Why good English is good business – copywriting

How good is your English copy?

How good is your English copy?

If you’re trying to appeal to an English audience, but using non-native English speakers to write your website content, blog posts, leaflets or tweets, you are almost certainly putting off customers.

Not only is it always glaringly obvious, but you risk really annoying the very people you want to impress. I’ve lost count of the number of websites I’ve come across in Switzerland with less than perfect English. International copywriting is all about talking to your potential customers in their language – to make them relate to your company, product or services, not to make them want to take out a red pen.

Show some respect

First impressions count. Your content is often your potential customer’s first point of contact with your company. So, having a website or brochure with less than perfect, readable and engaging English is like having a receptionist chewing gum at the front desk. It’s an insult to your customer.

Research by Global Lingo showed that 59% of Britons would not buy from a company with grammar or spelling mistakes on its website or marketing materials.

So, is translation the answer?

A good translation by a professional is a step in the right direction, but if you’ve been marketing to a German or French market and now want to target an English audience, you need a different approach. A copywriter’s job is to take into account cultural differences and really understand the audience and what would appeal to them, because let’s face it, these cultures are very different! What might be funny to an English reader, could offend a potential German customer. You don’t want to get it wrong.

Google punishes bad English and spelling mistakes 

Your search rankings will be affected if your keywords or keyword phrases are incorrect. Google rewards quality content – which includes good grammar and style.

Of course, international copywriting isn’t only about grammar and spelling. To find out how to write copy that sells, read my previous blog post for some tips to get your started.

If you’re worried about putting off potential customers because of bad writing or uninspiring copy, contact me for a FREE assessment of your website or other marketing materials today.

Best online marketing tips for your business in 2016

Magnet attracting drawing pins

Marketing tips for small businesses and SMEs

Are you feeling quite chirpy about your business and what you’ve achieved this year? Or are you sobbing into your festive cocktails about a lack of clients?

Online marketing for small and medium-sized businesses will continue to grow in 2016 and if you’ve been sticking your head in the sand and operating without a website, social media or email newsletters, you’re missing out on hundreds of potential new leads for your business every month.

Best online marketing tips for your business in 2016 

A good website is a must

This is a no-brainer in any industry because even if people don’t find you this way – and they should – potential customers will want to check out your online credentials before doing business with you. What is a good website? A relatively simple design which is mobile responsive with good navigation. You want it to be search-engine optimised for relevant keyword phrases and it needs a blog page and sign-up form to your newsletter to help capture the email addresses of potential clients. Don’t waste your money on flashy websites that cost a fortune. Read my guest post for Talented Ladies Club about 8 questions  your MUST ask  your website designer before you have a website designed or updated.

Update your site often

Blogging is the easiest way to do this. Static websites are ignored by Google, so it’s important to add new content on a regular basis – and it goes without saying that the content has to be interesting and relevant for your target audience.

Don’t ignore social

Being active on social media is not only an important way of engaging your audience, but also gives you Google juice, which helps with the ranking of your website. Don’t overdo it or make it complicated. Choose 2 channels e.g. Facebook or Linked In which you know are regularly used by your audience and post relevant, entertaining information on a consistent basis.

TIP: Keep selling on here to a minimum – the whole point is to get people interested in what you have to say and lure them to your website – where they’ll find your offers or newsletter sign-up and enter your sphere of influence.

Grow your database

If you don’t yet have a newsletter – get one! Even if you only send out a newsletter every other month – you have a golden opportunity to get offers and other information to people who are already warm leads because they’ve agreed to receive information from you. Have a prominent sign-up form on your website and Facebook Page and offer people something of value e.g. a discount, video or e-book for FREE to persuade them to sign up.

Use great images 

Always include images on your newsletters and blog posts – FreeDigitalPhotos.Net is a good source for free photographs – but remember to follow their guidelines for crediting the photographer and company.

Use free design software

Canva.com is a great tool to design fantastic headers for your social media pages, already customised to fit the space you need it for. You can also use it to design your own business cards, email newsletter headers and advertisements – no design costs involved!

Do experiment with Facebook advertising

Facebook advertising is the new Pay-per-click! Pay-per-click advertising on Google can be very expensive and you can lose an awful lot of money quickly if you don’t know what you’re doing. Facebook Advertising on the other hand, is simple, quick and very affordable and can target very specific audiences – e.g. women between the ages of 30-40 in a certain geographical area whose interests are beauty products and fashion.

Have a plan

One of the biggest mistakes I see, is people frittering away money on advertising or other forms of marketing, without having a clear strategy of who they’re targeting and what they want to achieve. Setting goals and measuring your marketing activities on an ongoing basis is the only way you’ll know if what you’re doing and spending your money on is worthwhile.

I’d like to wish all my lovely clients and anyone reading this post a wonderful new year with lots of success for your business.

If you need help with your online marketing or PR, take a look at my small business packages and let’s have a chat about how I could help your business to grow in 2016.  

Contact me here or call me on 0041 079 901 3020.

 

Questions to ask your website designer

Screen shot of web design page

How to choose the right website designer for you

Your business needs a website – but how do you find the right website designer for you? Your site should be one of your main marketing tools, so don’t take this decision lightly.

Read my cautionary tale about rogue website designers out there – and the 8 questions you MUST ask a website designer before signing on the dotted line.

The blog post appears on the Talented Ladies Club website here.

If you don’t – you may end up spending a fortune for a website that doesn’t do what you want it to do – or finding yourself being held ransom by a developer who doesn’t want to hand over control of your site. Be warned!

But of course, that doesn’t mean all website designers are out to rip you off. Many are great and will do a good job – but knowing what to look out for is the only way to find the right designer for you.

Writing copy that sells – 6 top tips

Book and pen

Writing copy that sells: Engage the reader

You’ve crafted what you thought was the perfect homepage, newsletter, blog or flyer – and you’re feeling pretty chuffed with yourself right now.

But it soon becomes clear that the only person who got excited about your masterpiece was you. So what are you doing wrong?

Good copywriting is not just putting words onto paper. Writing copy that sells is a skill that can make a real difference to your business.

The principles of good copywriting predate the Internet and apply to print and online text – the bottom line is – you’ve got to engage your reader!

Here are some copywriting tips to get you started:

  • Who is your customer? You can’t write anything worthwhile unless you know your customer. Think of some-one specific whose business you’re keen on getting and try to get into his or her head. Does he like Arsenal? Does she love expensive handbags? What makes them lose sleep? Call up a mental image of this person and imagine talking to him or her in the pub or over a coffee when you’re writing.
  • NEVER write for groups  Even if you’re writing something that you hope will be read by lots of people, you need to write as if you’re only ever going to have ONE reader. People switch off when they read phrases such as: “Many of you.” “Some of you.” They want to feel special.
  • Write the way you speak Lawyers and businesspeople often shake their heads at this point, assuring me that this type of writing doesn’t apply to their special customers. Not so. Even the wealthiest, snootiest potential customer is human and responds to good copy in an emotional way. There are not many people who’ll be persuaded to do something by someone who speaks as if he’d escaped from the pages of a Charles Dickens novel.
  •  Planning Before you reach for your laptop and start typing, take a piece of paper and a pen, pour yourself a glass of wine and jot down a plan for the blog post, newsletter, homepage, flyer. Start with a goal – what are you trying to achieve? Do you want your customer to call you, visit your online sales page or fill out a survey?
  • What do you want to say? Once you’ve nailed your goal, think about what it is you want to say – and here it’s important to think more about your reader’s needs rather than your own. So, you want your reader to know that you can sort out his finances? Think about how this will make life easier for him. For example, you could write: Do you want to spend more time on the tennis court or golf course and less time trying to stay on top of your finances? Why not let me take care of your finances, so you can work on your serve or improve your handicap.
  • Don’t forget a call to action  Tell your reader clearly what you want him or her to do now that you’ve persuaded them you’re the right person to contact. Link to your contact page or a page with more details of the offer you’ve talked about or the service you described.

I hope these tips will inspire you to experiment with your own copywriting – you’ll be amazed at the difference even these basic tips will make to your business communications.

Of course, if you’re rather be spending your time doing something else – why not let us help you work out who you want to talk to, what to say and how to write copy that sells.

Find out more about our new small business package here – designed to manage your online presence (and media presence if you need it) so you can focus on what you love to do.

Photo credit: Free Digital Photos.Net : Tiramisustudio

 

 

Shooting video on your Iphone for your website – top tips

Using videos on your website or blog is a great way to boost search engine ranking and to get your potential clients to linger longer on your site. And the more often you use video the better. But how to do this without blowing the marketing budget? The good news is that these days – all you need to shoot quality videos is your Iphone, a few accessories and I-movie, which is already on your phone, for editing.

Shooting video on your Iphone – what type of videos? If you want a promotional video with all the bells and whistles, you probably do need to spend a few grand, but this is not the type of video we’re talking about here and it certainly is not the type of video you can shoot every month on a shoestring budget. 

I’m referring to authentic interview-style videos that resonate with your audience, more like chatting to your potential client over a cup of coffee. Showing who you are and sharing some valuable, free advice related to your business is what it’s all about.

Will the quality be good enough? Yes, provided you follow some basic tips no-one will be able to tell that your video was shot and edited on a smartphone.

Here are some tips for shooting your videos on an Iphone shared with me by York Woodford Smith from Fiveonabike in Buckinghamshire during an excellent half-day workshop.

Scripting: Start with an introduction – who you are and where you work (if that’s relevant for your business) and what you do. Follow with the main message of your video – eg. giving advice or answering a question for your audience. In the last part, tell your audience how you can help and how to contact you.

Stability: The most important thing is for the video not to be shaking, so you need a tripod or gorilla grip, to which you attach an iphone holder to keep things stable.

Positioning: Get your subject sitting or standing in the position you want to film them. (Or if you’re filming yourself test the position on someone else). Think of not filling up more than a third of the frame and leaving a bit of headroom above the person’s head.

Make it pretty: Think of what’s in the frame and remove any ugly background clutter. Make everything pretty and relevant. One of my clients is a divorce lawyer and she needs to look professional, but approachable. If you want to wear a suit, don’t make it too dark and at least wear a colourful interesting tie!  An untidy desk or a person walking past could distract from your video.

Sound:Reduce background noise. A gently humming sound might be OK, but loud traffic or raging winds will ruin your video. Record a few words and play back the video to test the sound! You can attach microphones to an Iphone using adaptors, but I’m still experimenting with these. So far the internal microphone quality has not let me down.

Lighting: Use available light – windows, ceiling lights – and make sure the person’s face is well-lit. A light background such as a white wall would also help to ensure the video is not too dark.

Action: Once you’re happy with the positioning of your subject or the person you’re testing it on, get someone to stand behind the camera and when you’re doing your interview. Or if you’re alone, pretend to be talking to someone as it will come across more authentic

Speak up: Be about a third more animated than you would normally be – more if you’re an accountant 🙂

Don’t be intimidated by large video cameras and big crews, with a bit of initiative and the right equipment you can produce your own budget videos on a regular basis that will make a big difference to your SEO and attract more clients.

I’ve included an example of a video I shot for Ann Corrigan, founder of Clarity Family Law – let me know what you think. It’s basic and I’m still learning, but she’s happy and we’ve seen a big increase in visits to that page of her site – as well as an increase in the time people spend on the site.

Result!

In my next blog I’ll talk about editing videos on your iphone.

Please share your tips, criticisms and comments below.

Find new clients: Twitter tips for business

Screen shot of twitter conversation - find new clients

Twitter tips for business: Find new clients

How to find new clients – Twitter tips

This week I found a new website designer on Twitter – after months of pulling my hair out because of issues with my WordPress website. My website designer, who was happy to build my site, is now far too busy for me, so he never returns my calls or emails.

Out of frustration, I posted this message on Twitter this week:

URGENT #Wordpress expert needed to help with reply function on blog posts.

Within five hours, I had more than 10 tweets (and a couple of emails) from website designers and various geeks offering to help.

Two stood out – they actually took the trouble of taking a look at my website before tweeting back suggestions. At no point was there any talk of charges or business.
They were trying to help someone with a problem – me.

One even asked for log in details to my site and offered to have a nosey round the back end of my site. He direct-messaged me 10 minutes later to say he’d fixed the problem.

No money mentioned

WOW! Note – he was still not mentioning payment at all. I DM-ed back – asking how much I owed him and whether he’d be interested in some work – as this issue was the tip of the iceberg of problems on my site.

He said he didn’t want money for fixing it and if I’d send him the list of problems, he’d take a look and give me a quote. He also at this point sent me a link to his site and blog, firmly establishing his credibility as an expert – just in case I still had any doubts. He’d bowled me over, kicking sand in the eyes of any other website designer or agency who’d contacted me.

I’m more than happy to try his services. (I’d be delighted to mention names, which would probably lead to more business for him via word-of-mouth referrals on social media, but he’s asked me to hold off as he’s quite busy. I can see why.

Twitter tips for business – lessons you can learn from this

  1. Monitor conversations relevant to your business by using the Twitter search or hashtag function – create columns in Tweetdeck to help you monitor the terms – in this case #Wordpress
  2. Offer to solve a potential customer’s problem
  3. Don’t do a hard sell or talk money
  4. Be authentic and genuine
  5. Do your homework
  6. Follow through with website links and blog to establish your credibility

Have you used Twitter successfully to get business? I’d love to hear from you and have more tips to share with businesses.

And, if you need help creating effective social media strategies to grow your business – contact me for an informal chat.

How to raise your online profile and become an authority in your field

Ask an expert

Use your online profile to become known as an expert in your field

The other day at a networking meeting in Buckinghamshire I met a financial adviser who told me he didn’t need an online presence because he gets all his customers through word-of-mouth referrals.

A decent website with basic SEO

After a bit of probing, I discovered that he did have a website – no-one can have their heads that deep in the sand – but that he only got it because “everyone else had one” and some slick website designer made him a good deal.

With a bit of luck the designer may have thrown in basic search engine optimisation tactics into the bargain, which means his company name will not be completely buried if potential customers search for a financial adviser in Buckinghamshire.

No, he insisted, that doesn’t matter, because most of his referrals come from networking breakfasts and nights out in the pub.  He doesn’t need any of that.

I nodded and tucked into my bacon and eggs, because I know a lost cause when I see one.

Why your online profile is crucial for business

But, for the record, he is seriously mistaken.

Even if not a single customer ever arrives at his door via his website, a well-managed online profile is crucial for his business.

Testimonials, biography, services 

When was the last time you used anyone’s services –  without checking out their website first?

It’s the first thing you do. And when you’re clicking through, are you just satisfied to see a list of services or do you actually take time to read the biographies of the partners and testimonials to see what other clients say about them? Do you compare their services with competitor websites in terms of value for money and professionalism?

Informative, engaging blog posts

If you’re looking for a financial adviser and there was a blog post on the site with tips for first-time investors or how to save money on your household bills – would you stop to read it to see if the author knows his or her stuff?

Linked in, Facebook and Twitter

I suspect my breakfast neighbour probably has a thin and stale profile on Linked In, which doesn’t do him any favours, but I’d be very surprised if he’s gone anywhere near Twitter or Facebook.

Not only is he missing out on valuable opportunities to reach out to potential clients in his area, but if he should ever have an unhappy customer who happens to be more social media savvy than him and started dissing his business online, he’d be blissfully unaware of this reputational damage.

Journalists could be looking at this very moment for someone to quote on financial issues and he would be none the wiser. An opportunity for great exposure missed.

Guest-blogging – a real opportunity to build your reputation

Trying to explain to him how guest blogging has turned two of my clients into experts with near celebrity status in their respective fields through posting of informative articles on sites read by potential customers, would go way over my friend’s head.

E-mails, vlogs, e-books, podcasts, webinars – show off your knowledge

Neither would he be open to discussing the power of email newsletters and vlogs – or video blogs, e-books, webinars or podcasts – as a means to attracting visitors to his site and becoming known as a real authority in his field.

At the end of the day – this is a man who’s decided to turn his back on the future and will refuse to see the writing on the wall until it’s too late.

Stand out above the competition

Yes, his company may be able to survive without a decent website, blog, social media and email newsletters for a while longer, but if he really wants to reach his potential and stand out above the competition – a strong and strategic online presence is at least as important as buying rounds in the pub.

Contact me for more information if you need some advice on how to build an effective online profile for your company and yourself.

I create online communications and social media strategies for companies in Buckinghamshire, London and internationally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Create engaging content – tips for businesses

A computer screen bursting open with engaging content

Engaging content grabs eyeballs

Something’s really been bugging you lately.
Every time you click on a local website or even some national news sites read by thousands of your potential customers, your competitor’s face pops up.
And you know for a fact that she is definitely not better, prettier or more intelligent than you.

So what is she doing that you’re not?
Most probably she (or someone on her behalf) has spent quite a bit of time and effort creating nifty blog posts offering advice, writing engaging guest posts about industry trends and chatting up potential customers on social media.

What is engaging content and how do you create it?
Engaging content grabs eyeballs or stops people in their tracks – it gets online readers to stop and then get involved – subscribe to your newsletter, enter your competition, fill in your survey, load something in their virtual basket, comment on your blog or contact you.

3 tips for creating engaging content

  • Have a plan:

A local council appointed an IT company to run their Facebook and Twitter accounts a year ago.  They’re axing the company’s services because the council’s not seen any engagement on these forums.
Well, I’m not surprised. Letting techies loose on the council’s target audience of local residents without any clear strategy linking to the council’s overall goals, is a complete waste of time.(and taxpayers’ money)
Social media is one tool in your company or organisation’s communications toolbox and it needs regular, engaging and planned content.

  •  Find stories about your company

I’m willing to bet that the council has a wealth of stories that would interest local residents. Maybe they’re fighting a controversial planning application that is ruffling feathers locally.
A lively blog post – written in an engaging tone and inviting comments or a video interviewing a planner about the impact of the development, could boost SEO, attract media attention and be amplified on social media.
There’s no such thing as an unsexy industry. If you don’t believe me, send me an email and I’ll come up with 10 story ideas you can use to create engaging content.

Tip: Subscribe to top industry blogs to find out about the latest trends and then add your own fresh angles or simply comment on them in your own content.

  • Good writing:

Most people think they can write, but often they can’t. It’s a skill and it takes practice.
It starts with a good headline and an intro that grabs your reader’s attention – although headlines can’t be too clever or ambiguous online.

Identify keywords – what will your potential customer be searching for on Google – use those terms in your title, subtitle and sparingly throughout your copy.
Have a light touch – don’t overwrite, don’t overcomplicate or use jargon and don’t be afraid to let your sense of humour and character shine through.

Don’t waffle – get to the point quickly and have a call to action – what do you want your reader to do now he or she has read your post.
Let me know how you get on.

If you need help to identify ideas for engaging content, draw up an editorial calendar or communications plan or do some writing for you, contact me.

The business of writing – work for yourself

Screen shot of an article on another website - Inspired Mums

My interview on Inspired Mums

My business was recently featured on Inspired Mums – where I was interviewed about my transition from journalism to setting up my own communications and PR business.

I can’t remember ever being on the receiving end of an interview before – apart from job interviews of course – as I’m always the one doing the interviewing. It made for an interesting change to answer questions about why I started my business and what the best and most challenging part are of working for myself.

The best and worst things about working for yourself

The best thing about working for myself – is the flexibility it allows me to be there for my family and the ability to choose the projects I want to work on.

The most challenging is to stay motivated and confident when I’m having an off day and to make sure I don’t become too isolated.

What would I have done differently?

Another interesting question – was: What would I have done differently when I set up my own business – with the benefit of hindsight?

Well, that’s easy – I should have started working for myself earlier, rather than waiting for others to create opportunities for me. I finally decided to take the plunge after becoming increasingly fed up reporting to people, sometimes less creative and experienced, and in limiting roles because I wanted to have a flexible role. I also really liked the idea of choosing the type of projects that excited me, rather than having to be given assignments that bored me to tears.

Do you work for yourself? What do you think the best and worst parts of working for yourself are? Do you have any tips to share for people thinking about setting up on their own?

Read the full interview on Inspired Mums

Why guest blogging is good for business

Ed Yourdon / Foter / CC BY-SA

Most of my clients look at me blankly when I first mention guest blogging.
By then I’ve usually managed to convince them that their business needs a blog. The next content marketing strategy is guest blogging to help grow their business and once they get it and start seeing the benefits for themselves, they can’t stop singing the praises of guest blogging.

So, what is guest blogging and why should you do it?

Imagine you’re a career coach and you’ve been invited to speak at a conference attended by frustrated middle managers in need of career inspiration – exactly the type of customer you’re after.

The organiser hands you the microphone and gives you carte blanche to talk to them about how you could potentially help them solve their career problems. Would you say no to an opportunity like this? No, I didn’t think so.

That is what guest blogging is all about – an opportunity to get your name in front of a new audience, exactly the right type of audience for your business, and to show them why you’re somebody worth listening to.

How to find guest blogging opportunities?

The first step is to ID whom you want to talk to. Who is your ideal customer – for example if you run a cookery school for toddlers, you probably want to talk to mums.
Do some research and find local or national websites targeting mums.

(Building a national profile is an excellent way of showing local customers how important you are and why they should want to do business with you.)

Start getting involved in discussions on the sites you want to be associated with and following their content. Many editors of websites (and publications) are constantly on the look out for fresh information relevant to their readers.
Guest-blogging ideally is a win-win situation. They get good, fresh content, you get a chance to talk to their audience.

What should my guest blog posts be about?

First work out what you want to achieve with the guest blog post. Do you want to make middle managers stuck in a career rut contact you to consider you for coaching?
Come up with a topic that your ideal client will find interesting and helpful. So, for the career coach for example – 5 reasons you may be ready for your next career move.
If you’re an estate agent, perhaps you want to write about a trend relevant to your audience of buyers and sellers – such as: How to make your house sell itself.

At the end of your post, you include your profile and a link to your website (if allowed) and how you could help your potential customer solve a problem they may have.

Take a look at my portfolio to see some of the guest blog posts I’ve written for clients in recent months.
If you’re idea is original, relevant and well-written, chances are good that the editor of the website you’re targeting will only be too delighted to use your copy and will usually agree either to link to your site or at least mention your website in the copy.
The top prize is a link – as a variety of back links from reputable websites is an ideal way to boost the site’s search engine ranking, but a mention of the website also does the job of getting you noticed by a new audience.
Once your guest blog is published – share and keep sharing on all your social media channels, to make sure both you and the website owner who published your guest post get maximum exposure.

If you need help identifying guest blogging opportunities and goals or just can’t seem to find the time to come up with a list of interesting topics in your niche, I can help. Contact me for any communication needs. You can view my full list of services here.