Five months ago I planted marigolds in order to ward off the mosquitoes. I live in Florida and in my neighborhood these blood-sucking pests can grow as big as pterodactyls. I don’t particularly like marigolds but they’re better than mosquitoes.
That’s why it’s hard for business people to hire us. I see their point, particularly those who have been burned by writers who don’t meet deadlines.
Businesses, do not put up with that.
Writing is a business. Someone who doesn’t treat it like that deserves to be begging for work. Don’t make excuses for writers missing deadlines because you think that’s how they all operate. There are writers out there who understand in order to eat, they need to deliver on time.
When I met my first client for the first time (we worked together virtually for 2 years before meeting face-to-face) he remarked on the fact I had never missed a deadline. He said it with a tone of surprise and I laughed. “You mean deadlines are flexible? I never knew.”
If I was winker, I certainly would’ve winked for dramatic effect. Alas, my winks always come out wrong.
Increase Expectations for Working with Writers
Whether you’re employing writers or you’re a business writer reading this, here is what all businesses should be able to expect from their writers and writers should look to deliver for their clients:
- On time delivery. Yes, things come up, but a sunny day isn’t something that comes up (okay, technically the sun comes up but…) it’s not an excuse for not delivering.
- A fair wage. Regardless of how you feel about the minimum wage, what writers do is real work. They should be compensated and that compensation should be somewhere above a pittance and below what people make as a second-string NFL player. If you expect professionalism from a writer, you must compensate them accordingly. If you’re a writer, don’t undercut yourself by doing things for “exposure.”
- A social presence. I know some writers won’t agree, but you can’t just sit around selecting words all day and arranging them on paper. You must create a personal brand, understand WordPress, and be proficient in , at least, the major social networks. Your clients may need this help. You should be able to advise them.
- Content ideas. One of my highest values as a writer is not in my writing. Sure, I hope that’s good because that’s the immediate need of my clients but my real value is in something they probably don’t consider. It’s the vast amount of reading and researching I do. Very few of my clients give me topics. Most of them I glean on my own by getting to know their industry. With each new client I learn their industry as if I was planning a career in it. I do this for my own interest in personal growth. I don’t charge for it. I consider it an investment in making myself a more robust writer. Writers shouldn’t need to be spoon fed with all the information available on the Internet. It doesn’t take long to become an expert in the minimal depth required to write a blog or social media post. If you’re working with a writer who does need content fed to them, you’re going to spend a whole lot of time rewriting their stuff.
- Connections and news. Most of my clients are busy running their businesses, whereas I am either writing or researching all day long (this is the reason my blog looks like a ghost town). It’s common for me to find industry information and breaking news that I pass on to my clients. Often it allows them to be first with information to their community. Writing is producing a product but the type of writers you want to work with again and again are the ones who act as if they are part of your business and not just delivering a product.
The things I mention here are what I see as the basics of what a writer should be doing in this digital marketing age. What do you think? Am I off base or should writers be a valuable extension of the company’s marketing efforts?
Elephant in the room alert.
My home page design stinks.
It stinks because I’m not a graphic designer.
Thankfully my first year plus in business has kept me so busy the project I had worked on to redo my website with a designer fell by the wayside. But a lot of my business comes through word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business so my website stinking is not my main concern.
But if you’re a small business who wants more customers, or an association or chamber looking for new members, your homepage can’t stink.
Does My Homepage Content Stink?
I’m going to stick to what I know best: content. So here’s how you know your homepage stinks from a content perspective. Ask yourself:
Does my copy read like a college entrance essay?
Don’t use highfalutin’ words, even if you know what they mean. Keep it simple. Tell your potential customers’, or prospective members’, how you can solve their problems in the simplest of terms.
Otherwise, you’ll only confuse them and let’s face it, no one wants to feel confused.
Does my copy read like my 5 year-old nephew wrote it?
Casual is good. A distinct tone is wonderful.
Adherence to basic grammar rules, if you want people to give you money, is still absolutely necessary.
Is it obvious I am a disenchanted English major who always wanted to write the great American novel?
Wordiness is just as bad as words that are unintelligible or words that can only be decoded by NASA engineers.
Do I mention clearly what I do and where I am?
You’d be surprised how many people use pat (aka meaningless) industry words to describe what they do.
Also, while many of us do business on the Interwebs, letting people know where you are means you’re less likely to get a call in the middle of the night wondering if you’re open.
And please…don’t advertise events without telling us where you are. You may assume your audience knows “Columbus” but there are something like 22 “Columbusses”, “Columbi,” “Columbus” (whatever) in the nation and who knows how many others in the world.
If my lack of fact checking is bothering you, Google it and leave the number in the comments.
Does my tone fit my brand?
This post is lip-smacking sarcastic for me, but it’s not a complete departure from my blog’s tone. I’m casual in my own business writing. That’s how I prefer it but I was an Econ/Poli Sci major so if you want dry and erudite drivel, I can do that too, but it’s not me. So I don’t.
If someone hires me, I write in their tone, not mine.
You have to think the same way on your website. Don’t choose a tone for your site that’s different from who your business is. It will only confuse people when they go from reading your social media and content marketing posts to doing business with you.
If your homepage design stinks get a graphic designer (and then get me one too) but if your content’s not up to snuff – if it’s not attracting your ideal audience, or getting them interested in what you have to offer, if it doesn’t convey why they need you and convince them they should’ve called yesterday, your content isn’t working hard enough.
Think of me as a personal trainer for your words.
That’s where I come in.<Queue my dramatic theme song. Something akin to Wonder Woman but without the 70’s disco beat.>
I’ll whip them into shape and make sure they’re doing their jobs. No cutting corners, just getting you more business and more interest.
Telling your business story allows you to attract the right audience and connect with them. But attraction won’t keep them coming back.
I’ve mentioned before on this blog, the most effective content is:
- educational (telling someone how to do something)
- informative (providing information they didn’t know)
Here’s an example of a great piece I received from Hipmunk. It contains information that is relevant to me (I like to travel, but I’m cheap as all get out), educational (tells me I can save money if I buy now) and informative (I didn’t know airfares went up that much approaching July 4th).
Will this content motivate me to buy?
I suppose it would if I was planning a trip over the July 4th holiday, but I’m not. However, this is not a wasted marketing effort on Hipmunk’s part. Because they shared some valuable, helpful information with me, I am now beginning to see them as a resource for saving money.
They used their data and presented me with easy-to-digest information.
Sometimes taking part in social media for business feels like shouting into a hurricane. You struggle to be heard. You struggle to stand out and be noticed.
You might be very confident in your abilities to connect, but are you having problems discovering whom to connect with?
You’re probably thinking too narrow. If you have a brick and mortar business and don’t want to ship anything, you might only want to target people in your area (but what about vacationers/visitors?) or if you’re a membership organization representing a particular industry – maybe you need to remain limited in your search but everyone else can look for business in broad terms. Social media allows you to do this sort of prospecting with very little investment, other than time. Continue reading “Looking at Your Business Through Your Customers’ Eyes”