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Chicago Freelance Copywriter

Tag: small business

Coming at 2011 with a Vengeance

Coming-at-2011-with-a-VengenceMy dear readers, I apologize for the past week and a half of radio silence. I was on vacation and thanks to an awful CNN story I read right before I left, I was too paranoid to announce I was going to be gone. You see, after reading the CNN story there seemed to be a very real chance that a horrible and nasty criminal would read my blog, realize I wasn’t home, break in and steal my things, which, quite frankly, aren’t really worth the effort. I believe this is what some may refer to as the “culture of fear”. It worked on me.

As of yesterday I am home and starting to get back in the groove of things. However, I am still not going to post any new blogs this week (besides for this one), and will return in 2011 with a bang. New posts, great posts, and a lot of advice on how to use copywriting and social media to promote your business and make you soar.

I am also working on some exciting new changes for my business, which I will keep you posted on as they happen. I think 2011 is going to hold some great things for me, and hopefully for you too.

For now though, it’s back to work, back to reality, and I’ll be back in 2011.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

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5 Tips for Writing a Successful About Page

5-tips-for-writing-a-successful-about-pageI bet you never thought about the fact that an About Page could be unsuccessful. It was just some facts about you, your business, and what you do. No big deal, nothing to stress out about.

The thing is, humans are naturally curious creatures. That’s why there’s such a gapers delay on the highway when we see flashing lights ahead. It’s why I know things about my next-door neighbor’s grandchild that I don’t care about, but asked about anyway.

Which brings me to the point that when someone is visiting your website they are going to your About page not just for your credentials, but to learn more about you, to assuage their curiosity.

With that in mind, I give you 5 tips for writing a successful About Page:

1. Find the right mix of business and personal

As a small business you want to talk about your business, but you also want to give readers a taste of the personality behind the business. An About Page isn’t business writing 101, give the cold, hard facts with personality.

2. Tell a story

Explaining how you, or your company, got to where it is today is very important. If you give this information in story form, people are going to connect to it more and stick around for longer because they’re interested. Make it the difference between reading a textbook and reading a creative non-fiction book.

3. Lead with the interesting parts

Start out your About Page with the personal stuff, the story, and the interesting tidbits. Even if you have a ton of awards and qualifications you want to mention, don’t start with those, push them to the end so that a.) you don’t look arrogant and b.) people stick with you for longer because you’re entertaining them at the beginning.

4. Make it about your customer

Sure it’s an About Page, and that means it’s about you, but if you can make it so it’s also about your potential and current customers, you’re going to really wow. Writing the page in a way that connects what you do, your skills and talents with what customers need from you is a great way to up the ante.

5. Be relevant

This kind of goes against some of the above, but it’s really just an addendum to the first 4 steps. Tell a story, but make sure it’s relevant to your business. Put in the personal stuff, as long as it has some sort of connection to what you do. If you sell paper, don’t go on a fly-fishing tangent, but you can tell a story about the first time you saw The Office (since they sell paper at Dunder Mifflin).

An About Page is a tricky thing to write. It needs to walk a fine line between being too personal and too business-minded.

What is your About Page like? Does it follow any of these rules? Are you going to re-write it?

If you realize it does need a re-write, feel free to contact me for some help. I’d love to make your About Page shine.

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7 Common Sense Steps To Grow a Blog

7-common-sense-ways-to-grow-a-blogThere are many of you who are thinking about blogging as a way to relate to customers and draw in more business. Kudos to you. That’s exactly why a small business should be blogging.

Every once in awhile I talk to small business owners who want to blog not just for their customers’ sake but because they want to establish a popular blog that is known throughout their community for being interesting and popular.

Depending on the community – that can be easier said than done. Most blogging communities are over saturated at this point, and in order to make a mark, you really need to shine.

Obviously, the number one way to do become popular is to publish interesting, thoughtful, valuable, and entertaining content. Not such a tall order, right? That’s definitely the hardest part. But there is more to achieving your goals than just the content.

Today I’m sharing 7 actions you can take to make your blog popular. This is all in addition to that great content I was talking about. If you have the content to publish, make sure to follow these steps in order to keep your readers coming back for more.

Respond to every comment

Not only does this show your readers that you appreciate them taking the time to read your blog and say something thoughtful, but it also fosters discussion and can often bring in more comments.

Be a team player

In order to get the respect you want, you have to give it to others too. Follow other blogs and comment on them. Try to form relationships with other bloggers as a way to think of post ideas and be part of the community.

Be consistent

Making sure to blog on the same day(s) every week is really important. You want people to know when they can come to you for content and not disappoint them. If you don’t have a schedule, you’re likely to lose a lot of readers who would have eventually become constant visitors.

Write interesting headlines

The first step toward growing a blog is to get people to read it. Nobody is going to read your blog if your headline is boring. Use your headline to draw in readers. But it’s also important to deliver on your promise. Don’t write a headline that is super interesting but the body of the work isn’t – that will only anger the masses.

Practice SEO

You’re going to want to be found by the search engines, which takes time. So start from the very beginning by writing SEO friendly content and headlines. Grab Google’s attention by using keyword friendly headlines, keyword rich content, and tag like crazy. Make sure to use an SEO plug-in on your blog as well.

Never leave your blog unattended

There are so many times I have visited a company’s website, seen a link to a blog, gotten excited, only to realize the blog hasn’t been updated in ten months. That to me is worse than no blog at all. Don’t do that.

Be patient

As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your blog won’t be either. Because you know what else they say? Most bloggers quit within the first 3 months. Coming up with content day after day isn’t easy. But if you stick with it, and be patient, you’ll start to see results. It’s not as easy as, if you build it they will come. But if you’re putting out great content and following these rules, my guess is they will eventually come.

There are more rules, but I’ll leave it at that. What am I missing? What do you think is important for growing a popular blog?

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why-you-need-to-hire-a-professional-writerHiring a writer is one of the smartest moves any small business can make.

I’m not just saying that because it’s what I do. I’m saying it because I have seen the toll that bad writing can have on a small business, and I’ve seen the effect of good writing.

For all you out there who know your website needs updating and are thinking about doing it yourself, please read the following analogy.

You need a new computer. You’re not sure what to get. (Although if you have half a brain, you should get a mac and I’m only saying this because it’s opinion week. Any other day I will respectfully acknowledge your right to buy a PC, although I may silently judge).

Sorry for the opinionated rant…back to the story:

You walk into a store and ask a sales person for help. You pick him because he looks knowledgeable, and he has glasses.  This reassures you for some strange reason that you may decide to talk to your therapist about.  He’s in his mid to late 30s which means he isn’t so old he doesn’t understand computers, but he’s not so young that you’re afraid he’s going to ask for a bottle in the middle of the conversation.

You introduce yourself, and tell him what you’re looking for in a computer. And that’s when it happens. He launches into an incredibly dry monologue about the computer in front of you. You don’t really follow a word he says, he uses technical terms that make your brain hurt, and you’re not even sure he listened to what you were looking for in the first place.

After four minutes your eyes glaze over and you patiently wait for him to be done. Let’s face it, if you could have walked away in the middle of the story without being rude, you would have.

The point of this story? Poorly written webcopy gives visitors the option to walk away in the middle of a long, boring story. If this sales person were to write the web copy for the computer store, it may be very informative, but chances are, it won’t be engaging. Most visitors will walk away in the middle of his story.

Now imagine you walk into the computer store and you ask a different sales person for help. This person is younger, but now you’re thinking maybe you need someone younger who isn’t going to bore you to death with crazy words. He has kind of a hipster look to him, and smiles at you. He’s friendly so you pick him as your guy. Again, you let him know what you’re looking for in a computer. And that’s when it happens.

Guy #2 launches into an incredibly personal story about the computer in front of him and why he loves it and you just have to buy it. His aunt got it for him for his 21st birthday and he used the computer to sign up for an online dating service and now he has a girlfriend and they’re going to have sushi for dinner that night. It’s a wonderful story. You were entertained. But did he convince you to buy the computer? Probably not.

Webcopy that is full of enthusiasm and makes you want to read it really fast like a teenage girl talking is fun, but it isn’t informative. It’s engaging, but it doesn’t make the sale.

There’s a magic behind writing copy that both provides information while also engaging visitors. Most small businesses owners can sit down and write about their company, but the question is: are they giving the correct information while also making it interesting? Probably not.

With my analogy I hope I’ve shown why it’s so important to have informative and engaging copy. It’s a skill that most copywriters work their entire lives to perfect. Make the investment to hire someone to write your copy in a way that will entertain and inform those who visit your site.

So ends the week of opinions. I feel like none of mine were overly controversial but it felt good to get my ideas and opinions out there. I encourage all bloggers to do the same!

What do you think about my analogy? Did it work for you? Do you think hiring a professional writer is worth your money?

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The Follow Up

the-follow-upThe reason so many of us blog and are on social media is to make contacts for our business. Yet so many of us have trouble following up after an initial contact. A colleague may tell us to connect with a person, and so we friend them or connect on LinkedIn, but then forget about the important part — following up with this person.

There are many reasons people don’t follow up:

Don’t have time

Don’t recognize the opportunity

Simply forgot

Don’t think it’s worth the time

Here are some ways follow-up can really help:

It keeps you in the forefront of your customer and potential customers’ minds. Anytime anyone shows any interest in your product or service, make a mental note. Then a real note, and finally, follow-up. Not just by connecting via social networking, but by sending an email or making a phone call.

Listen to your customers and follow-up with their words fresh in your mind. If someone mentioned they need a certain service, and you follow up informing them you can provide that service, not only have you proven you should do business together, but you’ve proven you’re a great listener.

Unfortunately, there’s a flip side. You also need to know when to let potential leads go. It won’t do any good to seem desperate or keep trying to fan a fire that is already dead.

My favorite form is follow-up is email. It’s easy to keep track of, and also, email allows you to use templates.

What are your follow-up rituals?

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