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4 Ways to Make Your Business Nickname-Worthy

The Shelby Mall looks nothing like a typical mall. There are no roaming packs of teenage girls. Brand names are not illuminated in halos of iridescent light. There is no smell of grease-soaked pizza wafting through conditioned air because there is no food court, nor is there air conditioning.

In the Shelby Mall, you’ll see adults—lots of them—of all ages with young kids in tow. You’ll see fluorescent lights for sale, along with tube sockets in which to install them and overrun Buckeye sweatshirts to keep you warm while you rewire the garage. You’ll smell a patented mixture of dust, metal and fragrance candles. If the smell bothers you, you can purchase a Russian gas mask with a free filter thrown in to sweeten the deal.

This variety store in Shelby, Ohio isn’t really named The Shelby Mall, at least not on its tax records. In fact, I missed the store’s real name somewhere between the parking lot where Vietnam-Era tanks and convoys commandeered my attention while I rambled up the old loading dock ramp and leaving with our booty of charming country décor wall hanging (for the dining room) and a hollowed out grenade (for the basement bar).

The Shelby Mall, as it’s dubbed by locals, is the go-to place for residents in need of shopping therapy and a great example of the power of having a niche worthy of a nickname.

Four Questions to Find Your Niche

You niche is the place where your services or products intersect with your prospects’ needs. Niche marketing is nothing new, but you may be struggling to define where you fit into the competition. The following four questions will help you stake your niche claim.

  1. How is your business unique? The Shelby Mall is the only business where men and women alike can spend a couple hours browsing contentedly. It’s the only place to go when it’s raining and you want to get out of the house.
  2. Does your service or product fit into your prospects’ budgets? The median income in Shelby, Ohio is $36,372. Shelby residents can find affordable home décor, inexpensive clothing, or bargain tools that improve their lifestyle.
  3. Does your business reflect your prospects values? People want to frequent businesses that reflect their worldview. Shelby Mall’s stock of camping supplies, work boots and country décor reflects the hard-working sentiments of its shoppers.
  4. Does your business encourage browsing? Shelby Mall is housed in a huge, repurposed warehouse. Its labyrinth of rooms and thousands of items make roaming its maze a thrill thrifters return to again and again. Online, you can make your business browse-worthy by offering valuable, fresh content.

The Shelby Mall’s intent focus on its customers and its unique charm make a winning combination. Not only has this business hit niche-gold as evidenced by its endearing nickname, the Shelby Mall proves that the small business with the perfect niche can compete with the big boys. Wal-Mart is less than twenty minutes away in nearby Ontario. But the Shelby Mall is the place residents take visiting relatives for a taste of authentic Shelby.

 

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What Can Rodney Dangerfield Teach Us About Great Copywriting?

MacArthur Museum Great CopywritingMy family and I visited the MacArthur Memorial while in Virginia during Spring Break. The wind was cutting and cold, and we filed into the old courthouse building wearing Virginia Beach souvenir sweatshirts purchased to supplement our meager spring break apparel. But the gray skies couldn’t dampen the spark that ignited my curiosity about General MacArthur years ago. That I was all-too-happy to learn more about an “old soldier” who climbed the army ranks a century ago also reminded me why a great copywriter is essential to your business’s success.

You might think a dedicated, impassioned and talented history teacher ignited my interest in MacArthur. Nope. Up until last week, when I thought of General MacArthur, I thought of Rodney Dangerfield.

“Back to School” is a comedy classic in which Dangerfield goes back to college to rekindle his relationship with his son, also a college student. In one unforgettable scene, Dangerfield is interrogated by crazy history teacher, Sam Kinnison. Essentially, Kinnison presses Dangerfield to supply the reason the Americans failed to invade North Korea. Flustered Dangerfield answers that Truman was too weak to let MacArthur push the Chinese back to the Great Wall. Of course, that’s my blog-rated version of Dangerfield’s answer. You can watch the whole scene on YouTube.

Rodney Dangerfield’s memorable line was the stuff of great copywriting.

Copywriters Are Succinct

Countless hours in a lecture hall with a good teacher isn’t as memorable as Rodney’s simple statement. In this case, Rodney zeroed in on MacArthur’s highly controversial stance—and his public opposition to Truman’s—on the Chinese presence in North Korea.

Oftentimes, business owners are so knowledgeable about their subject that they overwhelm their prospects with too many words. A copywriter’s job is to highlight the most interesting part of a subject matter to entice the reader to learn more.

Copywriter’s Communicate Emotion

With all the facts teachers have to cram into a semester, they often don’t have time to delve into the emotional climates of historical events. Rodney’s highly emotional statement communicates how important the MacArthur controversy was to the general public.

Likewise, business owners omit emotion from their sales copy. Even business owners who can tap into prospects’ emotions in person-to-person sales tend to revert back to logic when writing sales copy. A copywriter knows the art of creating copy that speaks to a reader’s heart.

Copywriters Ignite Curiosity

If you didn’t love history while in school, maybe it was because the teacher focused more on facts than questions. Just like Rodney’s statement tells us there is more to the story, good copy serves as a gateway to knowledge.

Business owners can focus too much on facts and not enough on what makes prospects convert: their desire to learn more. When a prospect makes that phone call or signs up for that email list, it’s so that they can ask you more questions. How much do you charge? Can you work with my unique situation? A copywriter’s job is to invite these questions with copy that hints at a larger picture.

Rodney Dangerfield’s simple, succinct, and emotional statement made me curious about General MacArthur. From it, I knew that MacArthur’s dismissal (a boring school fact) was a highly charged controversy in his time. The fact that MacArthur made his way into popular culture through a comedic movie ignited me to learn more. The qualities of Rodney Dangerfield’s statement prompted me to eagerly walk through the doors of MacArthur’s Memorial. In the same way, quality copywriting can inspire readers to learn more about your business.

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Can You Trust Your SEO Provider to Hire a Great Freelance Writer?

WWWYou already know how important your website is to your business. Nearly 80 percent of Internet users look online for information about anything they are buying before opening their wallets.

In fact, your respect for the World Wide Web is the reason you hired a cracker-jack team of SEO specialists. These Google wizards are responsible for getting your site found by your future customers.

But Google loves quality content and how do you know the freelance web writer your SEO provider hires is up to the task?

Bargain-Basement Web Writers:

-Write boring headlines. Readers can smell boredom, and they find it about as appetizing as spoiled milk. One look at the headline, and they don’t open the link.

-Use keywords awkwardly. Remember the first time you gave a speech? Whether it was in grade school or a meeting room, it was probably painful, for you and your listeners. Fledgling writers are as graceless in their use of keywords.

-Use dull language. You don’t want your website to read like an earnings report. Bargain-basement writers don’t use interesting words and they don’t vary their sentence structure. In short, bargain-basement writers don’t keep readers hooked.

-Use unreliable sources. What if that statistic is from your competitor’s website? Or worse, what if it’s old or misstated? If your website states inaccurate information, you will lose your trustworthiness.

There are countless advantages of working with a professional freelance web writer. Here are a few.

A professional copywriter will:

-Entice readers with their headlines. They ask questions. And those questions go deep to the place where their client’s worries are keeping them awake at night, sabotaging their success, speaking to their fears. Clients just gotta read that post about fixing their mistakes, making the best decision in impossible scenarios and preventing disaster. Yeah, a professional freelance writer gets that.

-Weaves a compelling story. We all have enough reports to read. A professional freelance writer wields words with panache. They’re interesting, intriguing, entertaining. Your blog posts become more than web crawler food. They become a forum of ideas, a welcome diversion, a café of brain food.

-Will work with you to convey your brand’s message. You’re better than your competitors. A professional freelance copywriter will get to the heart of why that is and incorporate it into your website’s copy. She’ll talk to you about your company’s vision. She’ll research your industry. She’ll look at your competition. The result is copy that relates your awesome glory in stunning detail for your readers.

-Will be the voice of consistency. When your website is finished and keywords are chosen, you’ll need a professional freelance writer to write quality blog posts to keep your page at the top of search results. When it’s time to write a brochure or a white paper, that same freelance writer can write copy that is consistent with your other marketing pieces. With a professional freelance copywriter waiting in the wings, your company’s copy will never suffer from an identity crisis.

You wouldn’t let your accountant hire your sales manager. Why let your SEO or marketing firm hire your freelance writer? Don’t leave the written face of your company to a hack. A professional copywriter is an essential part of your marketing team. She’ll help you define your brand, convey your message and make you an authority in your industry.

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3 Signs Your Website is Chasing Away Customers

storefrontRemember when you got your website up and running? It was a lot like hanging the “Open” sign on your door for the first time, right?

Chances are, when you opened up for business, you did all the right things to make sure customers walked through that door. Your company’s name was proudly displayed on a big sign. Maybe you even had a large storefront window with a display of your best products.

Like a storefront, a website needs some basic copy to pull it all together. If your website is guilty of any of the copywriting mistakes below, then it’s discouraging customers from contacting you.

1. A clear description of your business is not near the top of your homepage.

Visitors will only spend a few seconds determining whether yours is the business that can solve their problems.

Are you a website design company or an online marketing firm?

Are you an interior designer or a fine furniture wholesaler?

Are you a collection agency that specializes in business to business collections or business to customer collections?

A potential client performing an Internet search can get a variety of results. Some fit, some don’t. Save their time and yours by being very clear about your business’s services or products.

Put this information at the top of your homepage. Visitors will hit the “Back” button if they don’t know immediately that yours is the business they’re looking for.

2. There’s no call to action.

It seems obvious that if your business website has your number, then you want potential clients to call you.

Copy communicates like body language. Just as your gestures add significant meaning to the words you speak, the way copy is written expresses meaning beyond the words themselves.

“Call me today” tells the reader you are waiting for the call. Not only are you expectant, but you’ll be happy to talk. It’s an invitation. With it, you are promising a pleasant experience. Without it, you are subconsciously communicating that you have better things to do.

Think about it. Your home may always be open to guests, but how many stop by without the invitation?

3. You’re not singing about your Elvis Factor.

How do you shake things up? How are you creative? How are you better?

Figuring out what makes your business unique from your competition is easier than you think.

If you are just starting out, you can focus on the smaller clients who may be intimidated by the big players.

If you’re already one of the big players, what got you there?

What service, no matter how small, do you offer that the others don’t?

The right elements in your website’s copy will make you memorable and encourage visitors to contact you. Like a storefront display, your mannerisms or even your clothes, the words on your site speak volumes. What does your website say about you?

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Five Things the Best Corporate Blogs Have in Common

blogging iconThe first time I stumbled upon someone’s blog was about ten years ago. A sad woman was spilling it all. It was as uncomfortable as accidentally seeing someone naked.

Since that time, blogging has evolved from tell-all diaries to income for content marketers to public relations vehicles for large corporations. Today, anybody who has a business and many who don’t maintain a blog. Blogging has become an important driver of both communication and sales.

The good news for small business owners is that blogging is relatively inexpensive compared to traditional forms of advertising. The not-so-good news is that, with so many voices out there, how can you get yours heard?

I took a look at some of the best, well-known corporate blogs around and found that they had five things in common.

1. They Talk About More than Their Products

Southwest Airlines’ blog is the best example of variety. In one day, there’s a post about environmentally friendly Christmas wrap and another about weather patterns around the country. Southwest Airlines invites Internet time-wasters to their site for oodles of feel-good distractions.

2. They Post Information Their Readers Want

Manpower creates posts centered on careers. On their blog, you’ll find posts explaining nonverbal interviewing skills, post-interview thank-you notes, and interview kits. Manpower has identified the group that makes their business a success: ambitious, talented, career-driven people. And they created a blog that caters to them.

3. They Get Real

A surprising number of corporate blogs have a face behind the posts. Marriott is the most impressive example. J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., the Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board, authors each and every post. You just can’t resist the compelling combination: a high-brow executive writing features about an immigrant housekeeper and singing the praises of a big-hearted priest. And Marriott’s photo? You want to call him “Grandpa” and bring him a piece of pumpkin pie. It’s social marketing gold.

4. They Engage Readers

Starbucks’ blog is written almost entirely by readers. Customers come to the blog to make suggestions or post complaints. Other readers rate the posts to move them up or down the popularity ladder. A section of the blog is devoted to “Ideas in Action” where Starbucks’ ambassadors (again notice the personable photos with every post) relate how suggestions are being implemented.

5. They Feature Content on Charitable Causes and Human Interest

Nearly every corporate blog I visited had posts relating to charitable causes. Starbucks talks about its contributions to the Global Fund to fight AIDS. Whole Foods features posts about its launch of the “Do Something Reel™ Film Festival” to promote films that seek to make a positive difference. Southwest Airlines’ has posts honoring the veterans in the lives of their employees.

These successful blogs used all the techniques above to engage their readers. But their strategy comes down to one thing: make readers feel good. Whether its heart-warming stories of firemen heroics or practical resume advice, the blogs make readers feel better about themselves or the world. They’re the kind of posts people flock to in moments of frustration or boredom.

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The Curse Driving Away Your Customers

It isn’t as well-known as James Dean’s Porsche. But far more people are cursed with it, and you’re likely one of them. It won’t keep an entire city of baseball fans hopelessly waiting for a World Series win. But it may keep you from communicating effectively with your audience.

The curse I’m talking about is the curse of knowledge, and it pretty much makes you incomprehensible to your readers. Luckily, you don’t need a rabbit’s foot or a special pair of socks to beat this calamity. All you need are the following copywriting tips.

Start Where Your Audience Is

Experts have a tough time remembering what it was like to be a novice. As a result, their readers have to consult reference books. Even knowledgeable readers may question your conclusions if you don’t provide them with the right background information.

To overcome your tendency to speak in the stratosphere, pay attention to the questions your clients are asking. Being mindful of how you explain concepts in person-to-person meetings will help you explain those concepts in your writing.

Toss the Jargon

As oft-repeated as this advice is, it’s tough to follow. You are so immersed in your industry that jargon doesn’t sound like jargon anymore.

To relearn how to speak plainly, imagine yourself talking to your spouse or a friend about your topic. You’ll quickly realize that acronyms are often unnecessary (or else always requiring explanation) and the jargon that flies in the boardroom sounds awkward elsewhere.

Stick to Your Topic

I know. I sound like your eighth-grade English teacher. But maintaining focus is essential to writing for business. As an expert, you see the big picture and feel compelled to explain it in all its glory. But your readers are looking for a single gold nugget. To them, the rest is just a pile of pebbles.

To stay on target, write the purpose of your piece in one, simply worded statement on a sticky note. Everything you write must relate directly to that statement. Put that sticky note on your screen and refer to it anytime you are tempted to go on a tangent. Then, read your draft and cross out anything that does not support your topic.

Be Entertaining

You don’t have to do the Gangnam Style dance to be entertaining. You can insert humor or tell a compelling story. Above all, take Psy’s lead and write with the kind of enthusiasm for your industry that the superstar rapper has for his wacky music and dance moves.

Just as the Curse of the Billy Goat keeps the Chicago Cubs from the World Series, the curse of knowledge can keep you from realizing your business’s potential.

Sometimes business owners have trouble thinking from the client’s perspective, junking the jargon, focusing or communicating enthusiasm. When this happens to you, call in an experienced copywriter who can do all those things with panache.

A professional freelance writer will pinpoint what makes your business better than your competition, also known as your “Elvis Factor.” Then, through diligent research, the freelance writer will translate your Elvis factor into the benefits your clients need. Oh, and she’ll also do it with same amount of enthusiasm that burns in your belly.

When great content works its magic, it turns curses into blessings. Your knowledge will become the reason customers flock to your business.

 

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Bones of a Blog Post

ImageHalloween is approaching and you might think that writing a blog post for your small business is scarier than your neighbor who dresses up as a clown to pass out candy. It isn’t. Clowns are much, much scarier. Let me put at least one of your fears to rest and show you what makes up the skeleton of a blog post.

Subheadings

Like a grave marker, subheadings let you know what lies beneath. The term “blog reader” is an oxymoron. They’re more like skimmers.

People who come to your blog are looking for a nugget of information and subheadings help them find it. This is especially true if they arrive via search engines.

Subheadings also help readers gauge the quality of your information quickly before they invest more time reading.

Small Paragraphs

Reading on a screen is a lot different than reading on paper. If you glance away, it’s tough to find your spot again.

It’s like getting lost in a forest haunted by a vengeful witch. Don’t scare your readers. Make it easy for them to navigate your post.

Advertisements, links, even message notifications, all vie for your readers’ eyes. Small paragraphs make place-holding easier.

Short Sentences

The meaning of a short sentence is clear. Long sentences are tiresome to read, especially on a computer screen.

If you’re a vengeful villain with a clawed glove residing in your victims’ dream world, then by all means, put your readers to sleep with convoluted sentences.

Keep your sentences simple and short if you want your readers to survive to become steady clients.

Have you noticed a pattern yet? A good blog post is easy to read.

Not easy as in “I don’t respect your intelligence.” Easy as in “I do respect your time.”

We all have less of it these days. The more skillfully you can pack valuable information into an easy-to-read format, the more your blog will take off.

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