Advice for better writing and marketing

The #1 Must-Follow Rule for Online Content

leave a comment »

I recently googled the term “business writer” (or it could have been freelance business writer), and took a look at the top search result. What I found was a woman charging about $130 USD for a 500 word article. Curious about the quality and context of her material, I just had to take a peek at her portfolio.

The first sample I clicked on led me to a website for a client. In the first paragraph I found a glaring spelling error. Well, technically, I suppose it was a phonetic error. Instead of using the word past it was incorrectly written as passed.

The shock. The horror. But then again, the client published it and didn’t even notice. At least I assume the client didn’t notice. Which brings me to proofreading.

We’ve all been there. Myself included. Skimming a page too quickly and missing obvious mistakes. A writer friend of mine was honoured to have his article praised (and reposted) by a national organization. When he read the review along with his piece, he was horrified at the number of spelling mistakes.

Image is Everything

Well written copy separates the pros from the amateurs. Would you trust your finances to a banker that called you buddy or dude? Would you be comfortable with a doctor who smacked bubble gum loudly and wore pants that showed his underwear? Not likely.

The fact is, we have expectations of professionals. We expect them to conduct themselves to a higher standard. They should dress better, speak better and behave better than the average joe.

Translating this sense of authority and professionalism online starts with your content. Don’t let a silly spelling error lower the opinion of potential clients. Proofread!

How to Proofread Properly

  • Do Not rely on spell checker software. Personally, I never use it. I correct mistakes as I write and once again when I proofread. If you do use it, don’t assume everything is perfect. You still must read what you have written.
  • Do read your content on a large screen. Slowly. This can be tough, especially if you have spent a great deal of time and have the writing almost committed to memory. Unfortunately, if you skim your content too quickly, your eyes will glide right over the mistakes.
  • Do Not post it and forget it. Always, always, always read your content once it has been posted to your webpage. The change of perspective will make mistakes jump out at you.
  • Do read out loud if you can. Our minds work too quickly. It’s a fact. Reading out loud slows down the thinking pattern and forces the mind to accept or reject what we are seeing. Again, you might be surprised how easily you spot mistakes such as to/too, they’re/there/their and so on when you read out loud. Even though they all sound the same, your mind will find the error.

If you’ve hired a content writer, you still need to proofread the work. Silly mistakes, like the one mentioned at the beginning of this post, can easily be corrected. Professional doesn’t always mean perfect, so if need be, find a fresh set of eyes to do your proofreading for you.


A Word or Two About Wordiness

leave a comment »

When it comes to writing, less is more. Always. Whether you’re writing a novel, an article or a blog post, wordiness can quickly take over and aggravate the flow.

Websites in particular tend to be victims of excessive word use. It’s a danger zone. The average internet reader only skims the content anyway. There’s no need to create long rambling sentences. They only serve to lose the reader’s attention.

How to Cut Down on Wordiness

Edit! Edit! Edit! The first two or three words of almost every sentence can be cut. Seriously. Try it. For example:

“If you have a sentence that starts like this…”

“A sentence that starts like this…”

you should Keep your writing as clean and concise as possible. Avoid using two words, when one will do the job if you can. Try to Resist adding words that don’t increase the value of the sentence.

Editing can be a daunting task. It takes practice to spot which words are not creating any value. However, removing excess words from your webpage will definitely give it a professional edge. It also makes it easier to keep the reader engaged as they skim your pages.

As a test, take a look at your own blog or webpage content and find 5 sentences that demonstrate the examples above. Putting on your editorial glasses will give you a renewed sense of objectivity, and increase the journalistic standard. You may need to rephrase some sentences for coherence, so don’t be afraid to click the thesaurus button.

Don’t stress. It’s not as tough as high priced editors would have you believe. Happy cutting.


Written by doubledawnwriting

March 10, 2012 at 11:25 am

The Best Way to Handle Critical Comments Posted Online

leave a comment »

A blog is a useful tool to keep the lines of communication open with consumers. However, if it’s not properly managed, it can create a poor reputation for your business.

Your company blog is a forum to offer advice, links to useful sites and keep your client base updated on changes in your company. It also allows your business to gain valuable insight into your market. Consumers who offer feedback and comments will give your company a comprehensive look into the perspective of the purchasing public.

How Do You Handle Critical Comments?

Deleting spam from your blog commentary is perfectly acceptable. However, deleting critical comments is detrimental. It gives the consumer a sense that your business is arrogant and doesn’t actually have concerns about building good customer relations.

Seeing a nasty or unfavourable comment from a consumer can invoke an angry reaction. (Anger tends to attract anger). Hastily posting an angry response diminishes your professionalism and actually offers validity to the customer’s upset.

A better reaction: validate the customers feelings and encourage a solution.

Take some time to really think about what the comment is saying. Most of the time, an angry customer just wants to be heard and validated. Unfortunately, many companies seem to have implemented an anti-apology policy. The fear of admitting any type of wrong-doing has taken over as the new mantra, replacing “the customer is always right”.

Taking the attitude that the company is never wrong sends an inappropriate message (even when you are 100% in the right). It’s not about right or wrong, it’s about changing how the customer feels.

Apologize for the Upset Without Apologizing for the Policy:

Don’t run from the apology. In fact, you will garner respect from every consumer who reads your response if you acknowledge the customers feelings. A good response to a customer complaint is to first and foremost, humble yourself with an apology.

That doesn’t mean admitting defeat. It doesn’t mean breaking the rules. It does, however, mean acknowledging the customers feelings. “I’m sorry you feel that way” and “I’m sorry to hear you’ve had a bad experience” are two perfect examples of your sincere dedication to making the customer happy.

Encourage In-Depth Communication:

Take the bull by the horns when it comes to a disgruntled customer. You certainly don’t have to settle the entire issue in the comments section. Follow your apology with a olive branch. “I would like to hear more details, can you please call 1-800-456-XXXX and ask for Jane.”

Not only does this move the conversation offline, but it gives the rest of the consumers reading the comments a chance to see what type of company you actually are. Rather than brush off the customer, you have validated the concern and offered them the opportunity to tell their story. Furthermore, once you have the person on the phone, it’s easier to neutralize the anger and resolve the misunderstanding.

The Worst Responses:

Never reply to anger with anger. Be the professional. Once you’ve posted a comment on the internet, it’s there forever. Take a few minutes to gain perspective and don’t take angry critiques personally. Responses sent in haste can haunt your business for years to come. Before you put anything in writing ask yourself – what if this goes viral?

Never blindly recite company policy. It’s cold and impersonal and will only aggravate the situation. Again, it’s like saying the company is never wrong. If you can speak with the customer on the phone, you can explain the reasons behind the decision. The verbatim “this-is-the-policy” response never works.

Last, and probably most importantly, be willing to listen. By listen, I mean don’t interrupt, interject or try to defend your company’s position. Wait for the customer to tell their entire story. It can be harsh listening to a complaint, but allow the customer to fully vent their frustrations. Take the high road and don’t get pulled into an argument.

Not only does active listening show respect, but it brings you 80% of the way to solving the problem. More often than not, the customer just wants to tell their story. Even if you don’t have a solution or can’t fix the problem, listening, being respectful and valuing the person’s business are often all it takes to resolve a customer’s unhappiness.


Why Company Bios are a Must

leave a comment »

Do you have a bio on your webpage? Most businesses have a page that explains the company history, or the standard “about us” page, yet they fail to include a biography.

A bio is an essential element to add prestige and professionalism to your business. Unlike the other pages on your site, a bio’s explicit function is to showcase your experience and accolades. It’s similar to a resume in the sense that it highlights all your company’s best features.

You may add several biographies to your website. Fortune 500 companies always post bios for top executives and key team members. Just because your business is a little smaller, doesn’t mean you should forgo this feature.

If you are the sole operator and employee of your business, a personal biography can include professional as well as personal attributes. Include your working experience, the year you started your business, acquired education and a little personal insight. This might be volunteer work, family life or interesting hobbies.

If you have several key employees, a short biography on each of them to promote and support their role in the company will enhance their expertise and increase consumer confidence. This is particularly important if an employee has achieved a field designation, university degree or other credentials and experience that shows their qualifications.

Bios that Inspire Confidence

Some bios are strictly business. Others infuse a sense of personal connection with the audience. Still others emote a sense of passion for the company. Bios may include as many or as few personal nuances as you wish.

If you’re looking for inspiration to write a bio, start browsing the backs of book covers for the author bios. You can stroll through the home page of almost any national conglomerate, and find links to biographies of personnel.

Whether you create individual bios or one for the whole company, this is the area that inspires confidence and demonstrates your capabilities. Your bio is all about you, so don’t be afraid to let yourself shine.

Tips to Write a Bio

Professional bios are written about you, but not by you. Therefore make sure you are writing in third-person, rather than using I or we. Include important dates or milestones, such as the year of graduation, length of experience in a particular field, or the date your business was started.

A good bio also includes past experience. You’ll notice on most executive bios, past employers are included. “John Doe was the Human Resource Manager at ABC Enterprises for 7 years before joining XYZ Corporation in 2008”.

Keeping a chronology in your biography helps solidify your expertise. “After graduating in 1987, Sara started working overseas at Japanese 123 Inc. There she discovered her passion for teaching, and went on to become the ESL coordinator for global executives and their families.”

Your company biography is a tool that tells potential clients and customers why they should choose you and not your competitor. Neglecting this opportunity to showcase your talents is like going to a job interview and not stating why you’re qualified. Furthermore, a good biography helps define your business, giving you the professional edge to move to the top.

Cheap or Inexpensive? How Keywords Impact Your Image

leave a comment »

Choosing keywords and phrases that will increase your page ranking is a daunting task. One one hand, you want keywords that will be related to search terms the average consumer is using in the search bar. On the other hand, you don’t want to devalue the professionalism of your website. Can you do both?

In a word, yes. Catering to popular keywords without compromising the integrity of your image is entirely possible. It does, however, take a little finesse.

Using words like cheap instead of inexpensive doesn’t need to downgrade your business. As long as you fill your content with related words such as affordable, good value or price sensitive, interspersing the occasional cheap is perfectly acceptable.

For example, you can use a word like cheap to increase the perceived value of your products. Think of a line like this: “Tired of using cheap laundry soap that doesn’t get your clothing clean? We offer affordable laundry detergents at no-name prices that remove stains as well as those expensive national brands.”

Used carefully and in conjunction with associated words, secondary keywords will actually increase your probability of a higher page ranking on certain search terms. The search engines engage in latent semantic indexing (LSI) to properly determine the content of a web page.

In laymen’s terms: search engines look at at all the related words to see if they apply to the search term.

The other side of the scenario caters to popular searches. A consumer who searches the phrase “cheap laundry soap” won’t be discouraged or disappointed to discover that’s exactly what you are selling.

Using the coveted search phrase will bring potential buyers to your page, no question. Once there, you must utilize value enhancing words to emphasize the attributes and better quality of the laundry soap compared to competing brands. Showing the consumer that you offer an excellent product at a bargain price is what will convince them to buy your laundry soap.

A final thought to bear in mind, a customer may search for ‘cheap laundry soap’, but what they are actually looking for is ‘cheap laundry soap that works’. Focus your content on getting the sale, not just getting the visitor.


Your Guide to Quality Outsourcing

leave a comment »

The internet is a vast resource for finding skilled workers to perform smaller tasks for your business. Bookkeeping, administrative tasks and marketing campaigns are great examples of work that can be outsourced. Outsourcing reduces your payroll expenses as well as saving you time and paperwork.

Unfortunately, for every high level, professional service provider, there are about a hundred sub-standard ones. When it comes to running a business, you can’t afford to waste money on someone who doesn’t deliver exactly what you need. 

Volume Versus Value 

There are two ways to make money. One is to provide a product or service at an extremely low price, and pump out enough volume to make a profit.

Walmart is a perfect example of a volume retailer. Sure, the buttons pop off the shirts after one wash, the kid’s shoes will never survive to become a hand-me-down and the best before dates are quite short. Nevertheless, Walmart packs in the customers who are willing to sacrifice quality for the lowest price tag. This retail giant makes it’s money off volume, not mark up.

Sears, on the other hand, has built a solid reputation for quality and service. Online, by catalogue or shopping in person, the consumer naturally expects to pay more when shopping at Sears. This retailer has never engaged in the price slashing practices of other department stores, but instead focused on brand names and customer service. 

While Sears doesn’t have the volume that Walmart has, they have a reputation for quality merchandise, and offer price points that reflect this. Sears makes their money by making a tangible profit off each item sold, so they don’t need the same volume that Walmart does. 

Volume and Value in Outsourcing

Outsourcing is a business like any other. Freelancers who offer their services will either work on volume, pushing out as many assignments as possible for a low price, or value. Value providers set their prices to allow them to offer higher quality. 

The fact is: you will get what you pay for. If you’re only willing to pay $5 for a service, there is a good chance you will find yourself disappointed in the results. That’s not to say you won’t happen across some grade A service, but it’s a time consuming process to weed through the providers to select a good one. 

Elance and Odesk are popular outsourcing sites, but there are no quality standards for service providers. Anyone who wishes to bid on a job may do so. As a buyer, you are left to sift through the bids, most of which are inferior, to find a suitable provider. Again, another time consuming task which can frustrate the process. 

As a business, you need to look at your outsourcing needs objectively and weigh the cost of the task against your time and the quality you are looking for. There are indeed outsourcing sites that cater to business needs, by only offering higher quality service providers that have been adequately screened.

TaskArmy is a perfect example of a high value, professional outsourcing resource. It’s a smaller site, with a handful of service providers. Each provider submits a service they are offering, which is screened by the site before submission.

The prices are set by the freelancers, and reflect the time and effort that will be put into your job. You won’t likely find any $5 jobs, instead, the pricing indicates the level of professional service you will be provided with.

TaskArmy uses an escrow service for payment, so your business is protected. The 20% fee per task is taken from the provider’s end, so the purchaser has no additional costs to worry about.

In the end, choosing an outsourcing company will depend on the goals of your business and the budget. You might start out with low quality providers until you reach a level where you can afford to pay more.

However, if quality is integral to your professional image, outsourcing through professional providers and freelancers is cost effective. Even if you pay a higher price per project, it’s still less expensive than adding professionals to your payroll.   

Written by doubledawnwriting

March 6, 2012 at 3:17 pm

How to Humanize Client Relationships for Long Term Business

leave a comment »

The world has become adrift in tweets, texts and status updates.  Clearly, the days of making a deal on a handshake have gone the way of the blue suede shoe.

While some aspects of business have changed, building solid and trusting client relationships has not.  In fact, the companies who make it to the very top are the ones that hone these relationships, nurture their clients and keep the lines of communications open.

What is Communication?

Yes, you can text a message or send a short tweet, but true communication requires more care than that.  A client still needs to feel validated and humanized.  If your communication doesn’t support this, you are treating a valuable client like a number, rather than a person.

What happens when you don’t humanize your business?  You can’t sustain long term relationships.  If you don’t add some personal flair to your business, you will fall victim to price wars, competitors and clever marketing tactics.

Creating an Honest Connection

Loyalty is a human emotion.  A client who feels validated, cared for and respected will not be easily lulled away by a lower price or special offer.  In the brick and mortar world, it’s the personality of the service provider, the sense of integrity and conduct that establish a connection to the client.

In the online world, this is a little trickier to accomplish.  That does not mean impossible.

Put away the sales pitches.  Every post, newsletter or tweet doesn’t have to be about a product or service.  It doesn’t have to be all business all the time.  In fact, it shouldn’t be.

You are What You Tweet

Using social sites to keep a connection with your clients is a fabulous idea, but don’t make it all business.  Take a look at your own social connections and see which ones catch your attention.  Who do you follow just for enjoyment?

Adding clean but entertaining posts, pictures and quotes on a regular basis (at least once a day), adds a much needed human element to your business.  Not only that, but these are typically the types of posts that attract attention and get passed along.

Consider your social marketing strategy the way you would consider taking a client out for dinner.  It’s an opportunity to open up a little and get to know what makes your client tick, laugh or bellow.  Social marketing is the perfect format to discover those personality traits.

Social is a Two-Way Street

Don’t forget to respond, follow and friend.  Building a relationship means you are taking the client into your business, listening and acknowledging.  No client relationship is solidified by blindly sending out posts.  You must also pay close attention to like, retweet or comment on interesting posts from your client.

You would never have a phone call or live conversation that didn’t allow the client to interject or comment.  Your online relationships should carry the same sense of respect.  Give a little of your time getting to know your client, and your client will give a little loyalty back to you.


Written by doubledawnwriting

March 6, 2012 at 1:06 am

%d bloggers like this: