Archive for the ‘Marketing Tips’ Category


How to repurpose content: Follow 2 easy steps

Posted by Patrice Rhoades-Baum

 

When it’s time to write a blog post, do you search for fresh ideas — but nothing comes to mind? Here’s how to repurpose content.

If you come up empty-handed, the solution might be at your fingertips. Instead of spending time writing entirely new copy, you can breathe fresh life into EXISTING content — your articles, blog posts, webinar transcripts, book chapters, and worksheets. It’s easy to repurpose your existing content.

Repurposing and “recycling” older articles is perfectly fine — as long as the topics are evergreen (still relevant).

It surprises me when my clients express reluctance to repurpose content they wrote years ago, for example, older case studies or blog articles. If the topic is evergreen, the content may need just a bit of editing — a tweak here, a twist there — to be updated.

Perhaps it’s my South Dakota roots, but whenever I write about the topic of how to repurpose content, the word FODDER leaps to mind.

One definition of fodder is “coarse food for livestock.” Ok, that definition does not apply! But this one does: “raw material.”

When you think about repurposing your existing content, think about the "fodder" at your fingertips!

When you think about repurposing your existing content, think about the “fodder” at your fingertips!

 

Here’s why I like the word FODDER …

Early in my corporate marketing career, I figured out how to repurpose content. I had to — it was a matter of survival!

On any given day, I faced deadlines related to marketing brochures, direct mail, public relations, white papers, case studies, tradeshows, sales presentations, websites, online newsletters, and advertising.

Whew!

Since I was juggling so many projects at once, I mastered the art of leveraging and repurposing content to save time and meet deadlines.

Long ago, I began looking at the copy I wrote as much more than one-off content. Instead, I viewed everything I wrote as potential fodder for a future project. Today this skill comes naturally for me.

Are you a solopreneur (professional speaker, marketing consultant, business coach, life coach)? Or do you own a different type of business? Or do you wear the marketing hat for a larger company? If so, there’s a good chance you write a lot of unique content. This means there’s a good chance you have plenty of FODDER at your fingertips!

 

Follow 2 easy steps to “recycle” and repurpose  content.

Step 1: Use this checklist to identify ALL the places your written content exists.

  • Marketing tools: Website, speaker one-sheets, brochures, sales sheets, and compiled testimonials
  • PowerPoint or Keynote presentations and transcripts for keynotes, videos, webinars, and podcasts
  • Handouts, worksheets, tip sheets, and checklists
  • Social media posts and lists of discussion topics
  • Published articles, case studies, and white papers
  • Blog articles
  • Email newsletters
  • Opt-in box giveaway item (aka lead magnet, opt-in bribe, or freemium)
  • Your books
  • Your information products
  • Other: __________________________________

Step 2: Take a fresh look at how you can repurpose your existing content — the fodder at your fingertips!

Let’s brainstorm a bit to spur some ideas. Take a minute to think broadly about the content you have written, per the above list. How can you “recycle” and repurpose your existing content?

Here’s an example: You could repurpose a webinar transcript into:

  • Blog article or article series
  • Guest blog article
  • Email newsletter article
  • Article to be published in a trade magazine (printed or online)
  • Chapter for your next book
  • Information product
  • Opt-in box giveaway item, perhaps distilled into a worksheet or tip sheet
  • Raid tidbits and share daily tips on Facebook and other social media sites

Instead of spending time writing entirely new articles, you can repurpose content by breathing fresh life into your existing, evergreen copy. 

I’ve been transforming “fodder” — already written content — into polished, vibrant, relevant copy for decades. I’m happy to help YOU transform your transcripts, blog posts, email newsletter articles, presentations, video scripts, handouts, worksheets, and other existing copy into NEW and UP-TO-DATE content.

Do you need fresh ideas and a bit of guidance?

If you need writing or editing support to repurpose your existing content, call me at 719-685-1108 or pop an email to Patrice@PatriceRB.com. Remember, I offer a free, 30-minute consultation.

 

 

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Content marketing: Here’s your 3-step plan

Posted by Patrice Rhoades-Baum

 

Whether you love to write or just endure it, it’s a good time to embrace a content marketing strategy.

Do you love to write, and the words flow like water in a stream? My guess is probably not! If you’re like most people, when it’s time to write, you need to shut your office door, knuckle down, and just get it done. Yet no matter your approach to writing, you’re in luck. Why? Because producing content is the absolute key to “content marketing,” an effective marketing strategy that continues to gain traction.

Content marketing is truly enjoying its day in the sun! In fact, the Content Marketing Institute says: “It’s the present – and future – of marketing.” In other words, it’s the better way, and it’s here to stay.

Content marketing is like "going fishing" for prospects. In very simple terms, you bait the hook and reel them in. Photo by Patrice Rhoades-Baum

Content marketing is like “going fishing” for prospects. In very simple terms, you bait the hook, stay attentive, and reel them in. Photo of fisherman at Fall River, Rocky Mountain National Park by Patrice Rhoades-Baum.

What is content marketing?

Here’s a definition from the Content Marketing Institute:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are providing truly relevant and useful content to your prospects and customers to help them solve their issues.”

Put more simply: When you regularly create and distribute useful content, you can attract prospects, nurture a relationship, and drive sales. 

Even if you only do a tad bit of marketing in your business, you know that writing content is part and parcel to implementing all types of marketing, public relations, and advertising strategies.

Many of my clients – solopreneurs and mid-size businesses – are actively executing aggressive content marketing strategies. Many ask me to write content for them on a regular basis. Primarily, this includes:

  • Blog articles
  • Email newsletter articles
  • Product/service web pages
  • Case study web pages
  • Articles for trade publications
  • Content for infographics
  • Copy for marketing brochures and mailers

Working with different clients in different industries has given me insight into the many ways to pursue content marketing. Some strategies are fairly simple; some are quite robust. The end goal is the same: attract prospects, nurture a relationship, and drive sales.

Content marketing is much like fishing.

Content marketing is much like fishing. Native to Rocky Mountain National Park, this greenback cutthrout trout is federally listed as endangered. Photo by Patrice Rhoades-Baum. (I did not enhance the colors of this guy – he swam into the sunlight and flashed brilliant red!)

Get started on (or improve) your content marketing strategy: Here is my 3-step plan

Whether your business is large or small, I believe there are 3 basic steps for your content marketing plan. In a nutshell, these are: (1) Write regular blog posts to attract prospects to your website. (2) Entice them with a compelling giveaway, so you can get their email address and build your list. (3) Send regular email newsletters to your list to stay top-of-mind, nurture the relationship and, over time, convert prospects to paying clients.

Keep reading … here are details for this basic, 3-step plan. Follow these tips to begin (or improve) your content marketing strategy.

1. BLOG ARTICLES – Post regular blog articles with information that is useful, relevant, and informative for your target market. Although your blog articles clearly show your expertise, they are not sales pitches. The reason to post new content regularly is two-fold: You are inviting and attracting prospects, customers, and social media connections to visit your website. Plus, adding new content invites Google’s search-engine robots to revisit your site, which can help to improve your search-engine rankings.

Tips:

  • Include SEO keywords in every blog post, which helps to attract prospects to your blog and website. Identifying organic SEO keywords is simple. Here’s a quick case study: I just began teaming with an accomplished executive coach and his assistant. We quickly identified these organic SEO keywords: his full name (not just his first name) and his city as well as phrases such as executive coach, business coach, executive coaching, Vistage Chair, and so on.
  • In terms of word count, Google likes 300+ words.
  • Use a plugin (e.g., Yoast), which can guide you to improve your search-engine optimization, with the addition of a keyword focus, meta description, and more.
  • Use your social media sites to announce the new article to your fans, friends, and followers. This invites folks to your website/blog to read the article.
  • I like to include brief blog articles with photos on topics of personal interest. Examples include highlights of hiking adventures, archaeological field trips, and roadtrips throughout the Southwest. This has been a fun and rewarding way to truly connect with many like-minded people around the world.

2. OPT-IN BOX – Ensure your blog has an opt-in box in the margin, so you can capture visitors’ email addresses. The opt-in box must have a compelling, free giveaway item (aka lead magnet, opt-in bribe, or freemium). Here’s the reason to create a hardworking opt-in box: This simple tool helps to build your list. This enables you to stay in contact with prospects and grow your relationship.

Tips:

  • You can have one main opt-in box in the margin of your blog. Better yet, each blog article can have a brief corresponding worksheet that is downloadable via that particular blog article’s opt-in box.
  • Place an opt-in box on all pages of your website, not just on the blog and Home page. In fact, consider having opt-in boxes with different giveaway items on various web pages to entice prospects who are interested in your various products and services.
  • Ideally, when someone opts-in, they should receive several autoresponder emails that offer additional, valuable information. This helps to create a trusting relationship. Keep the focus on giving value rather than sell-sell-sell.
  • In the opt-in box, consider asking for ONLY the email address – not first name, last name, city, company, and other information. Marketing data shows that conversion rates improve when less information is required.
  • Ask your assistant or website developer to ensure the email address is automatically entered into your email newsletter database (e.g., MailChimp or Constant Contact).
  • If you’re implementing a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising strategy, the ad’s link should take prospects to a landing page with an opt-in box and compelling giveaway item. (Place the same opt-in box at both the top and bottom of the landing page.)
  • Here are 10 example giveaway items:
    – Infographic (these appeal to prospects due to instant gratification)
    – Webinar
    – Video
    – Recorded interview
    – Worksheet
    – Tipsheet
    – Checklist
    – Set of templates
    – eBook
    – White paper

3. EMAIL NEWSLETTER – Send a weekly or monthly email newsletter. The primary reason is to stay top-of-mind with your prospects and customers. Ideally, many prospects will eventually convert to paying clients. Plus, many clients will return to purchase your products and services.

Tips:

  • Primarily, the content should add value, not sell.
  • You can certainly promote new products, services, special offers, and so forth. And, of course, you can include links to your website.
  • Consider creating an editorial calendar. This step can help you develop more sophisticated email campaigns to support your product funnel and drive the sales process.

All the above steps assume that the website content is up-to-date, particularly when it comes to brand messaging, products, services, and case studies. In fact, I encourage you to keep your website content as current as possible. (If you need help, give me a holler.) Your up-to-date website is the hub of all marketing activities.

Follow this basic 3-step content marketing strategy to attract prospects, nurture the relationship, and drive sales.

 

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Best business writing tip ever: Walk away!

Posted by Patrice Rhoades-Baum

 

What’s the best way to improve your writing? Walk away!

Best writing tip ever--walk away!

Patrice and Jake explore the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve. Photo by Michael Baum.

Here’s my favorite business writing tip: Write your first draft, taking time to re-read the copy and give it a good polish.

Next, walk away for an hour – or a day!

What do you get?
Perspective and objectivity.

Walking away helps to give you distance – literally and figuratively! When you come back, you’ll take a fresh look at the content you wrote. You’ll be surprised how much perspective and objectivity you will gain.

What do you do next? Edit to ensure content is crisp, clear, and compelling.

Now, go back to your writing. Pretend someone else wrote the content. Put on your editor’s hat. It’s time to edit ruthlessly!

Follow this 10-point checklist to edit your content:

  1. Make sure there’s a clear benefit message. (Readers should quickly understand why they want to invest their limited time to read your content. What will they learn? Don’t make them guess!)
  2. Write a more enticing headline.
  3. Ensure every sentence is as clear as possible.
  4. Check to ensure the overall structure makes sense. (For example, if you’re writing a case study, have you presented before/after events in chronological order?)
  5. Add subheads to strengthen structure.
  6. Trim the word count.
  7. Add SEO keywords.
  8. Proof to fix spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.
  9. Fact-check as necessary.
  10. Add a call-to-action at the end.

More on this business writing tip . . .

  • Why do I consider this to be the best business writing tip EVER? Because “walking away” can help you to objectively look at and edit your article, blog post, worksheet, brochure, and book. Do this every time, and you WILL improve your writing – and your message.
  • When editing, I like to print out the page(s). Surprisingly, reading a piece of paper – versus staring at the screen – adds even more perspective and objectivity.
  • Also, when editing, I like to use a red pen. If you find red ink daunting (perhaps you’re haunted by harsh teachers wielding red pens), then use green, purple, blue, or black. The color doesn’t matter. What matters is taking time to thoroughly – and ruthlessly – edit your content.

In a nutshell, here’s why this is my favorite business writing tip …

When you walk away – then come back later to ruthlessly edit your writing – your content will be crisp, clear, and compelling.

 

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Productivity tips for small business owners: These 7 calendaring tips add productivity (and sanity) to your week

Posted by Patrice Rhoades-Baum 2 Comments

Is every week crazy-busy?
How can you add productivity – and sanity – to your week?

 

"Bear in the backyard" photo by Patrice Rhoades-Baum

“Bear in the backyard” photo by Patrice Rhoades-Baum

There’s an old saying that goes (roughly): “Sometimes you get the bear; sometimes the bear gets you.” When you’re crazy-busy, it can feel like you’re being chased by a bear – and it’s gonna get you! Often, feeling crazy-busy goes hand-in-hand with feeling stressed.

After a 25-year corporate marketing career and 10+ years owning a business, I’ve discovered that being organized goes a long way toward reducing stress and being productive.  Today, as a marketing/branding consultant and copywriter for websites, blog posts, speaker one-sheets and more, I have a lot of plates spinning.

Taking time for “calendaring” helps to ensure my week is sane, organized, and productive. Calendaring helps to ensure you never miss a meeting and always complete projects on time. That’s why calendaring is one of my favorite productivity tips for small business owners.

If you spend time wading through emails and stacks of paper searching for details, are late for meetings, and stress over deadlines, then I encourage you to give these calendaring tips a try. Wouldn’t it be great to get on top of details and deadlines? Wouldn’t it be great to get the bear?

 

Let’s follow the “Who/What/When/Where” approach to discuss this productivity topic.Calendar

WHO: Every busy person including solopreneurs and small business owners who could add a bit of productivity (and sanity) to their lives. In fact, calendaring is one of my favorite productivity tips for small business owners, because it make a big difference in your quality of life.

WHAT: Take time for calendering every week. To me, it means carving out time to sit down, take a breath, and create a complete to-do list for the upcoming week. This starts with organizing all events in your calendar (whether it’s paper or electronic). Mark down all appointments, note all project deadlines, list priority action items, and so forth.

WHEN: I reserve time every Monday morning to organize my week. It can take a couple of hours! Do your Mondays start with “ready, set, go”? If so, consider taking time for calendaring on Friday afternoon for the upcoming week. If necessary, do this over the weekend.

WHERE: This activity requires focus – and having information and office tools at hand. I encourage you to do your calendaring at your desk in your office. That way, you have all tools handy: your phone, computer, email, electronic or paper calendar, pens, highlighters, etc.

HOW: When it comes to calendaring, here are my favorite productivity tips for small business owners:

  1. Create ONE list for the whole week; identify daily action items and milestones – Take time to create a complete to-do list for the upcoming week (either on paper or electronically). This includes identifying tasks and projects you MUST complete as well as those you HOPE to complete. Calendaring takes this a step beyond jotting down a simple to-do list. Whether your calendar is electronic or paper, take time to identify action items to tackle on specific days. Believe me, when you create a thorough, day-by-day action list that’s integrated with your calendar, all sorts of details will pop into your brain … important details that may otherwise get overlooked. Plus, there’s a good chance you’ll step up your productivity.
  2. Schedule “meetings” with yourself – Do you have a long-term project on your plate? Often, business development activities and long-term goals that are important do not have concrete or looming deadlines. Set aside time to get it done! Put this appointment in your calendar, and don’t skip it. A good example is dedicating a portion of every Monday to be “Marketing Monday” to promote and grow your business.
  3. At the end of every day, take time to wrangle loose ends – Write down all appointments, tasks, notes, reminders, and deadlines for the next day. Capture all details. Otherwise, these “gremlins” may wake you up at 2:00 in the morning.
  4. Include personal tasks on your master list – Let’s say your anniversary is next week, and you need to call in reservations at your favorite restaurant. Better make a note. Or perhaps you’re hosting a friend’s birthday party at your house. Don’t forget to order the cake. When calendaring, include important action items related to personal projects.
  5. This is a good opportunity to clear off your desk – While calendaring, take time to file papers, address sticky notes, and check unread emails for surprise action items.
  6. Send a reminder/confirmation email to meeting participants – For meetings that have been set up for the week (either in-person meetings or conference calls), send a reminder email to the participants. This helps to ensure the meeting happens as planned, and the project moves forward.
  7. Set alarms in your smartphone – You can set up alarms to alert you to certain high-priority activities such as meetings and doctor’s appointments. (Don’t go overboard.)

WHY: Carving out time to get organized actually buys you more time! Taking time for calendaring helps to clear your mind, reduce stress, and tackle priority projects. Without question, it makes you more productive. And you’ll be on top of details and deadlines!

Imagine no more searching for lost files, being late for important meetings, or missing project deadlines. Investing just a bit of calendaring time every week can truly add productivity – and sanity – to your work week.

 

This is why calendaring has become one of my favorite productivity tips for small business owners.

 

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Writing marketing content: 3 secrets to make it flow

Posted by Patrice Rhoades-Baum

Top secret round stamp
Business owners who are writing marketing content – website copy, sales landing pages, brochures, speaker one-sheets, and other marketing verbiage – tell me it’s a chore.

They procrastinate, get stressed out, get writer’s block, and suffer through the first draft. Their editing process is more “critical” than “critique.” The words do not flow, and they are NOT having a good time.

For me, thanks to 3 decades of marketing and copywriting experience, writing marketing content comes fairly easily. It’s still a hefty project, mind you. But (thankfully) there’s not a lot of pain and suffering involved.

Right now, I’m immersed in writing several sales landing pages. The copy is flowing (thankfully). I just realized the reason why it’s flowing: Over the years, I’ve internalized these 3 secrets to writing marketing content.

 

Here are my 3 secrets to writing marketing content:

Secret #1. Follow the “itch-and-scratch” approach.

This is an extremely useful tool to have in your writing toolkit. Here’s how it works:

THE ITCH: Write the first few sentences of copy to directly address your prospects’ needs, challenges, or struggles.

THE SCRATCH: Write copy that directly speaks to the results – the relief they get – with the products or services you deliver.

 

Here’s an example:

THE ITCH: Are you embarrassed by your outdated website and mismatched marketing tools?

THE SCRATCH: Team with our skilled designers to create polished, professional marketing collateral, including a strategic website. You’ll enjoy this exciting, stress-free process. And you’ll love the results!

 

Secret #2. Use the word YOU.

Writing sentences that start with the word “YOU” helps to clearly present benefit messages. This is a must when writing ALL types of marketing content including website copy. (Note that you are “speaking” to an individual person, not a group of people magically reading your content in unison.)

Here’s an example:
In this interactive workshop, your sales reps will learn a proven process to hit their sales goals, month after month. 

“YOU” is a hardworking little word. It practically guarantees that your marketing content clearly presents “what you get” – the benefits and results your prospects will receive when they team with you.

 

Secret #3. Tap into the reader’s emotions.

As I thought about one of the sales landing pages I was about to write, I realized that prospects who need this product are feeling confused, stuck, and overwhelmed. As I wrote the copy, I addressed these feelings from beginning to end. Essentially, I kept my finger on the pulse.

When writing marketing content, take a minute to think deeply about your potential buyers. How are they feeling? What are the emotions they struggle with – the emotions that might drive them to purchase the particular service or product you are selling?

Here’s a helpful list of emotions, as a start:

Frustrated, overwhelmed, confused, unclear/foggy, feeling stuck, feeling pressured to make the right choice, scared, feelings of inadequacy, flustered, floundering, fear of wasting time, fear of wasting money, fear of failure, fear of making the wrong choice

 

Follow these 3 secrets to writing marketing content for your next project. Hopefully, there will be no pain and suffering – and a lot more flow!

 

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How to write marketing and website content that is “visual” and memorable

Posted by Patrice Rhoades-Baum

Gears

 

Write marketing and website content that is visual (something the reader can picture) to ensure your message is clear and memorable.

Early in my career, an experienced writer advised me to write copy that enables readers to visualize a picture. I’ve boiled it down to this phrase:
“If they can’t SEE it, they won’t get it.” 

In other words, if your readers cannot form a picture in their mind:

  • They might gloss over your words.
  • They might not fully comprehend the meaning.
  • They might not remember your message.

How do you write marketing and website content that is visual and memorable?

Seek to use as much visual language in your writing as possible, particularly in examples, similes, and metaphors – and by using powerful verbs. Try to make your content tangible, almost “touchable.” If you close your eyes, can you see a picture?

Even if you’re writing about a topic that is fairly abstract, conceptual, or technological, you can still strive to make a point with visual words and ideas.

 

EXAMPLE #1
This copy is for an imaginary speaker who leads workshops to improve team communication and productivity.

Not visual:

“Poor communication in a team contributes to rework, missed deadlines, and conflict. Enhanced communication among team members directly results in enhanced productivity.”

Notice how you gloss over the message?

More visual:

“Poor communication in a team is like tossing a wrench into the works, which leads to mishaps and general mayhem! The results are reworked projects, missed deadlines, and conflict. On the other hand, clear and consistent communication leads to a highly productive team that runs like a well-oiled machine.”

If you close your eyes, can you see a picture?

 

EXAMPLE #2

Not visual:

“Many personality tests given to teams offer confusing results and advice. This workshop presents a new personality test that identifies key strengths to show how each person is an asset to the team.”

More visual:

“Many personality tests given to teams offer murky results with nebulous advice. This workshop presents a new personality test that shines a spotlight on key strengths, illuminating how each person is an asset to the team.”

 


2-MINUTE CHALLENGE
It’s YOUR turn. Take 2 minutes to complete this quick exercise. Rewrite the first sentence to make it more visual. Post your sentence on this blog – I’d love to read your idea!

Not visual:

“Personality conflicts in the workplace are damaging and counterproductive – and distract from strategic projects. In this workshop, your team will learn 5 steps to resolve personality conflicts.”

“________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________”

(See the bottom of this blog post for my solution.)

 

Some final advice …

When you write marketing and website content, don’t use similes and metaphors ad nauseam. Also, avoid mixed metaphors. Here’s an example: “On our cruise, we went overboard on the buffet. To work off the extra calories, we joined every exercise class and sweated like horses.”

Cruise ship

Horse-blue

 

Here’s my solution for the EXERCISE:
“Personality conflicts in the workplace can crush team spirit, sabotage productivity, and overthrow strategic projects. In this workshop, your team will learn 5 steps to resolve personality conflicts.”

~~~~~~~~~

Coming up next: How to edit marketing and website copy for visual appeal and to make it more readable

 

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Tried & true proofreading tips – from a 3-decade professional writer

Posted by Patrice Rhoades-Baum 2 Comments

 

Proofreading can be trickier than you think – and more important than you realize.

Here are my favorite, real-world proofreading tips:
8 proven ways to proof your writing – and polish your content.

 

Using my smartphone, I typed a friend’s name in a Facebook post. AutoCorrect changed her last name – Rappisi – to Rapist. OMG!

Thankfully, I caught and corrected this before posting the message. But it’s an ongoing battle.

Twilight at the Butte--Painting by Michael Baum

“Twilight at the Butte,” Painting by Michael Baum

In a text message to a potential art buyer, AutoCorrect changed the title of my husband’s painting from “Twilight at the Butte” to “Twilight at the Butt.” Yikes!

Thanks to AutoCorrect, more typos than ever slip by. And that’s not ok.

As business owners, we want clients and colleagues to view us as professionals and experts. And rightly so – we’ve earned our stripes.

But typo-filled texts, emails, and marketing tools tarnish that image.

That’s why it’s vital to proofread ALL your correspondence: every text message, email, and Facebook post.

Also, as a 3-decade copywriter and marketing professional, you can guess that I strongly encourage solopreneurs to carefully proof their marketing tools: website, speaker one-sheet, social media profiles, articles, blog posts, email newsletters, and so forth.

Here are my favorite proofreading tips – tried and true:

  1. Take time to proof & make it a habit – Always re-read what you’ve written before you hit “post” or “send.” Just a few seconds can save you from embarrassing miscommunication.
  2. Change the type style – This is a simple trick that really works! If you’re drafting content using Calibri or Arial, change the font to Times New Roman. By switching to a type style that is quite different (sans-serif versus serif), you can proofread with a fresh eye.
  3. Print it out – After you’ve drafted your article, blog post or email newsletter, print it and read the paper copy. You’ll be surprised how much difference this makes! Somehow this offers a level of objectivity you simply can’t get when viewing the monitor.
    (While proofing this page, I noticed my habit of using my index finger as a pointer, focusing my eye on one word at a time. Sometimes I overlay a blank sheet of paper to focus attention on one line of text at a time.)
  4. Read it aloud – Read your writing out loud, slowly and carefully (either on paper or on the screen). Minimize distractions and stay focused. This proofreading tip seems to force your brain to slow down and really look at every word.
  5. Walk away for a day – Write your content, then leave it for a day or two. When you come back, you’ll read your copy with a fresh eye. Use this proofreading tip to ensure your proposals and contracts are 100% accurate.
  6. Take full advantage of spellcheck – Turn on spell checkers and grammar checkers in your email program, Microsoft Word, your blogging program, and other writing programs you use. You can specify options! I recently adjusted advanced AutoCorrect and spellcheck options in Outlook. (In my version of Outlook, this is under File/Options/Mail/Editor Options.)
  7. Read 3 times, wearing 3 different “hats” – To ensure your writing delivers an on-target message that hits the mark, first read the copy as if you’re a prospect or client. The next hat you wear is proofreader: Read to check spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Finally, you’re the editor: Red pen in hand, seek ways to clarify the message and reduce word count.
  8. Pair up – Every so often, my husband Mike and I will pair up to proofread something that absolutely must be accurate (e.g., a list of passwords). One person reads the on-screen content out loud, while the other person proofs the printed page.
  9. BONUS: You won’t believe this proofreading tip! – Read your content backward, word for word. I’ve met writers who use this tactic. While I’ve never done this, I can see how you would catch typos (although you could miss homophones such as their/there and it’s/its).
  10. FINAL THOUGHTS, BASED ON 3 DECADES AS A PROFESSIONAL WRITER – It’s a fact of life: typos will slip in. Do your best to avoid them. When you spy a typo, fix it and move on. Don’t beat yourself up. Just remind yourself to take time to proof your content and make it a habit.

Try my proofreading tips – they work! Take it from a professional copywriter who has earned her stripes. (Ask me about “a pole was taken.”)   :>

 

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Get customer testimonials: 5 ways to ask for – and get – GREAT testimonials

Posted by Patrice Rhoades-Baum

 

It’s important to get customer testimonials – this helps you get new clients.

Testimonials are social proof. Testimonials from your clients prove that your expertise makes a difference. That’s why it’s critical to get customer testimonials, and include them in your website, speaker one-sheet, and other marketing tools. Testimonials DO help to win new clients.

But it can be challenging to get customer testimonials!

Your clients love teaming with you. When you ask for a testimonial, they happily agree. BUT …

  • They are crazy-busy, and they don’t get around to it.
  • It’s awkward to keep reminding and pestering them.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone! This is a universal challenge for solopreneurs and small business owners.

Here’s the problem: You are giving them an action item.

When you ask for testimonials – and they agree – you are giving clients an action item. They intend to write a glowing testimonial for you. However, that action item is not a high-priority task. It may literally get lost in a sea of scribbled notes on their desk!

Here’s the solution: 5 ways to ask for – and get – customer testimonials.

Get customer testimonials

Capture your clients’ glowing testimonials!

1. Jot down notes when clients rave, then write the testimonials for them – This is my favorite way to get customer testimonials. Often, a client will enthusiastically share comments when we’re on the phone together, such as “Your marketing advice hit the nail on the head…” When your client gushes, grab a pen and jot down notes. You can polish the comments a bit, then email the testimonial and ask for permission to use it.

2. Convert emailed comments into a testimonial – Client thank-you notes make great testimonials! Sometimes, you may need to edit an email thank-you note to transform it into a hardworking testimonial. If so, write the draft testimonial and ask your client to review it. Often, clients will elaborate on the comments and give you an even better testimonial.

3. Request an audio testimonial – Schedule a 10-minute conference call with your client and use the “record” function. Then you (or your assistant) can conduct a brief interview. Add the audio interview on your website’s “Testimonials” page, along with a written snippet or the full transcript.

4. Call and ask for a testimonial, on the spot – This tip is especially useful when you’re updating your website. Simply call your clients, explain that you’d love a testimonial, and ask if they have a minute. Then discuss the project’s results while you write (or type) notes. Edit your notes into a brief testimonial. Ask clients if they want to read and approve the written testimonial.

  • Bonus #1: You’ll get enough information to write a case study.
  • Bonus #2: You’ll reconnect with “old” clients. You can rekindle your relationship and possibly identify new opportunities to work together.

5. If you’re a speaker, include a testimonial request in your contract – Professional speakers often include a note in their contract, requesting that the meeting planner provide a testimonial after the event. Of course, immediately after your talk, you can capture attendees’ rave reviews on your smartphone’s video camera.

BONUS idea for those who present workshopsDo you give evaluation forms to workshop participants? If so, ensure the form asks questions in a manner that elicits usable testimonials. In other words, you might ask questions such as:

  • “What is the most important thing you learned from this workshop?”
  • “When you get back to your office, what ONE change will you make?”
  • “With the advice you learned today, how will you change the way you do X?”

Use these methods to overcome the challenges to get customer testimonials.
Great testimonials help to win new clients!

 

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Should you change or edit client testimonials? YES! Edit to polish and add value.

Posted by Patrice Rhoades-Baum

 

Have you heEdit client testimonialsard this advice: “Never change or edit client testimonials.” Not true! You SHOULD edit testimonials so they’re professional and add value. You can polish and edit client testimonials with a light touch. Just be careful not to change the meaning.

 

Use this checklist to edit client testimonials:

  1. PROOF – It’s vital to fix typos and punctuation issues. This helps to ensure your website and other marketing tools are polished and professional.
  2. SHORTEN – Brief testimonials get to the point and are easy to read. Trim long testimonials to 3-5 sentences. Yes, this means sacrificing content. But that’s better than loooong testimonials, which cause readers’ eyes to glaze over.
  3. REWORK (IF IT’S CONFUSING) – If a testimonial contains good content but is confusing or poorly written, consider rewording key sentences. Be careful not to change the meaning or the person’s intent. Then email the revised testimonial to your client for approval.
  4. ORGANIZE – I like to place testimonials with the most impact at the top of the website’s “Testimonials” page. When you organize client testimonials, alternate testimonials that address similar challenges.
  5. INCLUDE LOCATION & MORE – Make every testimonial work hard for you! Include the person’s full name, title, organization, and city/state or state/country. If your business is international, your testimonials from various countries prove that you work with clients around the world. Consider adding the client’s photo, if this is appropriate for your business. Also, if there are privacy issues (e.g., the healthcare industry) don’t publish the person’s full name. Instead use the first name only or initials only.
  6. ADD SEO KEYWORDS – When you edit client testimonials, sprinkle in organic SEO keywords. For example, if your name is Jane Doe and you’re a business coach, you can do this:
    Replace this statement: “Jane guided me to…”
    With this statement: “As my business coach, Jane Doe guided me to…”
  7. MAKE A BOLD STATEMENT – Your website visitors (your prospects) don’t read every word on your website. They skim. That’s why I select one sentence in every testimonial and make it bold.

Take time to edit client testimonials. This adds professionalism to your marketing tools – and adds value for your business.

 

 

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Your photo: Is it a head shot – or a GREAT shot?

Posted by Patrice Rhoades-Baum

Patrice Rhoades-Baum

 

It’s time to ditch the boring head shot!

In the past 2 days, I’ve chatted with 3 new clients who are ready to STEP UP and shine as the experts they are. It always surprises me how quickly “the photo” comes up in our branding discussions.

Intuitively, many solopreneurs understand that the traditional head shot does not serve them. 

Are you a professional speaker, consultant, coach, or author? If so, you may be an expert in your niche. In fact, you may be a thought leader, shaking things up in your industry!

If you’re a solopreneur – without question – your photo should be on your website’s Home page, on your business card and, of course, on your speaker one-sheet.

Why? Because YOU are your brand. Your photo communicates who are you, and it creates an emotional connection with your prospects.

I believe your photo is a key Brand Element. And I believe it must be a GREAT SHOT, not a head shot. 

What makes for a great shot? It’s a STRATEGIC discussion and highly individual for each person. The following 12 tips offer guidelines. And scroll down to see 18 examples of my clients who use their great shot on their website Home page. (All are my clients, and all are solopreneurs – most are professional speakers, consultants, coaches, or authors.)

 

Here are 12 tips to ensure you get a GREAT SHOT (not just a head shot): 

  1. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Everything your photo “says” – overtly and covertly, symbolically and in subtext – must support your brand. Remember, planning your photo is a STRATEGIC discussion; give it the time and attention it deserves.
  2. The photo shows more of your body (for example, from the waist up), and therefore expresses more body language. When it comes to poses and props, there are a zillion creative approaches you can take! Just be sure the approach is appropriate for your brand. Take time to look at lots of websites, and be sure to scroll down and see the 18 examples below.
  3. Your facial expression and body language express confidence (without ego) and approachability (without being folksy). Note that it’s perfectly ok to cross your arms. This is a comfortable posture, and it conveys confidence. I often hear the comment: “But it’s closed body language!” As long as your facial expression and overall body language are warm and inviting, then crossed-arms is fine.
  4. It’s relaxed and more “you.” It’s not stiff or formal. Also, if you’re a professional speaker, don’t wave your arms around as if you’re gesturing in the midst of presentation. I’ve seen a few photos where this works, but I’ve seen MANY photos where it looks faked. “Fake” is the opposite of honest and earnest – NOT what you want to communicate.
  5. Instead of taking the shot in the photographer’s studio, there may be a different location – different context – such as an interesting outdoor environment or your work setting. Note that the context can symbolically underscore your message. For example, an artist or personal fitness coach would want their photos taken in their studio or gym, because the context adds more to the “story.” Carefully consider the context. If it isn’t a fit (symbolically), it can detract from your message. For example, a corporate consultant specializing in streamlined high-tech software tools shouldn’t be photographed in a rustic barn – this sends a mixed message.
  6. The professionalism of your outfit is appropriate for your target market. Not too formal, not too casual.
  7. The colors in your outfit complement your eye color and skin tone. If you’re already working with a designer, email him/her a few quick snapshots wearing different outfits and ask for an opinion. Designers are color specialists and can offer good advice.
  8. Get several different photos taken, so you can choose the best of the bunch. Take several outfits to your photo shoot and try different poses. (Don’t settle for one outfit/one pose.) As a bonus, when you give a variety of photos to your designer, you are doing him or her a big favor. Designers relish the opportunity to play with multiple images and ideas. If you have only one photo, this limits their creative options.
  9. The colors in your photo (clothing, hair, skin tones) “marry” with your logo. In other words, if your photo is primarily pink, it will clash terribly with your purple logo!
  10. “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” Don’t wear large earrings or loud jewelry that take the focus off the eyes. For key photos, such as the image on your Home page, look directly at the camera when taking the picture. That way, in your photo, you are gazing directly at the viewer. Symbolically, this conveys concepts such as straightforward, honest, and straight-shooter.
  11. Hire a professional photographer. Professionals know how to get that spark you’re looking for! Don’t skimp and ask a friend or family member who is “good with the camera.” Professional photos are well-lit and capture your sparkling personality. “Home-grown” photos tend to be dim and dull.
  12. Communicate with your photographer. Take time to explain strategic concepts around your brand and what you want the photo to convey. Talk about tactical ideas such as studio shot versus other location, horizontal versus vertical, and website versus speaker one-sheet. (How you plan to use the photo can influence the photographer’s decisions.) Show examples of photos you like and don’t like, and discuss why. Photographers are visual artists, and they will appreciate your visual aids.

Remember, YOU are your brand. Your photo communicates who are are and creates an emotional connection with your prospects. 

Getting a GREAT SHOT is a STRATEGIC discussion and highly individual for each person. If you’d like to strategize YOUR great photo, click HERE to schedule a consultation. 

 

Photo examples-branding for solopreneurs-Patrice Rhoades-Baum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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