leave the information blank.

Placing social links on your website is a good way to help your customers connect with you across the web, but you should only give them links to the networks you use regularly. I recommend choosing 1 or 2 big networks to focus your attention on. You can add other networks as necessary but don’t overwhelm yourself at the start.

Install Google Analytics on your site.

If you’re not monitoring your analytics you’re taking a big gamble with your business. Analytics will tell you who is visiting your site, what pages they’re most interested in, and where the traffic is coming from. All of the information you gather from analytics will help you tailor your online presence to fit the needs of your customers.

Clean up your content and site organization.

If your site has dozens of pages with long chunks of block text it’s going to be a nightmare for your customers to navigate. Think about repeated questions you get from your customers… do they say things like, “I couldn’t find ____ on the site” or “I can’t remember where I saw it but your website says you do _____.” Statements like these are a good indication that your site is disorganized and too wordy.

See if you can combine pages, cut pages, reduce text, or clarify difficult topics. It’ll be a big undertaking but it’s an essential step to cleaning up your site and making sure your message is clear.

Add a call-to-action (CTA).

Chances are you want your viewers to do more than look at your site. Do you want them to call you? Download something? Fill out a form? Think of the action you most want them to take and then make that a focal point on each page. A good CTA tells your viewers what to do. I wrote an article about how to write a good one here, so check that out if you want help writing a killer CTA.

Conclusion

Your outdated website isn’t doing your business any favors. I’ve outlined 6 steps you can take to improve your website in 2017. If you want help with creating an action plan, reach out to me. I’d love to point you in the right direction.

If you’re a small-business owner and have tips to share with other business owners, leave them in the comments. How else can small businesses improve their websites this year?

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How to Write a Call-to-Action that Works

In the world of marketing, the call-to-action (CTA) is what actually causes your viewers or audience to pull the trigger and buy your product or hire your services. Setting up a website that’s missing a CTA is essentially turning potential customers away. If there’s no clear way for your potential customer to contact you, hire your services, or otherwise engage, they’ll go to a competitor site and never look back. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Each page on your website should have a specific, clear call-to-action. You don’t need to create a different CTA for each page but you do need to think about the ultimate goal: what do you want your customer to do when they visit your site?

Before you sit down to write a Call-to-Action answer these five questions:

1. Who is your visitor?

What are they looking for? Can you list their goals or objectives? Do you know what they need from you? What actions are they willing to take to get what they want?

2. What do you want them to do on your site?

Do you want them to log in, sign-up, call you, fill out a form, subscribe to a newsletter, make a purchase, or something else? Think about the action you most want them to take when they come to your site. It’ll probably involve sales in some way.

3. What is the objective of this action?

So what comes out of their following the action you require? Does your customer make a purchase? Do you increase your sales funnel? Do you build your email list? Is your network expanding? Whatever you want to get out of this is your objective.

4. What will your visitor get from following through?

What’s in it for them? Will they get an exclusive whitepaper or case study? Do they receive a coupon code or free item? Can they download an awesome freebie? You need to reward them in some way for following your CTA. I guess you can say it’s sort of like a bribe.

5. How does this fit with their objectives?

It’s not useful to offer a download for a child’s birthday invitation if your audience is professional golfers looking to improve their game. So how does your CTA plus your “bribe” fit in with your customer objectives?

If they’re looking for tips to improve their golf game and you want them to hire your services, then you need to show them that following your CTA is the only way for your potential client to reach his or her goals/objectives.

Put it together and what have you got… an awesome call-to-action!

Let’s walk through the process so you get a better idea of how it all works.

We’ll go with the golf example I started above. So, you own a coaching business geared at helping semi-pro and pro golfers improve their game. It’s a niche market, so your CTA has got to be even better to net sales.

  1. Your ideal visitor is a semi-pro or pro golfer who wants to perform better in tournaments. They have the money to spend to improve their game.
  2. You want them to learn about your services and contact you for a 30-minute Skype consultation. You’ll gauge their wants/needs and see if you’re a good fit.
  3. The objective is that you convince them to hire your professional services.
  4. Your visitor will get an improved golf game, thus performing better in tournaments.
  5. Your visitor will earn more money from tournaments and improve his or her golf game, which is his or her main objective.

So, what would our example CTA look like?

I’ve helped semi-professional and professional golfers earn $2,569,345.00 in the last 12 months with my coaching techniques. Contact me to set up a free 30-minute Skype consultation.

In the example we wrote, we’ve addressed each of the five points and created a CTA that will encourage visitors to act instead of remaining passive on the website. Without a CTA you’re leaving potential customers and revenue in the dark. Instead, you can guide site visitors to act in a way that will help both parties reach their goals/objectives.

Are you missing a call-to-action on your website? Having trouble coming up with one? Let’s chat about it in the comments.