There are certain questions that are easy to answer. What’s your name? What’s your website? Where are you located? These questions are my favorite. There is no wrong answer.
But then we get into the sticky questions. What is your purpose? What do you want to accomplish? What is your grandmother’s maiden name? You may not know the answers to these questions.
While many businesses take the time to make sure their website is visually beautiful, selecting colors that compliment each other and provide a sense of calm, they may not take the time to answer the two following questions:
Some people put motivational quotes on their desk. I would argue that every single company, whether you are 1 person or 100,000 people, should answer these questions, write the answers down, and post it on every desk in the building.
Knowing the answers to these questions is a powerful tool. Let me give you an example.
Here are my answers. Now, I’m only one person so I don’t need to have conference calls and call in the national guard to get people to agree, but knowing this information helps me make informed and appropriate business decisions every single day.
What is my mission?
To provide the best quality writing for websites, blogs, and marketing materials as possible. To make certain that every piece of writing I deliver to a client is perfect in every way. To be the best at what I do.
What are the benefits of working with me vs. a competitor?
I provide MORE than just quality writing. I provide the full customer service experience. I am available to speak to all my clients whenever they need help. I never, ever nickel and dime clients. I help in anyway I can, even if that goes beyond what I’m hired to do.
I know these answers to my business, and I think about them every time I have a business decision to make. A client needs to talk asap, can I make time for them? Of course, it’s part of what makes me unique. A client wants me to write an article about something I’m not comfortable with. Will I do it? No, not unless I think I can do the absolute best job possible. If it’s not for me, I know other freelancers who can take over.
These decisions are informed by what I know I want my business to be.
For your business, if you know the answers to these questions, you can also get your business to where you want it to be. Sticking to your guns on these two simple ideas will inform all your decisions, and I would bet very good money, make you a better business for it.
Sit down as a team and agree on these answers. Take a full day and refresh your mission and your uniqueness. I promise you will not regret it.
This is a blog geared toward small businesses, but that doesn’t mean we can’t play with the big boys sometimes. I wanted to talk about one company that is doing a lot of things right: Starbucks
Starbucks is a pretty bad-ass player at Social Media. Sure they’re huge, but that doesn’t mean a small business like yourself can’t learn from them. Here are a couple lessons worth paying attention to:
Starbucks has an entire website dedicated to listening to their customers. It’s called My Starbucks Idea, and it’s a place for those to give suggestions on how to improve the “Starbucks experience”.
I think of this idea as I think about editing blog posts. Sometimes we are so close to something that we can’t see how to make it better. If I work on a post for an hour, I am so involved, that I can’t step back and see a typo. But if I have someone read it over for me, then they will catch it right away. Same idea here. Sometimes your customers will really have amazing ideas on how to improve the experience they have with you. Take a note from Starbucks and make sure there is a forum where they can contact you and leave a suggestion.
Two big reasons why this works for Starbucks: 1) Any customer who is willing to register can participate 2) Others are able to see submitted ideas and vote on them, and even see results.
Starbucks Ideas In Action Blog is written by many Starbucks employees about different aspects of the Starbucks experience. A lot of times they are reacting to the ideas and suggestions put out by customers. But sometimes they are announcing a contest or touting a new coffee or telling a personal story about themselves and coffee. Whatever they decide to blog about, it’s a great way to engage with customers and open up a dialogue.
Starbucks has a Twitter handle @Starbucks. They use this for customer service mostly. But they also have @MyStarbucksIdea which is a Twitter shoot off of the webpage. They use this handle to encourage customers to engage. Last week they ran a pumpkin spice latte haiku contest in order to promote their seasonal product. So not only is Starbucks using Twitter to deal with customer complaints, but they are also using it for fun ideas like contests and games.
Did you know that Starbucks has a Youtube channel? Until researching this blog post, I didn’t. And when I found out, I have to admit, I was surprised. It had never occurred to me that they would work that angle. The channel has videos of their advertisements and commercials, along with info on their coffee blends.
I am shutting off the very loud part of my brain that is more cynical than many can imagine in order to write this next segment. Starbucks does a lot of great things as an ethical company, and they make sure you know that.
I think it’s great. If you are a company that is participating in charities, helping out your community, or just doing something that is moral, don’t be afraid to share it. Starbucks makes their values known from the second you are on their site. While some might say they should just do it because it’s right and not have to shout about it, I say you put it out there. You will most likely impress more people than you turn off.
All in all, Starbucks goes out if its way to engage customers and listen to them. Sure they’re big, but there is still a lot to be learned.
What do you think about Starbucks use of social media? Are you going to apply any of these lessons to your small business?
Expert copy writing has the power to raise your website from average to extraordinary. Strong words will draw in readers, converting them from random visitors to customers.
A large part of my business is re-writing static website copy and taking it from drab to fab. My job is to draw in new customers and expertly describe a company’s goals, products, services, and philosophy. A few days ago one of my clients pointed out that I’ve been harping on about how important social media is for small businesses without once mentioning the foundation which all of that is built upon: the static website. It’s time to remedy that error.
Your website can be beautifully designed and offer amazing products or services, but if it doesn’t connect with your readers, it can hold back your growth.
So how do you know if your copy is any good? If it elevates your products and helps make a sale? How do you know if it Wows?
Below are traits of good copy writing, in my opinion. This is by no means the be all and end all of website copy writing, but if you keep these qualities in mind while reviewing your website copy, you should have a good idea of where you stand.
When writing copy, make sure to consider what the intended outcome is. If you don’t know what you want to achieve with your words, then you can’t tailor them to clearly express your objectives and achieve your end goals.
To achieve effective writing, consider the following: Who are your customers? What can you offer them? What have they come to you for?
Copy can come across in a variety of ways: conversational, professional, authoritative, etc. Make sure it is consistent across the board. Switching tones throughout the site will be off putting to readers and can lead potential customers to feel hesitant about your site.
This also applies to the narrative mode you choose — either write using the informal (I, me, we, our) or the formal way, using only the company name. Do not switch back and forth or your readers will feel like they are getting virtual whiplash.
Do not hide your message behind clever words and riddles. You want your message to be as clear, upfront, and brief as possible. You do not have your readers’ attention for an unlimited amount of time. Waste no words.
What is on your site should not solely be about selling your product or service. It also needs to help your readers decide if you are what they are looking for. This means you have to really think about what your readers want to hear from you and what will cause them to purchase your product or service. You may think 1,000 words on your professional past is interesting and will help sell your business, but what will your readers think?
Keep the attention span from waning by using techniques to engage your readers. This can include breaking up text with white space, pictures, bullet points etc. Keeping the tone conversational is an effective strategy, as is peppering your copy with questions posed at your reader. You do want your copy to engage, don’t you?
Don’t assume readers will hire you or buy your product without holding their hand. Simply talking about your amazing service is not enough, you have to have a visual call to action: install a buy button on the side or a scroll bar with your products visually displayed. Make it easy to purchase so the customer doesn’t have to do the work.
This strays from the topic of the static website, but it’s worth mentioning that more people will read your static copy if you also have evolving copy (aka a blog). The more new content you have, the more interesting your website becomes, and the more readers you will attract.
There is obviously no magic formula to producing perfect website copy. If you ignore all that is above, keep in mind this last rule:
Write with your ideal customer in the back of your mind at all times. Write so that they will find your content easy to read, engaging, and persuasive.
What do you think? Did I give a good start on the benchmarks of effective website copy? Did I miss anything you consider to be extremely important? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.
p.s. I have a guest post up at Design*Sponge today on using a blog to grow your business. Check it out.
As a bonus afternoon post, I thought we could discuss a topic that is very important but doesn’t often get a lot of recognition. Your About page.
As I’ve mentioned before, personality is a big draw when using social media, and your About page is the perfect place to put as much personality into your website as possible. You can write all about you in your voice and put your picture and make everyone who reads it love you.
But there’s more to the About/Bio page than personality. This is also the page where you are going to advertise your skills and what makes you more qualified than your competitors. This is where you’re going to sell your business.
Let’s just say you own a yoga studio. It’s great, you have a nice groove going in your local community, sometimes on Sundays you offer a free class. You do the baby yoga thing, you make sure the community knows about baby yoga through a blog and Twitter. It’s on your Facebook page.
A lady has just had a baby boy. We’ll call him Oscar. Oscar is now six months old and this mom is ready to try some new things with Oscar. She wants to meet other moms and also do some yoga. She sees your baby yoga class on some various form of social media (because after all, you are a social media champion) and clicks on your website. Where’s the first place she’s going on your website? Maybe it’s classes and she reads the description of baby yoga. It sounds great and it’s at the perfect time for her schedule. And then she’s curious about the studio so she clicks on your About page. Instead of finding a long list of qualifications and how much you love yoga, she finds a sentence or two proclaiming you’ve studied yoga for four years. And that’s it. Will it matter?
Sometimes she’ll go to the class anyway because man alive does she need to get out of the house. Sometimes she’ll look at other yoga studio’s websites to see their baby yoga classes and read about their qualifications. Will it always matter there isn’t a bio? No. Will it sometimes? Yes. And it’s the entire point to get as many clients as possible?
I’ll tell you again and again, but you need to put in the work to make sure your bios are up to date and impressive.
So back to Oscar and his mommy. This time when she clicks on your About page, there is an entertaining and comprehensive review of your yoga teaching history. There’s a picture of you in an advanced yoga move, and a little blurb about how much you love yoga and how it has changed your life, and you truly hope it helps bring a little bit of joy to your client’s lives. Probably there is now a better chance of a sale. Yes?
Do you use your About page and bio to sell yourself and your brand? I think I do. Check it out. Do you think it helps? Or is everything I just told you poppycock?
Here are a few examples of some great About pages: